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Statement on the Ming Sun Building

December 6 2013

City Hall in summer, behind the trees on the north lawn

Over the past five months, the City of Vancouver has taken repeated steps to ensure the safety of the Ming Sun Building at 437-441 Powell Street. Unfortunately, the owners have refused to provide a plan to make the urgent repairs required. The Ming Sun Benevolent Society themselves informed the City on November 14 that the building is beyond repair and should be demolished.

History of events

At present, the City has received reports from two professional engineers, one hired by the Ming Sun building owner and one by the adjacent building owner.  The City also performed its own inspections. The conclusion from these reports and investigations is that the building needs significant repairs to be reoccupied and some of the elements of the building pose an immediate safety risk to the public. In particular, this includes the brick facade facing west, which could collapse at any time.

After discussions with the building owners, they have not been able to develop a plan to undertake the repairs or to address the public safety risk. They have not applied for any permits to prepare the building for reoccupation.

Additionally, it should be noted that the demolition of the neighbouring building was supervised by a professional engineer hired by the demolition contractor and by the City’s senior building inspector. There is no evidence that this demolition in any way impacted the structural integrity of the neighbouring building.

Engineering reports

The first engineering report was received in August. On September 9, 2013, a City safety inspection revealed that the brinks on the front façade posed an immediate safety risk. City officials placed fencing around the building and closed the sidewalk.

On November 5, 2013, a second engineering report revealed that the bricks on the west facing façade were also in danger of collapse without warning.

On November 14, 2013, the Ming Sun Benevolent Society acknowledged that the building at 437-441 Powell Street had been structurally compromised beyond repair and would have to be demolished.

The City supported this decision and on November 15, 2013, ordered the demolition of the building in order to ensure the safety of the public and ensure that the site conditions do not deteriorate any further.

This decision was based on a number of factors including the reports of two professional engineers, City inspections and discussions with the building owners.

The tenants

In the meantime, the residential tenants have all been rehoused; the commercial tenants have been provided supervised access to acquire their belongings.

In the case of the Instant Coffee artists, the City has provided them with a number of options in other sites to continue their work and they have finally accepted a storage container in which to safely store their equipment. The City’s Cultural Services staff continue to work with them.

Preserving the northern portion of the building

Despite months of the Society refusing to make repairs to address the safety issues, and acknowledging that the building could not be repaired and should be demolished, the City has recently learned that there is now interest in preserving the northern portion of the building.

If this is true, the Society must provide a report from a professional engineer prior to December 9 that verifies that this portion of the building does not have any deficiencies and can be retained.

The site is increasingly difficult to secure thus increasing the risk to the public and officials who are being asked to deal with vandalism.

Next steps

In the event that the owner continues to not comply with our orders, the City is preparing to take action to address the safety issues at the owners cost. A letter outlining these steps has been personally delivered to the directors of the Ming Sun Benevolent Society.

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