I recieved a phone call from the Vancouver Public Library that the Carnegie Library was never moving and neither is the children’s library in the school. The fate of the Heatley Block is still in question.
The Heatley block is located at the corner of Heatley and Hastings Street. It was recently purchased by the City of Vancouver and is operated by Atira Property Management. Rogan Sinclair along with his partner Kim, are the site managers for the Heatley Block. They have recently moved in with their kids Christmas and Mickey this past year. The previous building they were in was located at 29 west Hastings street next to Army and Navy, not super kid friendly, but they managed. I met Christmas and Mickey at Strathcona Community Centre where i have worked on and off for about 12 years. They were all very happy about this move to the Heatley Block. Close to the school, way more space for them as a family, quieter, and places to play outside, 2 parks just down the street. They are adaptable kids, they’ll figure it out if their new home gets torn down. They already are. They have been going around with petitions, Mickey told me they have 3 pages filled up already. Their parents are bound by who they work for to not respond, but their kids aren’t. I feel really proud of them that they feel empowered enough to respond, and i want to support them how i can. I guess that’s why i’m writing about them, a small way of helping. They are 2 very good reasons amongst many as to why the Heatley Block should stay put.
The proposal goes something like this: Tear down the Heatley block as well as the adjacent building belonging to Pivot Legal Society(who will sell their building to the city for this project) and build an 8 storey tower containing 200 square foot boxes of housing and a brand new library on Hastings Street, with some new retail space. This part of the plan is still a little fuzzy for me, maybe hard to believe, but the Children’s library at the School would be closed and moved to Hastings Street as well as the Carnegie Library. There has been an alternate proposal by a residents group to move the proposed new library in to the oldest part of Strathcona Elementary School, also slated for demolition.
So why is any of this wrong, new library, new affordable housing, all good right? No actually, its all supposed to sound good, just like South East False Creek,which has seen all but 20 percent of its affordable housing squeezed out, and the future of that is still debatable. The high costs of construction can be trumped out to add a few more floors on, make the project half market or more and why not throw a Starbucks downstairs, not out of the realm of possibility, their is much history to draw upon. So why should it stay put? Carnegie Library for starters is one of the most used libraries in the City. The Children’s library at the School is also well used and very convenient and safe for the kids, that don’t have to walk out to a highway to get their books. For all of the new residents who are too freaked out to go to Carnegie for their books, they could go to the oldest part of the School that could house a full collection with an expanded children’s section. There are also a number of viable local businesses at street level, including the most recent tenant Spartacus Books, which has been in and around the neighbourhood for over 30 years.
We don’t seem to get the concept of heritage and why it is actually important. Our idea of heritage is gutting the interior, keeping the facade and popping a tower in the middle. Not heritage. Heritage is about people and memory and story and the feel of places that have had thousands of people run through them. People who have witnessed decades of changes.
Home is different than housing. This concept has been forgotten In the flurry of guilt and shame around the issue of homelessness and poverty in our city, “lets just house as many people as we can, 200 square feet, better than nothing”. Tell that to the Sinclair’s, who after a very long time in housing, just found home.