Three floors up and with no balcony attached, neighbours of a Vancouver property under construction call it the sliding glass door to nowhere. It’s one feature on a townhouse development and heritage home restoration project in the West End, where work has been ongoing at a glacial pace for almost five years.
“It is a constant assault…dust, dirt and debris have been part of my reality for five years,” says neighbour Linda Rubuliak.
Another neighbour, “Guy”, says from 7:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. six days a week, he’s subject to a “constant barrage of noise and disruption.”
“David”, who also lives nearby and did not want to give his full name for fear of retaliation by workers on the site, adds “the pounding and hammering of nail guns has been like a water torture. It’s never-ending.”
A development permit was approved for 1098 Nicola Street in September 2011. With four minor amendments approved in the years since, the work to restore the 1905 heritage house and add three townhouses has dragged on.
The site has been the subject of five WorkSafe BC orders — from slipping and tripping hazards to protruding rebar — and three WorkSafe BC stop use orders for its scaffolding. In 2014, construction shut down for nearly two months after the City of Vancouver slapped the site with a stop work order. During that same year, the project’s original architect left.
Randy Helten of West End Neighbours says his group supports the preservation of heritage but suggests the City of Vancouver establish better systems to ensure construction activities do not drag on.
“There should be development of a bylaw that sets reasonable limits on how long a developer can be doing this. Secondly, there needs to be really good monitoring,” she says.
The City of Vancouver says it has only received five complaints about the property since 2012 and as long as work is done within a six-month period, the building permit won’t lapse.
“I am very shocked that this can happen here and I’m not sure what role…the city is playing,” says neighbour Laura Aveledo.
The area’s NDP MLA, Spencer Chandra Herbert, says he’s heard from many frustrated people.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable to say you can just keep constructing for over five years. I don’t get it it. It makes no sense financially—it doesn’t work for the neighbourhood,” he says.
The City of Vancouver would not provide an interview to Global News, despite repeated requests, but when we caught up with Mayor Gregor Robertson at an event, he said: “We’re very mindful of minimizing the impact of construction in neighbourhoods and I’ll look into that case to find out the details.”
The project’s builder acknowledged there have been some delays but neither he nor the construction phase architect would discuss the reasons for the long construction timeline. Both said they’re doing their best to finish as soon as possible and are on track for completion by May 1.