One of Vancouver’s two “hobbit houses” has been sold to a local developer planning to build a residential townhouse complex on the site.
But before fans of the faux thatched-roof home, located at 587 W. King Edward Avenue, start labelling the developer Dark Lord of Mordor for destroying a Vancouver landmark, they should know that it’s unlikely it will be torn down.
Although the 83-year-old house doesn’t have a heritage designation that prevents it from being demolished, developer David Mooney has hired a well-known heritage expert and has entered negotiations with the city of Vancouver to include the home as part of the development.
The 2,416-square-foot was listed for sale in May for $2.86 million with realtor Mary Ellen Maasik hyping the potential to tear it down and build a bigger house. Many of the small houses in the neighbourhood were built in the 1930s and 1940s and are being torn down and replaced with larger, more contemporary homes.
It’s unknown how much the house was sold for and Mooney could not be reached for comment on Saturday. Mooney has developed several other townhouse complexes in the city, including Boxwood Green on West 6th, and Viridian Green at Collingwood and 4th.
Donald Luxton, the heritage consultant hired by Mooney, said Saturday that plans for the home are in the preliminary stage, but ideally they will restore the house and keep it as a separate family home in front of the townhouse complex.
“This is really positive in the fact that there is someone willing to negotiate to keep it, which is great,” said Luxton. “Certainly the intent is to get going on it sometime in the next few months.”
Early plans are to take out some renovations that were done to the place in the 1970s which include an elevator to the roof and create more living space on the lower level. Repairs will be done to the roof to restore it to its original condition.
The intent, said Luxton, is to move the house a couple of feet forward so that it’s closer to the street and located on the east corner of the complex.
It may become part of the strata organization or have some other freehold agreement, said Luxton, but it’s too early to say for certain.
Luxton’s firm was also involved in the restoration of Vancouver’s other hobbit house, located at 3979 West Broadway, although that one was sold a separate family dwelling.
The city’s heritage register lists the home in the ‘B’ category as a good example of a particular architecture — storybook style — which means council must approve any potential buyer’s plan to demolish the building.
Luxton said the hope is the city will re-evaluate the heritage designation and give it one that protects the exterior of the house. Once a designation is decided upon, Luxton will move ahead with plans to preserve the structure, working with Mooney’s architect W.T. Leung Architects.
“It’s early days but it will be one unit,” said Luxton. “So some lucky person out there will be able to buy it.”
The unique hobbit-style roof was a 1920s take on a traditional English thatched roof, but done layers of six or seven shingles of cedar, explained Luxton. The playful storybook style was popular in the 20s and 30s.
He said the roof is in great shape.
The house was constructed by Brenton Lea, a builder. The architect was Ross Lort, who also designed the Casa Mia mansion on Southwest Marine Drive. Lea also built the city’s other surviving storybook house on Broadway in 1942.
With files from Mike Hager
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