Two of Chinatown’s most iconic landmarks could be at the risk of redevelopment after a local developer proposed to re-zone the area.
This could see the old Brickhouse building and the so-called Jimi Hendrix shrine near Main and Union torn down.
The shack on the edge of Chinatown that used to be part of Vie’s Chicken and Steak House is where Jimi Hendrix’s grandmother, Nora, once worked as a cook.
Neither of the two properties is on the City of Vancouver’s heritage register.
Bonnis Development Corporation plans to re-zone a strip of Main Street consisting of four properties, including the two landmarks, and build a mixed-use building in its spot.
It’s proposing a 15-storey condo and retail project.
Eighteen of the 140 units would be allocated to the city for social housing and Bonnis says the project would help revitalize Chinatown, but community advocates fear its scale won’t serve the area’s smaller streetscape.
“If we allow it to go unchecked, we’ll have big lot assemblies everywhere in Chinatown and only a narrow strip of Chinatown that’s actually protected under heritage designation,” community advocate Pete Fry said.
There is a petition to stop the redevelopment circulating online.
Kerry Bonnis, the principal with Bonnis Development Corporation, told Global News they plan to submit a rezoning application after an open house to be held on Tuesday. The developer is still in discussions with the City of Vancouver regarding the site’s redevelopment.
“[My brother an I] grew up in Vancouver – and have strong roots in Vancouver – including coming to Chinatown as children and throughout our lives. We are aware of the importance of the Chinatown community – and intend to propose a development that is responsive to its needs,” Bonnis said.
Bonnis says they intend to recycle Brickhouse bricks by incorporating them into the new development, and are in discussions with the current Brickhouse owner to ideally return and re-open it within the new development.
He also says they would like to see some sort of commemoration for Hendrix in the form of a plaque or even a statue.
“I would like this piece of history to remain even if it came with a big highrise,” said Vincent Fodera, one of the keepers of the makeshift shrine to Hendrix. “We want to preserve the shrine and history.”
Fodera says he hopes the Hendrix heritage will have a future and won’t be lost in the purple haze of redevelopment.
-With files from Kristen Robinson
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