Vancouver has a poor track record with preserving heritage buildings and Kitsilano Secondary School, built in 1927 and soon to be heavily renovated, is no exception. The Vancouver School Board just scheduled the $65-million remodel for summer 2012. The VSB plans to keep some elements of the iconic facade, but will completely rebuild the interior, making the fresh crop of eighth graders filling the Tudor Revival halls today the last set to experience the soaring ceilings, grand foyer and massive windows for which the historic school is known.
True, Kits Secondary School is in need of a seismic-upgrade to fortify against future earthquakes. The building also lacks a sprinkler system and has outdated electrical and mechanical systems. But a recent Parent Advisory Committee found that 83 percent of current students, 75 percent of parents and 91 percent of alumni found it important to maintain the heritage of the existing school structure. Heritage Vancouver placed Kitsilano Secondary School at the top of their 2010 list of significant endangered sites.
So why not preserve the school’s interior, exterior and make the necessary upgrades?
According to the WE article by Andrew Weichel, it’s cost. It was cheaper overall to build a completely new school—an option the VSB rejected in favour of a $65-million compromise. But does maintaining bits of the West 10th facade while gutting the building really count as preservation?
In the tumultuous history of the Vancouver property market, building upgrades often accompany losses—from the loss of city history to the loss of renters-rights—as seen in the ongoing ‘renovictions’ in the West End.
So I’ll leave it to you decide about the future of Kitsilano Secondary School: Is the glass half empty or half full?
Last modified: September 6, 2011