Artist behind East Van Cross says new development will block views of iconic landmark
For nearly a decade, locals and tourists alike know they’ve arrived in East Vancouver when they catch a view of the iconic East Van Cross.
But now the artist behind the landmark says that view could be in jeopardy, thanks to a new development currently being reviewed by the city.
Ken Lum said he’s calling on City Hall to rethink the plan for an eight-storey office tower on a lot directly beside the cross, also known as the “Monument for East Vancouver,” which he created partly to draw attention to the growing affordability crisis in the city.
“The division between affordability and non-affordability, the haves and have-nots…all those kinds of fractures are embodied in the work,” Lum said. “It’s kind of comical that it would be shadowed by more development.”
The cross was erected in 2010 on a strip of land owned by the city just off Clark Drive and East 6th Avenue, with Lum basing the design off graffiti that used to be widespread throughout the area for decades. The symbol has been widely marketed on clothing and other souvenirs ever since.
Lum said he was first contacted by the city “roughly a year-and-a-half ago” about the potential development, and that he responded with concerns that any kind of tower would block views of the cross.
“I told them I couldn’t see how the cross can function if you can’t even see it,” he said.
One developer who had been bidding on the lot even emailed Lum directly proposing moving the cross to a more visible location, or even incorporating the piece into the development itself, such as on the roof of the tower. While Lum said he appreciated the offer, he still has problems with bowing to any developer.
“Agreeing to move the cross wouldn’t be good for me, because it would mean I’m agreeing to say, ‘Yeah, the development takes precedent over – and is much more important than – any cultural edifice,'” the artist said.
The final winner of the bid, Dialog Group, is proposing an eight-storey office tower that will become the headquarters of Nature’s Path, an organic food company currently based in Richmond. Lum received word of the plan from the city this past December, and again voiced his concerns.
In an emailed statement, the City of Vancouver said it has requested the sight lines of the cross from the northwest, including from trains travelling on the Expo Line, be protected.
“The architects are making efforts to protect certain views and provide design elements that act as a buffer between the monument and the new building,” the spokesperson wrote. They added Lum had been told when he was commissioned that the land, which the city does not own, would eventually be developed, something Lum acknowledged.
Mayor Gregor Robertson said it was important to develop the land for future jobs, particularly as the Millennium Line is expanded past nearby Vancouver Community College down Broadway to Arbutus. The development is set to accommodate more than 1,200 jobs, according to the city.
“I think there’s a solution to making sure the East Van Cross is very visible,” Roberston said. “I know city staff has been working on it.”
Lum said he will continue to try and work with the city and the developer on a solution, but added the ball is really in the city’s court.
“If they appreciate and respect the value of cultural capital as opposed to money capital, then they would have done something by now.”
The proposal for the development is scheduled to go before development permit board in November.
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