Queen’s Park Heritage – worth saving

100 Block Queen's Ave. 1945 & 1948 (3)

100 Block Queen’s Avenue 1945 & 1948

According the City’s statistics for the five years from 2011-2015, 12 houses (total) were demolished – in 2016 alone, there were 7 demolitions requested (five approved, two denied).  If we continue at that rate, Queen’s Park will lose 35 houses in the next five years.

Maureen Arvanitidis NWHPS BoD

by Maureen Arvanitidis, President
New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society
Member, Queen’s Park Working Group

After three years of research and discussion, the city-appointed Queen’s Park Working Group (comprised of people like Robert Toth – see his April 13, 2017 Letter to the Editor) concluded that a Heritage Conservation Area is the only way to control demolitions, new construction and renovations to the exterior facade (front and side) of homes in the neighbourhood.  If City Council does not approve a Conservation Area, we will be back to the status quo – where no house (other than a few designated properties) will be protected and there will be no building design requirements for new builds. With so much at stake, I want to provide clarity and address misconceptions pertaining to the proposed Heritage Conservation Area in Queen’s Park.

100 Block College Court – this 1956 bungalow in the proposed Queen’s Park Conservation Area recently sold for ‘over asking’ in less than five days. Note the “We support heritage conservation” sign between the brick pillars. 24April2017

Prices have not dropped in Queen’s Park: During the 10 months that the “control period” has been in place and the pending Conservation Area has evolved, the real estate market has slowed (as it has throughout the lower mainland) but prices have not dropped in Queens Park.  There is no evidence in studies across Canada and the U.S. that a Conservation Area will drive down the price of houses (particularly older homes regarded as “tear downs” – because they can’t be redeveloped, thereby making them difficult to sell). Like a high tide that raises all ships, the heritage value of Queen’s Park has increased the value of all houses in the neighbourhood, including smaller homes and unsympathetically remodeled homes.

400 Block Fifth St. 1940

400 Block Fifth Street 1940

Developers aren’t the only ones who want the more modest homes: The smaller Craftsman, cottage styles and post-war bungalows offer a “foot in the door” for younger people keen to build some “sweat equity” and older people who want to downsize in such a livable neighbourhood.

Homeowners can apply to change heritage protection level:  No one ever thought that every house in Queen’s Park would have to stay.  The Conservation Area will have a process in place that will allow the property owner to make application to the City to decrease (or increase) the level of heritage protection on their home. An application to demolish does not necessarily lead to approval. The property owner will have to contract the services of a heritage professional to conduct a heritage assessment. If the property is deemed to have insufficient heritage value, a demolition permit could be issued.

400 Block Fourth St.1932 & 1931

400 Block Fourth St.1932 & 1931

Administrative Process for Applications under HCA: The City’s administrative process for applications to change heritage protection level, demolitions approval, new-build design and exterior façade renovations for protected properties has not been decided. For example, an application could be referred to the Community Heritage Commission or another Commission relating specifically to Queen’s Park.

Queen’s Park demolition applications set to rise: While currently low compared to other New West neighbourhoods, the rate of demolition applications in Queen’s appears to be on the increase. Without a conservation area, every application for demolition would be approved.  According the City’s statistics for the five years from 2011-2015, 12 houses (total) were demolished – but in 2016 alone, there were 7 demolitions requested (five approved, two denied).  If we continue at that rate, Queen’s Park will lose 35 houses in the next five years.  How long can Queens Park sustain these losses before the very essence of what we value about living in this unique neighbourhood is eradicated and everyone loses?

Declining support for HCA is misleading: In her news story, Tensions mount over heritage plan, The Record  reporter Theresa McManus cited a staff report stating that support for a the Queen’s Park Conservation Area has fallen from 76 percent in Round 1 of consultation to 58 per cent in Round 2.  This isn’t an accurate reflection of the majority of Queen’s Park residents. Those who voted their support in Round 1 didn’t realize they would have to re-iterate their support in Round 2 of public consultation. Had they realized that they had to ‘re-vote’, statistics wouldn’t have demonstrated this ‘dramatic decline’ in support.

200 Block St. Patrick St. 1930

200 Block St. Patrick St. 1930

The support from residents in Queen’s Park is very strong. Residents have planted over 300 “We support Conservation” signs  in their yards. It has become apparent from speaking with residents that they didn’t know that they should have participated in the second round of surveys and open houses.  They thought it was a repeat of the first round, in which they did participate.

It is so important for residents to let their opinion be known. Please  write to the Mayor and City Council at:
send a letter to City Hall at:
511 Royal Ave,
New Westminster, BC.     V3L 1H9