[Hpn] Update on Vancouver squat

wtinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Wed, 18 Sep 2002 17:54:08 -0400


From: "Cathy Crowe" <cathy.crowe@sympatico.ca>
* * *

The Canadian Press
Western News, Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Potential buyer looking to buy old Woodward's
building in Vancouver: Abbott

The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER (CP) - The provincial Liberal
government is in serious negotiations to sell
the old Woodward's building in downtown
Vancouver for less than the then-NDP
government paid last year to buy it.

Community Services Minister George Abbott,
who is responsible for provincial housing,
said a confidentiality agreement prevents him
from revealing the potential buyer.

"It will be some weeks before there is any
resolution to that," he said. "There are a
lot of issues to work through and it may well
be that we'll be going back to the drawing
board."

A group of up to 25 squatters continued to
occupy the building Tuesday in spite of a
court injunction ordering them to leave. The
squatters say they are frustrated by
unfulfilled provincial promises to turn the
building into social housing.

The B.C. Supreme Court has issued the police
an enforcement order allowing them to
physically remove the squatters.

Abbott said the government wants the
protesters removed, but hasn't given the
police any instructions or deadlines.

"We have no interest in seeing a
confrontation or violence occur there," he
said. "I remain confident they will be able
to resolve it in a peaceful way."

City police said Tuesday they would prefer to
negotiate an end to the occupation of the
premises, rather than use the enforcement
order.

Abbott said the government is promoting a
commercial-residential mix as it attempts to
sell the 61,000-square-metre landmark
building, which the former NDP government
bought for $22 million in spring 2001, just
two months before the Liberals were elected.

Abbott said the government does not expect to
recover the full amount that B.C. Housing, a
Crown agency, said to the property's previous
owner, Fama Holdings Ltd.

"Markets change," he said. "We clearly are
going to try and recover the maximum number
of taxpayer dollars out of this.

"It's clear that the former NDP government
paid far too much for the building," he said.
"The plan they had involved would have
involved about $90 million in expenditure."

The Woodward's site has sat vacant since
1993, when the department store shut down.

When the NDP bought the building, it intended
to covert it to a mix of co-op housing,
commercial and retail uses but all attempts
to sell or develop the building fell through.