In recent years, the City of Vancouver has ramped up its policy on promoting the retention and conservation of heritage and character buildings. One of the City’s goals is to preserve and maintain important aspects of historical buildings and certain neighbourhoods that serve as a part in Vancouver’s identity.
The terms heritage and character are often used interchangeably. Depending on the context however, this can be both correct and incorrect:
- A character building is any building constructed prior to 1940 that has its main historical features intact – this often translates to the exterior features of the building such as the original windows, wood siding, and period entrance components like columns and decorative trim, for example.
- A heritage building is typically a character building with the additional requirement that it is listed on the Vancouver Heritage Registry (the Registry) because it has been specifically identified as having architectural or historical significance.
Most pre-1940’s homes fall under the “character” category, as it’s simply an older home that has most or some of its historical features intact. It is important to know, however, if the home has been specifically identified by the Registry as being heritage, which then has its own set of classifications.
A heritage property is one that is listed on the Vancouver Heritage Registry and is categorized into one of the following evaluation groups A, B, or C.
A – Primary: a prime example of a style or type of building that holds significant historical value tied to a person, event, or early development pattern
B – Significant: a good example of a style or type of building that has some historical significant relevant to the neighbourhood
C – Contextual or Character: an example of a style or type of building that contributes to a historical streetscape, often in a group of other buildings
Being designated heritage takes this one step further in that the building is both listed and classified on the Registry and it is also protected by the Heritage Bylaw, has a specific heritage designation, or it is legally-bound by a covenant or Heritage Revitalization Agreement between the owner and the municipality. Some specific heritage designations include designating a specific landscape feature or designating the building as part of a larger conservation area, such as Gastown or First Shaughnessy.
Designated heritage buildings often have the bronze plaque with information about the building and the City’s crest on it affixed to the front of the building.
A designated heritage property on the Registry will appear on a property’s title, whereas one that is only listed will not appear on the title.
In essence, every listed property on the Registry can be called heritage, but only some of the listed properties are “designated” (legally protected) heritage. The different classifications and designations will determine the type of work a homeowner can and cannot do (or should not do) to the building.
Renovating a Character or Heritage Home
The City of Vancouver provides incentives for owners to retain both heritage and character homes. It wants to encourage owners to add another century to the structure by providing Bylaw and zoning relaxations for renovations and restorations, as well as other incentives such as the potential to build a larger house in the backyard. These proposals and permit applications are often reviewed on a case-by-cases basis as they are just as unique as the home is.
Hiring the right contractor to navigate the tailored requirements for each historical home is key to running a successful renovation. Contact Quantum today to learn more.
Pre-Planning Application Guideline:
Vancouver Heritage Register: all listed heritage properties, whether designated or not
Vancouver Heritage By-law, all designated/protected heritage properties
Character Home Retention in the City of Vancouver
Vancouver Heritage Registry Site Finder