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Heritage house on borrowed time

Branscombe House, at Steveston and Railway, was built in 1905, but currently sits in disrepair. - Martin van den Hemel photo
Branscombe House, at Steveston and Railway, was built in 1905, but currently sits in disrepair.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel photo

A veteran councillor said Monday if cash isn’t poured into restoring vacant, historic structures, the city should begin to “write these buildings off.”

During budget discussions this week, Coun. Harold Steves noted restoration of the Branscombe House, at 4900 Steveston Hwy. (at Railway Avenue), isn’t included in the 2012 capital plan.

“It’s empty, it’s boarded up, and if we leave it another year that building ain’t gonna be there much longer,” said Steves.

A $180,000 preservation project of the 1905 city-owned house was considered by staff, but ultimately not recommended in the 2012 budget.

The cost—Phase 1 of restoration—included a new roof, foundation, electrical work and asbestos removal, according to Jane Fernyhough, director of arts, culture and heritage services. Preservation work is “becoming urgent,” she noted.

Steves drew a parallel between the house and the deteriorating Phoenix Net Loft in Steveston, which the city is spending $250,000 on this year for emergency repairs and a study to determine future use.

“The reason it needs all that expense is because of our neglect,” said Steves. “It’s sat empty for 10 years.”

Steves added the longer a building is left to sit, the higher the cost of restoration.

According to the city’s heritage inventory, the 107-year-old Branscombe House is one of the earliest homes built in Steveston. The document, completed in 2000, noted the house was in “fair condition” at the time.

David and Sarah Branscombe once owned the house and operated a general store on Moncton Street. A former electric railway station near the home was called Branscombe Station.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie suggested the Branscombe project could be considered as part of 2011 budget surplus spending, which will be determined mid-year.

Branscombe House

•Located at 4900 Steveston Hwy. (at Railway Avenue)

•Built in 1905, now owned by city

•Two-storey Edwardian Builder style structure

•Once owned by the family of David and Sarah Branscombe

•Branscombe family owned and operated a general store on Moncton Street

•Former electric railway station near the home was called Branscombe Station

•At one time there were barns, chicken coops and other outbuildings on the property

* Source: City of Richmond’s heritage inventory

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