Head north along Cambie from West 41st. Not far past 35th Avenue, on the east side of the street, you’ll see an outcropping of volcanic rock that partly obscures the home built atop it.
The home at 5010 Cambie St., which was completed in 1956, is the Wong Residence. It’s important for its West Coast Modern architectural style and design by local architect Duncan McNab and landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, according to a statement of significance produced by Donald Luxton and Associates. The statement notes that the volcanic rock was retained because Oberlander recognized its importance to the site’s aesthetics and its functional use in providing noise and visual protection from the street.
“The house is also valued for its association with the Wong family and Milton Wong in particular, a successful Vancouver-based financier and philanthropist and one of nine children who lived in the Wong Residence and later raised his own family in the home,” the statement of significance explains. “The house also has value for its association with the postwar settlement and development of Vancouver, particularly along the Cambie Street corridor.”
The property and two lots beside it are the subjects of a June 8 pre-application open house. Pennyfarthing Homes is hosting the event to introduce a preliminary development concept for 4976 to 5010 Cambie St., which envisions preserving the Wong Residence through heritage designation and building a seven-story condominium on the other two lots.
Michael Brown of Trillium Project Management, speaking on behalf of Pennyfarthing Homes, said the house doesn’t have heritage designation, but it’s been recognized as one that has heritage potential due to its architecture, landscaping and association with the Wong family.
“Right now we’ve got three lots under contract and we’re looking at an interpretation of the Cambie Corridor guidelines that allows for the development to occur over two of the lots and retention of the Wong house in its current state,” he said, noting if the project is approved, it would be sold with heritage designation. “It has been very, very well maintained.”
Brown said a zoning application has not been submitted to the city.
“So this [open house] is the developer going out to the public and showing them here’s what we’re proposing as a way to have this house recognized and preserved as a heritage asset for the community. Is this a trade-off that’s worthwhile?” he said.
“I’ve started to approach community groups and whatnot, but I need to understand that there’s community support for this type of proposal and that retaining the heritage house in this [way] is something that is desirable, which I believe it is. And then knowing that that support is in the community, then that proposal could go forward.”
The Wong Residence was one of the homes on the 2014 Vancouver Heritage Foundation mid-century modern house tour.
“Both the house and the landscaping were designed to work with the natural environment and are a wonderful example of West Coast Modernism and its connection to nature. West Coast Modern is one of the more threatened architectural styles in Vancouver as the homes are often on larger pieces of land while the buildings themselves are considered modest by many,” explained Kathryn Morrow, the VHF’s communication manager. “However the style is beautiful in its simplicity and made use of the best assets of living on the West Coast — proximity to nature and abundance of natural materials.”
Pennyfarthing’s open house runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Hillcrest Community Centre, June 8.