The real estate market: when should “character” be saved, when should it be “monetized?”

When it comes to neighbourhood redevelopment, should we demolish and replace? Renovate and expand? Or demolish and expand?

It’s hard to say, as demonstrated by this week’s column by Kerry  Gold, the Globe and Mail’s hard-working and thoughtful BC real estate writer, who this weekend hailed a project in which an historic 4,600-foot North Vancouver craftsman home was “redeveloped, densified and monetized.”

(The quote is from a subhead in the print edition which is not in the online version, but it captures the essence of the story.)

The old Marshall homestead at 1340 Delbruck Ave., a neighbourhood landmark, no longer exists, of course. In its place: three “ultrasleek, contemporary homes” that netted more than $6 million.

Yet in a recent post on her blog, where Gold often expands on her newspaper column, she highlighted the destruction of character homes, usually replaced by much larger modern homes of less character. “No doubt, a lot of perfectly good, well-designed, stylish homes are winding up in the landfill,” she wrote, “in favour of this drive for huge housing.” Another problem with this outcome, in Gold’s eyes: no increase in density, just a home for a home.

In March, she noted “that it’s an ongoing media story that homeowners don’t want heritage protection or zoning that would interfere with their property values. I’d like to put this belief to the test. I know there are a few that feel this way, but I’m guessing the majority would opt for quality of life over and above a ridiculous future resale value.”

Would they? Or would they prefer, as did the subjects of yesterday’s column, to subdivide and cash out, regardless of the character home now standing? Vancouver city council is seeking to find the right balance, but as Gold’s coverage demonstrates, that’s easier said than done.