The condo developer that purchased the Waldorf Hotel in East Vancouver is attempting to quell concerns that the historic site is being torn down and replaced by a residential high-rise.

Social media erupted Wednesday after news broke that the Waldorf’s ownership was changing hands, with many lamenting what they feared would be the loss of an important cultural institution in the city. A petition was launched almost immediately calling on the City of Vancouver to save the hotel, and has already gathered almost 3,500 signatures.

But the Solterra Group of Companies issued a statement Thursday assuring that it currently has “no intention of demolishing” the hotel.

“We have an open mind about the future of this site and we are studying all the options,” CEO Gerry Nichele wrote. “We want to work with the City to explore possible ways to retain and improve the hotel.”

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s office has already pointed out that the Waldorf site is zoned as a commercial mixed-use property, not residential, and a change in zoning would require neighbourhood consultation and council approval.

The current leaseholders plan to vacate the property on Jan. 20, but Solterra won’t be taking possession of the Waldorf until September.

Until then, Marko Puharich, whose family has owned the hotel since the 1970s, insisted the Waldorf will remain open.

“We will continue as we’ve done all along, as a family,” Puharich said. “The bars will be running as soon as [the current leaseholders] leave.”

Partners Daniel Fazio, Thomas Anselmi, Ernesto Gomez and Scott Cohen took over operation of the hotel in 2010, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating it and turned what was once considered a dive bar into a thriving cultural hub.

Fazio told CTV News that even if the Waldorf remains open past January, it won’t be the same venue neighbours have come to know and love.

“The space itself has been here for 64 years,” Fazio said. “It was only when we started programming interesting arts and culture and nightlife that people started flocking here.”

The partners said they were offered a chance to rent the space on a weekly basis until September, but argued running the Waldorf’s popular bar and dual nightclub spaces would be impossible without the ability to book acts months in advance.

Instead, they’ve decided to go out with a bang, planning a sure-to-be-rowdy farewell event the night before they vacate and move on to their next venture.

“The kind of programming we were doing as a group really spoke to people in Vancouver, they’re hungry for it and they wanted it, so it’s really disappointing that we can’t continue doing stuff like that here. But I’m hopeful that we’ll continue doing that somewhere else,” Fazio said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jina You