Like many Edwardian homes of the time, it had a spacious porch, lovely leaded glass windows and nifty dentil work. It was large, but not ostentatious, a solid home whose main architectural feature was a big bay window.
It became a rooming house during the Second World War, and somehow survived Vancouver’s various housing booms. But it looked doomed when the city approved a proposal by Westbank to redevelop 1754 to 1772 Pendrell with a 21-storey tower and 173 rental units.
Several other old homes have been torn down in the West End in recent months, including a trio of faded beauties at Davie and Jervis. But 1754 Pendrell has received a stay of execution, and is about to get a new lease on life.
A crew from Nickel Brothers house movers is preparing the house to be moved to the back lane, then across Denman to Morton, a one-block street that ends at Beach, just east of the Sylvia Hotel.
The house will then do a semi-U-turn and travel down Beach to Nicola. At Nicola the crew will take the house south across the grass and sand to a barge that will float it to a storage space on the south side of False Creek. A few months after that, it will be moved to the 400 block of East 5th in East Vancouver, where Sanjiv Sandhu of Point Grey Developments plans to restore it and use it as a rental property.
“Some people redo cars, I redo historical houses,” said Sandhu. “I love Vancouver, and I think that a house like this, although it’s not (designated) heritage, is a historical house. It was built 111 years ago, in 1905. These are the types of houses you used to see in the West End all the time, and basically they’re gone. If we can do our bit to save a house like this (we will).”
The move was scheduled for high tide around midnight Friday night/Saturday morning. And it’s a tricky one, because there’s a lot of infrastructure in the West End.
“The big thing is moving it out of the alley in the 1700 block of Pendrell,” explains Adam Knipfel of Nickel Brothers. “That alley, in terms of utilities, is very complex. The utilities all run to B.C. Hydro’s key accounts, so they have to be very careful in terms of disconnecting service.”
This means they have to reroute some B.C. Hydro lines, take down some trolley lines, and deal with some traffic lights.
“It’s a very complicated deal,” said Knipfel. “There’s fences being removed, Mobi bike pads removed, traffic lights. There’s a Christmas fair on the other side of the water that’s setting up, and there’s an art piece being installed by the city next week on Beach Avenue — there’s so many moving parts to this.”
Houses like this weigh between 36 and 45 metric tonnes (80,000 to 100,000 pounds). So moving them is an art.
“We install a steel structure below the house, then we jack up the house so it’s resting on that steel,” said Knipfel. “Then we’ll put our hydraulic transporters, our hydraulic dollies, underneath, lower the house onto the wheels and pull it off its foundation. It will take a couple of days to get it loaded, then it’ll take a day to get it into the alley.”
The cost has yet to be determined, but it isn’t cheap.
“It’s probably going to cost me anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000 just to move it,” said Sandhu.
A small carriage house at the rear of the property will be demolished so the bigger house can be moved to the lane. According to the city, this leaves 119 character houses left in the West End.
Work on the new highrise will start when the house is moved, and construction is expected to take two years. The site for the new highrise had contained two houses and an apartment block, which provided 26 low-cost rental units. Six West End residents took the city to court to try to stop the rezoning of the site, but lost.
As part of the rezoning, Westbank has agreed to rent 26 units at below market rate to compensate for the units that were lost in the redevelopment.
Sandhu said it wasn’t an easy process to move the house, but the city and Westbank helped to make it happen.
“The city of Vancouver got this one right,” he said.
“They legitimately bent over backwards to help us to save this house. And Westbank really stepped up. Here I am, a small developer, and they let me come onto their site as a guest. They could have said ‘get lost, we don’t want this, this is going to be a headache.’ They stepped up and worked with us to to save this house.”
Read the full Vancouver Sun article here.