Phoenix net loft faces wrecking ball

Portions of the Phoenix net loft are showing signs of “immediate collapse” and should be demolished before studying the value of what remains of the historic structure, say city staff.

“If repairs are not executed as recommended, the facility is no longer in a serviceable condition and should not be used or accessed by (city) personnel or the public,” said Daniel Leonard of WorleyParsons Canada Services Ltd., in a consultant’s report ordered by the city.

City council has yet to consider the matter, but staff are asking for $250,000 to demolish two sheds, along with what’s left of the wharf deck. The cash would also be used to fund protective covering—to prevent further erosion—and an updated assessment of the building’s condition.

The next step would be up to civic politicians. Staff say full demolition would cost $450,000 and limit the city’s ability to use the site for anything else. Repair work, however, would ring in at $1 to $3 million.

Staff say the building has potential for use for exhibits, artist studios, performance theatre, kayak and canoe storage, classroom space or a coffee shop.

Last actively used in 2000 for net storage and repair, the Phoenix—behind a barbed wire fence—has been used for city storage in recent years.

Planners originally envisioned the building would remain in use as part of the fishing industry, but its deteriorating state and the downturn in the fishing industry left the building vacant. They later hoped a private partner would repair it and lease the space, but a request for proposals didn’t yield any attractive offers.

The city acquired the building in 2001 from B.C. Packers through the rezoning process of the company’s Steveston land

Barry Roughton, who led the now defunct Phoenix Cannery Preservation Society during the B.C. Packers redevelopment debates, submitted one such proposal—for a marine institute—but it never got off the ground.

He said it would be a shame to see the building demolished.

“They demolish just about every piece of history in Steveston,” he said. “That’s the only other piece left that’s of real consequence.”

Roughton, who insisted the building could be “reutilized for all kinds of different things,” said the city has failed in its “duty of care” by letting the structure fall into disrepair.

Although the city owns the building, Port Metro Vancouver owns the water lot, according to a report from parks manager Lucy Tompkins. In her report, she said the city is required to remove structures that occupy such water lots—if they’re not used or maintained.

Phoenix net loft

•7,000 square feet, plus a mezzanine

•Wood structure supported by piles, built between 1938 and 1945

•Part of the Phoenix Cannery operation, which began in 1882, making it the first in Steveston

•Last used in 2000 for net storage and repair

•It is the last building standing of the B.C. Packers’ empire


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