Concrete crashes onto sidewalk in Downtown Eastside
A heavy concrete panel fell only a meter from a person sleeping in Pigeon Park Wednesday morning, from a decrepit building that is owned by one of the biggest developers in the city.
The decorative panel fell around 4:30 a.m. from the hundred-year-old Merchants Bank building on Hastings Street and Carrall Street. Vancouver engineers have been sent to inspect the building for safety.
“All I hear is a big boom, and some guy almost got his head smashed in over there,” said Jeremy Josephs, who was sleeping in Pigeon Park around 4:00 am, when he was woken up by the crash.
“The guy that almost got hit just ran away, so he left everything behind,” Josephs said.
Residents said it was lucky that the panel, measuring about six feet across and five feet tall, didn’t actually hit anyone.
“There’s normally someone sitting there 24 hours a day,” said Bradley Clark. “They sleep right there. The only reason there isn’t is because of today. Thank God it was raining.”
City records show in 2006 the city approved an application to renovate the heritage building to become the “One West Hastings Media Arts Centre.”
The site was slated to be renovated, with city staff recommending a heritage revitalization agreement that promised tax breaks of nearly $400,000 should work begin, and $100,000 of grants up front.
At the time, the building was owned by Concord Pacific and the Portland Hotel Society.
“We were asked originally to come in to help assist the Portland Hotel Society in acquiring ownership,” said Concord Pacific Senior Vice-President, Planning Matt Meehan, saying the company and the society had success with similar agreements at the Pennsylvania Hotel.
“The Pennsylvania was successful for the community and we hoped to help them with their aspirations,” Meehan said. “Portland Hotel Society did not have the same success with this site and was unable to put the plans together.”
With no renovation, there was likely no tax break – but it’s not clear what happened to the $100,000 promised by the city.
“Since we took it over, over the past year, we’ve been exploring different plans for the site. This is not our core business. There are no definitive plans for the site right now,” Meehan said. “We are relieved no one was hurt.”
Blue fencing has been put up around the property while city engineers and Concord’s management company assess the safety of the building.
Residents said they hoped the blue fence would come down before the street market, which would take place in Pigeon park this weekend.