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Opsal Steel Building

Sunday, March 6th, 2011 — 11:36am PDT
Comments 9

Industrial buildings around False Creek have either met their doom in recent years or have received face-lifts (like the Salt Building). However, the twin-roofed 1918 Opsal Steel Building on the corner of West 2nd and Quebec has met a bit of a mixed fate.

Opsal Steel Ltd building
Photo credit: SqueakyMarmot on Flickr

The Opsal Steel building was used for making logging equipment back in its heyday and was part of the massive rail yard network that lay across most of False Creek. Its heritage status was revoked in 1997 and has since been vacant although it has appeared frequently on Heritage Vancouver’s ‘Top Ten Endangered Sites‘ list:

“2002: After seven years of city planning wrangling and a whole area’s density rezoning. Opsal Steel still stands, it’s ninety year old structural timbers still sound, but gaping holes in the roof threaten its structural integrity. This is not so much demolition by neglect as planning by exhaustion. Heritage Vancouver’s perspective is that it would behoove council and city planning to act expeditiously for the sake of conservation and support a proposal to move this plan forward before the structure deteriorates beyond the point of no return.”

there's red, and then there's red
Photo credit: waferboard on Flickr

After being shrouded in scaffolding, the building is finally being stripped and prepared for their new incarnation as a part of a Bastion Development that will raise two condo towers at the site.

Turret in the Sky
Photo credit: Photocat62 on Flickr

Last May Vancouver is Awesome reported on this and the Vancouver Courier confirmed the development in the fall:

“A two-tower residential development at the historic Opsal Steel site on Second Avenue is poised to go ahead after years of planning. Bastion Development Corporation is behind the project, which will feature two residential highrises with commercial and retail amenities, and a restored Opsal Steel building. One tower will reach 26 storeys at the corner of Second and Quebec. The shorter tower will be at Ontario and Second. The land where the car wash sits is not included in the development.”

The ‘shell’ of the building will remain intact with the two towers positioned above. Per Bastion: “Original cladding will be reused in the interior courtyard, and the iconic exterior signage will be remounted to the face of the building. The interior will feature a pair of long gable-roofed ranges with high exposed ceilings, displaying the heavy-timber frames from the original structure. A number of artifacts from the steel company’s days-gone-by will also appear, including a gantry crane and wooden casting moulds.”

While development of the site has been painfully slow up until this point, another piece of Vancouver history will live on somehow albeit through weathered wooden trusses, encased in shiny new glass.

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  1. raincoaster says:

    I’m extremely skeptical of these “rebuilds” because the two most prominent ones in Vancouver ended up essentially destroying the buildings they were supposed to preserve. The wonderful building across from the Hotel Vancouver was supposed to be carefully taken down and then the stone nurse gargoyles replaced. Instead, they claimed the nurses were not “safe” because of damage. And then they sold them. I lived down the street from the great half-timbered apartment building on Pacific when the developer said he’d renovate it and retain it, while putting a glass tower above. What he replaced it with was a pitifully one-eighth timbered plastic monstrosity.

  2. Ugh. These buildings if renovated within the current shell/frame would make an awesome space for artists, startups, or other small businesses — and add some vibrancy to the desolate Olympic Village. Must we turn every square inch of land in this city into styleless glass condos and thus destroy all semblance of history?

    I agree with Lorraine: setting aside a couple of beams from the building and fitting them awkwardly into some otherwise indistinct glass tower is not the same as preservation.

  3. jake says:

    a gimmicky disaster…very disappointing. Completely irrelevant and disrespectful. Banal design/lost history – nice combo. Experiencing remnants of a colourful history and a distictive regional vernacular are reason I visit and explore Vancouver. Dull glass towers and overscaled drugstores aren’t much incentive to visit.

    Why was the building’s heritage status revoked?

  4. Yawn, get rid of it.

  5. peter says:

    Just to make raincoaster feel a bit better – there are nurses on the building at georgia & hornby – you can see them on google streetsview on the corner of the building, 3 storeys up. Guess they could be replicas.

  6. dan says:

    Passing the building on the bus the other day, it looks like it’s been completely razed to the ground. Any news on that? Did they just pretend it fell down by itself or something?

  7. Rebecca Bollwitt says:

    @dan I noticed that too. I saw it a while ago and it looked like the second to last photo I have here in the post but now, it’s completely gone. Maybe the developer found that it couldn’t be salvaged. That’s really a shame.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The structure of the building has been taken down and placed in storage until the parkade for the development is complete. Each piece of timber has been tagged and will be restored accordingly. This information is available at the sales centre for the project where you can see how the original Opsal building will all be incorporated into the future development.

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