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On Borrowed Time

Is the sun setting on Canada’s industrial vernacular architecture? It’s a question now swirling across the country as big cities transition their local economies from manufacturing into real estate arbritrage. In Vancouver, an area known as the False Creek Flats is shaping up as the site of the city’s next heritage-versus-development squabbling. Here, where the new Emily Carr University of Art + Design lords over the land, neighbouring warehouses have evolved into artists’ studios and galleries — and may be on the verge of further evolution, if not outright extinction.

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Save 525, urge Jeff Wall, Gordon Smith & Fred Herzog

We have a citizens’ request for TransLink, as it gets ready to spend billions of dollars on a new SkyTrain route from Clark Drive down Broadway to Arbutus: Please find a solution for the transit line to proceed without demolishing an essential cultural asset — 525 Great Northern Way.

The building at 525 GNW is a tangible recording of our city’s story that teaches us about our industrial history through its design, scale and materials. This repurposed heritage structure is a positive counterpoint to the homogeneous architecture that is currently defining Vancouver. Repurposing this 1964 Finning Tractor shop into two outstanding art spaces is exactly the type of urban renewal that, like in most cities around the world, we should encourage and enjoy.

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The Battle To Save 525, Part of Vancouver’s History (with video)

“By protecting affordable industrial spaces,” says the city’s plan, “Vancouver can help sustain this critical mass that facilitates new ideas and experimentation and fosters creative exchange between the arts and other sectors, and helps animate a local, vibrant economy.”

The 525 building seems to be the embodiment of the plan. But it may not be around much longer, because it lies directly in the path of a proposed SkyTrain line that would run from the False Creek Flats to Broadway.

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New Emily Carr University campus part of Great Northern Way transformation

Five years ago, when Equinox Gallery moved from South Granville into a former Finning International industrial building by Great Northern Way, the area was on its way to becoming the city’s new art gallery district.

But as far as being a neighbourhood with a sense of community, it had a long way to go. There wasn’t even a café within walking distance to get a decent latte or espresso.

That has all changed with the opening of the new $122.6-million Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus. This week, the university is welcoming the first of 5,000 full and continuing studies students, faculty and support staff. One café is already open in the building with another, larger cafeteria opening soon. By next year, a third café is expected to open in university’s south-facing plaza.

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Vancouver’s Emily Carr University reshapes itself, and its city, with a new campus

With a building conceived as a blank canvas, Emily Carr University of Art and Design is painting a new vision for the city. Here in its new facility on Great Northern Way, East meets West, natural light reigns and walls were literally crossed out of the design to encourage cross-pollination.

Erecting an enormous art school on this former rail yard site will have a huge impact on the neighbourhood. [Emily Carr president] Dr. Burnett points out sites where a hotel will stand, an office building, condos, a SkyTrain station.

That station, however, has dire implications for the Equinox and Monte Clark galleries, which share a renovated historic building next to the school. The building is slated for demolition to accommodate the cut-and-cover construction of the Millennium Line Broadway Extension project.

“We’re certainly pro-train, but it would seem unfortunate that this building would come down,” said Mr. Clark, pointing out that the galleries were a catalyst in creating the arts district here known as the Flats. The galleries are urging TransLink to alter its construction plans.

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Millennium Line extension plan threatens Equinox and Monte Clark gallery spaces

TransLink’s plan to extend the Millennium Line SkyTrain route along Broadway may result in the demolition of an industrial building holding two art galleries that have helped spur a thriving cultural district.

“We’re not trying to stop transit,” said Andy Sylvester, owner of Equinox, which displays art in 525. “If they change the course just a slight amount they can preserve this building.”

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Local galleries threatened by SkyTrain expansion plan

While industrial area-turned-arts district the Flats has become ground zero for many local culture seekers, two of the largest galleries in the area have learned they could be bounced out of their shared building space to make way for a new SkyTrain station.

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Fred Herzog’s Vancouver and The Flats

As the city expands, progress is taking prisoners: A new Sky Train city transport stop is slated to begin construction in the Flats; current plans are to begin demolition of the Finning Tractor building as early as 2019 to make way for a tunnel.

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Citizens Fight to Save Art Galleries

Along with a group of devoted citizens, Great Northern Way’s Monte Clark and Equinox Gallery members are taking the responsibility of preserving building 525 into their own hands.

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