Drive to transform Kits’ Delamont Park heritage district gathers steam

News that a private homeowner on Arbutus at 7th Ave. is seeking to replace his century-old property with a modern duplex is heightening concern about the future of the Delamont properties, a unique precinct of homes and businesses dating back to Kitsilano’s earliest days.

The Delamont Park area is a collection of city-owned homes next to the old Interurban line, acquired in the distant past for a planned connector from Arbutus to the Burrard Bridge. When those plans died in the 1970s, the homes were slated for demolition for a park, only part of which has been created.

Now the Delamont area is like a time capsule from another era, generally well-maintained by the city and an enclave of affordable rental in Kits. (The city raises rents to market rates as tenants move on, but many long-term residents in these heritage homes have very affordable rates.)

Heritage advocate Michael Kluckner and architect Sean McEwen, a veteran of many heritage projects including the West End’s Mole Hill, have long pointed to the Delamont as a potential “second Mole Hill” of affordable rental housing built around heritage restoration and new infill housing.

McEwen’s preliminary proposal for such a scheme won honorable mention in the recent Re:Think Housing competition for affordable housing.

A Heritage Vancouver forum panel last night — McEwen, Kluckner and I made up the panel — drew an interested crowd of Delamont residents and heritage advocates to take stock.

While the city currently has no plans to do anything to the Delamont area, the proximity of a future Arbutus and Broadway transit hub suggests change is coming, sometime. The current proposal for a duplex may be providing a useful wake-up call if nothing else.