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Balmoral Hastings Vancouver

Photo: Jack Lindsay, 1940-48, CVA 1184-3337

Photo: Dominion Photo Co., 1929, VPL : 23007

sidential hotel

Know your Balmoral

By Mike Usinger

From CBGB in New York City to the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret in Vancouver, the best live-music clubs have been located in neighbourhoods that Charles Bukowski would have loved getting liquored up in. Not that long ago, the Balmoral was the kind of room populated by hard-core barflies, as well as other unfortunates who found themselves on the outside of society looking in. But that’s changed following upgrades to the room that have made it a burgeoning haven for Vancouver hipsters.

“We wanted to start promoting shows in Vancouver, and we had our eyes on the Balmoral,” says Jessica Labrie of Sister Surprise Public Relations. “We knew that it had just been renovated and that it would be great for live music. We went there last October, hooked up some dates, and started putting on shows there. Since then, there’s been so much interest-lots of promoters want to get their foot in the door, and bands as well.”

“The look of the room is great,” Labrie says. “There’s a huge dance floor-700 square feet-that’s all nice hardwood. There’s also a huge bar. The Balmoral has huge potential. Now all we have to do is pack the place and let people know that it’s okay to go there.”

Source http://www.pivotlegal.org/News/09-01-15--slumlords.html

Punish the slumlords, say advocates

Residential Tenancy Branch asked to impose maximum financial penalties on owners of the worst SROs

Vancouver, January 15, 2009 - Pivot Legal Society, Carnegie Community Action Project and other housing advocacy groups are calling on the Residential Tenancy Branch to impose financial penalties on owners of the Downtown Eastside’s seven “worst of the worst” single room occupancy hotels.

“Based on discussions with advocacy groups who spend significant time assisting low-income tenants in the Downtown Eastside, two families have been identified as owning and operating the absolute worst of the worst buildings down here” says Laura Track, housing campaign lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society.

“The Sahota and Laudisio families are responsible for the most serious and ongoing violations of the law in their seven SRO buildings, including:

- Failure to maintain reasonable health, cleanliness and sanitary standards, especially in regards to rodent and insect infestations;

- Failure to conduct emergency repairs on essential utilities;
Entering residences without proper notice;

- Verbally abusing tenants;

- Ending the tenancy without due process;

- Illegally retaining damage deposits;

- Charging guest fees;

- Changing the locks without due process in order to evict the tenant;

- Threatening the tenant with eviction in order to discourage the tenant from making an application to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB).”

“I’ve lived in the Balmoral Hotel for more than 11 years” says DJ, a volunteer with First United Church, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and Lifeskills. “My partner and I pay $750 for a small one-bedroom that’s got rats, mice, cracks in the walls and ceilings and other problems. When I ask someone to come and do necessary repairs it often takes weeks to get the problem fixed. I’m tired of having to fight so hard just to get the absolute minimum from the Sahotas.”

“Many of the Carnegie Community Action Project’s members are among the more than 650 tenants who live in Sahota and Laudisio-owned buildings,” says Wendy Pedersen, long-time activist and organizer with CCAP. “Low-income tenants deserve to live with dignity and security, but these two landlord families deprive tenants of their rights by repeatedly breaking the law and allowing the conditions in their buildings to remain so horrendous.”

The Sahotas own four SRO hotels: the Regent (160 E. Hastings), Balmoral (159 E. Hastings), Astoria (769 E. Hastings), and Cobalt (917 Main), and the Laudisios own three: the Brandiz (122 E. Hastings), Powell Rooms (556 Powell), and Lucky Lodge (134 Powell).

“The Sahotas’ four hotels appreciated by almost $5 million between 2005 and 2007” says Track. “They are making significant profits on the backs of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals in our city."

"Both families continue to flout the law despite numerous orders from the City of Vancouver to make improvements and multiple Residential Tenancy Branch decisions against them. By asking the RTB to impose monetary penalties, we’re hoping to hit these slumlords in the pocketbook to make them realize that they cannot continue to break the law with impunity.”

See media reports on this issue


Balmoral Hotel

159 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, British Columbia

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Balmoral Hotel is a nine-storey, Chicago-syle early skyscraper, with Edwardian details, located on East Hastings Street in close proximity to the historic Gastown district.

Heritage Value

Built in 1911-1912 at the peak of prosperity, the Balmoral Hotel is representative of the city's entrepreneurial optimism for the future. Vancouver had by that time become firmly established as the financial distribution, shopping and manufacturing centre of British Columbia.

In a September 1912 announcement of the official opening of the Balmoral Hotel, the journal Architect, Builder, and Engineer notes that construction of this first-class hotel 'will relieve some of the former congestion in hotel circles of the day'. This type of high-class establishment would have accommodated commercial businessmen and wealthy travellers to the area, rather than the seasonal workers who lived in less elaborate hotels and lodgings. The Balmoral Hotel, like many other buildings in and around Gastown, served a combined function of providing commercial space on the ground floor and accommodation and lodging on the upper floors, contributing to the bustling street-level retail activity in the area. It is interesting to note that the Balmoral Hotel has been in continuous use as a hotel since 1912.

The Chicago-style massive cornice and grid-like organization of the facade are typical of urban buildings erected between the 1890s to the 1920s within the main core of downtown Vancouver. The perfection of steel frame and reinforced concrete construction, as well as the development of the elevator, permitted these buildings to rise to four or more storeys. The Balmoral's height, juxtaposed with lower adjacent buildings, creates the distinctive 'sawtooth' appearance of this section of East Hastings Street, afforded by often-dramatic variations in building height. Designed by the architectural firm of Parr & Fee (John H. Parr, John MacKenzie, and John Charles Day) for J.K. Sutherland, the Balmoral Hotel was typical of many other commercial buildings in the area. Parr and Fee were responsible for the design of several prominent downtown Vancouver landmarks, including the fifteen-storey Vancouver Block on Granville Street, and the flatiron-inspired Hotel Europe in Gastown.

There is also value in the neon sign on the front of the building. Designed by Neon Products in the 1940s, it remains a visual reminder of the former predominance of neon lighting on the streets of Vancouver.

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Balmoral Hotel include:
- its skyscraper form, scale and massing
- its siting on the property line with no set-backs
- Chicago-style commercial elements which define the character of the Balmoral Hotel include; the steel and buff brick construction, highly-regular organization of the facade, including the grid-like pattern of fenestration of five bays across the front facade, massive overhanging sheet-metal dentilated cornice, and painted sandstone sills
- neon sign

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