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Deconstructing our ‘Paved Paradise’

July 1, 2010

If the words ‘Paved Paradise’ ring a Big Yellow Taxi bell… your age is showing along with mine!

It’s finally happening.  The parking lot on the north east corner of 13th and Granville is in its final gasps of existence.

Standard Oil (Chevron) has owned the corner of 13th and Granville for the past 70+ years.  Up until 10 years ago, it was various incarnations of a gas station with one incorporating a 7-11 (yes, South Granville had a 7-11).  As with many gas stations across Vancouver, the location was deemed obsolete when gas pumps located every 2 blocks became a little ridiculous.  (I found a photo the other day that showed a gas pump outside the parkade of Hycroft apartments!)  Back in the 30’s, South Granville had 12 gas stations in 14 blocks—almost bizarre when you think about it.

Standard Oil at 13th & Granville

You can see a small sliver of the Standard Oil station on the right hand side of the photo.

You find these decommissioned sites everywhere in the city (and across North America) with chain link fences around them, growing weeds amongst the gravel and generally looking rather disgusting. To reduce holding costs, the odd site has been temporarily converted into community gardens (location to remain anonymous)!  I am not sure I would be brave enough to eat carrots grown in that sort of environment… I am afraid I might start glowing in the dark.

As it turns out, disposing of these properties is not that simple. The level of gasoline, diesel and contaminates that have leached into the surrounding soil have rendered them an environmental nightmare.  Our 13th Avenue site has been no exception. The only option is to clean them up before they can be sold or developed.

In 2000, Chevron began that task of remediating the 13th Avenue site.  If there was any doubt  that it needed to be done, one simply had to stand within 100 meters of the demolition and smell the gas wafting like bad perfume from the soil as they removed the tanks, buildings and asphalt.  In most cases, these sites remain dormant and unusable until the process is complete.

The South Granville Business Improvement Association approached Chevron with the idea of using the property for additional parking during the remediation process.  Initially the remediation was expected to take 3-4 years.  It ended up being 10.  During the remediation process, the site owner continues to pay property taxes with no actual revenue to offset those costs.  The lot can’t be sold, it can’t be developed and so the idea of using it for temporary parking became a win-win idea for Chevron and South Granville with its perceived scarcity of customer parking.  Chevron put in the additional money for paving and landscaping with the hope that they could simply recover the costs of fixing it up for us. At one point they were prepared to lease it to us for a dollar but we were nervous that the parking revenue would not cover the costs of fixing it up.  Hmm… that was not very entrepreneurial on our part. Our genuine thanks to Onno Koning and Chevron for being a great corporate neighbour.

So, the good news for Chevron is that the process of remediation is now complete.  The bad news for the rest of us is that those 28 spots are going to be gone in the next 3-4 weeks.

Obviously, that brings us to the next burning question – what is happening on that corner?  As you might have guessed, the South Granville community is extremely protective of its hood and whatever is happening is everyone’s business – so here’s the scoop.

The property has been purchased and permits have been issued for a 2 storey retail store with one level of underground parking.  Shoppers Drug Mart will be moving in to the new location once it is complete.  Given the square footage of the new store, I imagine it will be a more extensive product offering than what is available at the current SDM Granville store which would be good news for residents in the immediate neighbourhood.

So far, I have not heard anything about what will happen to the building Shopper’s currently leases but I am always eager to learn the latest street gossip if there is any to be had.

As for our Paved Paradise—we love them and we hate them.  In our case, it puts a whole new complexion on…

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”

More about South Granville Gas Stations

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2010 1:15 pm

    A friend of mine just emailed me your article. Really enjoy your blog. Thanks

  2. July 1, 2010 2:09 pm

    Excellent article, really enjoyed it!

  3. greg permalink
    July 1, 2010 2:29 pm

    I remember the 7-11, used to get slurpees there back in the day

  4. July 1, 2010 2:52 pm

    Ah yes… the infamous Slurpee.

    We like to pretend that South Granville has always been at the top of her game – not so. The 90’s were pretty bleak around the neighbourhood. The School Board development, Portico, and the restoration of the Stanley Theatre were the kick start to our recent renaissance. We are still evolving – which is one of those mixed blessing type of conversations that require several beer and a referee to fully explore. Some of our structures are pushing the 100 year mark and will no doubt see reconstruction in the next decade. It is fabulous to see the various incarnations of buildings when you look at old photos. If you look carefully at the top of the buildings in the post photo, you will realize that most of that block is intact – including the house in the back!

    We are in the process of redeveloping our website and plan to have a large collection of images for everyone’s enjoyment …plus, we have some other cool historical stuff up our sleeve that I am going to keep a secret for now. 🙂 If you know of anyone with old neighbourhood pictures, we would love to scan them for our archives.

    Pleased you have enjoyed the article. Happy Canada Day, everyone!

    Sharon, South Granville BIA

  5. July 3, 2010 10:23 pm

    my daughter (3) is going to miss cutting a dandelion every single time we walk to CIBC…

    • July 3, 2010 10:28 pm

      I had a lady call me this past week, quite upset about the weeds in amongst the landscaping. Perhaps we can get her hooked up with your daughter!

  6. William permalink
    July 23, 2010 7:46 am

    Nice post! 😉

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