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Oldest building in Lougheed area faces demolition

The oldest building in Lougheed Town Centre, the circa 1900 Alexander Evans residence is facing demolition. Also known as Seven Gables, it is too run down for the current owners to save in an economically feasible way, even with the development incentives proposed by Burnaby city hall.  - Wanda Chow/NewsLeader
The oldest building in Lougheed Town Centre, the circa 1900 Alexander Evans residence is facing demolition. Also known as Seven Gables, it is too run down for the current owners to save in an economically feasible way, even with the development incentives proposed by Burnaby city hall.
— image credit: Wanda Chow/NewsLeader

The oldest building in Lougheed Town Centre is facing demolition after Burnaby city hall was unable to make the economics of restoration work for the current owner.

The Alexander Evans Residence, also known as Seven Gables, was built around 1900 at 9957 Sullivan St., next to North Road. Evans was a civil engineer from England, and the house was built as part of a model farm.

It's an "unusual example of the vernacular Queen Anne style" and is listed on the Burnaby Heritage Inventory, said a city staff report. The city heritage inventory notes that over the years, two of the original seven gables have been removed from the front facade.

In September 2013, the house was sold by its longtime owner. Since then, Burnaby city staff have worked with the new owners to try and save the house. Options the city proposed included subdividing the property, converting the house to a duplex and constructing a new building on the existing site.

But in the end the owners decided none of the options would make restoration of the house economically viable, the report said. "The owners intend that the property would be advanced for subdivision and redevelopment in accordance with the property's existing zoning."

In the end, it was the poor condition of the house that led to the decision, said Coun. Colleen Jordan, chair of Burnaby's community heritage commission.

"There was nothing that would really generate enough money to fix it up because it's really in terrible condition."

The previous owners were elderly and apparently didn't do anything to maintain the home over the last 10 years, she said, adding it doesn't even have a proper foundation.

"I guess you can do anything if you put enough money into it but to do it, the cost would be so horrendous it's not feasible for [the current owners] to do it."

LEFT: The Wiltshire Family, circa 1905, at Seven Gables.
Courtesy Surrey Pioneers

While over the years, Burnaby city hall has purchased heritage homes and restored them, the dilemma is always what sort of public use will they have, particularly to justify the significant expense of restoring and maintaining them.

"Okay it's nice to preserve the heritage but then what do you do with it … rather than having it rented out as a private property for some fortunate person."

As an example of the expense involved, she cited the new roof being installed on the city-owned Hart House, a project that is still ongoing a year-and-a-half after it started because it has to be done in keeping with its heritage requirements. Fortunately, Burnaby has gaming revenues it can put towards such expensive projects, Jordan said.

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