Public outraged that condos could replace the cultural hotspot at the Waldorf Hotel

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Gen Why aims to save Waldorf

Cheryl Rossi
Van. Courier

Public outrage that condos could replace the cultural hotspot at the Waldorf Hotel has Tara Mahoney excited.

The creative director of Gen Why Media, a social enterprise that works to promote civic engagement, Mahoney hopes the anger will motivate more Vancouverites to get involved in shaping the city.

“We saw the same thing with the Red Gate [artists’ space], we saw the same thing with W2 [Community Media Arts], and it feels like it’s just going to keep happening until there’s enough of a public outcry that politicians take notice and do something,” Mahoney said.

Gen Why launched a Save the Waldorf petition on Less than 24 hours after The Waldorf’s closure was announced, the petition had more than 2,000 signatures. Mahoney noted another petition to convince the city not to approve rezoning had more than 3,000 signatures, and social media buzzed with the news.

Waldorf operators announced Wednesday afternoon the property had been sold to the Solterra Group of Companies, which develops condos and townhomes. The Waldorf will be vacated Jan. 20.

A group of partners led by members of the creative community restored the 1947 building with its tiki bar, two nightclub spaces and an art gallery and reopened it Halloween 2010.

The Waldorf hosted club nights, concerts, readings, movie series, a weekly food truck festival and events by arts institutions that include the East Side Culture Crawl, the Polaris Music Prize, the PuSh festival and the jazz and international film festivals. Local music acts that include Black Mountain, Grimes and Japandroids and artists Douglas Coupland, Rodney Graham, Michael Turner and Paul Wong all appeared there. But the first year of business on East Hastings Street near Clark Drive was a financially difficult one. “When we took over it wasn’t even on the map,” noted Daniel Fazio, brand manager for the Waldorf.

He said their landlord “gladly” forgave some rent to the partners who had spent nearly a million dollars in renovations. Fazio said the partners operated with a 15-year lease agreement that hadn’t been “solidified.” More recently, they signed a four-month lease with a promised of a longer lease, which effectively cancelled the 15-year agreement, according to Fazio.

Waldorf operators said they were offered a week-to-week lease until September, but they couldn’t plan events under these conditions.

The creative team is looking for a new programming space. “The city is exploring ways to support the Waldorf continuing as one of Vancouver’s most unique and vibrant cultural spaces,” tweeted Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Mahoney wants city council to do something bold. “It’s so disempowering to think that a private developer can just come in and take whatever they want because they have the money to do it and the price is right to the person who wants to sell it and the community doesn’t have a say.”

In a press release received after the Courier’s print deadline, Solterra said it has no intention of demolishing the hotel.

“We want to work with the city to explore possible ways to retain and improve the hotel,” the release read.

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