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It's the end of the line for a transit-themed neighbourhood icon, but not everyone wants it gone

Should it stay or should it go?

An unusual piece of Mount Pleasant history may not be around much longer.

The metal trolley-styled shelter at the southeast corner of Broadway and Kingsway, near Kingsgate Mall, may look like a historical piece but was actually built as a beautification project in the late 1980s.

Over the past few years, it's fallen into disuse and is regularly vandalized, and it has not served as a bus stop in quite some time. Now plans are in the works to get rid of the structure.

However, the shelter has supporters who want to keep it.

"The City is investigating options to remove the structure at the request of the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association (MPBIA)," states a city spokesperson. "The City is also investigating opportunities for improvement of this space upon removal."

A short history: Kiosk, shelter, or public art?

Some call it a shelter, some a kiosk, and, to some, it's public art. The city refers to it as a "replica streetcar." Mostly it's a stylized shelter that offers no seating and an enclosed kiosk that has been unused for years.

Built in 1988 as part of a beautification plan for Mount Pleasant, the community was marking 100 years and wanted to use public funds to help revive the corner with a nod to its historical role as a transportation hub in the city.

The replica trolley shelter was created by the city with the goal of having TransLink use it to distribute paper bus schedules. The transit company was partially responsible for the site, though the property was (and is) owned by the city. In 2016, TransLink gave up the site, leaving the city to care for it.

Shelter Care

"When I took over this job six years ago it was in a state of disrepair," says MPBIA executive director Neil Wyles. "It was very dirty and covered in graffiti."

Since then, Wyles has been the one trying to keep it looking decent, but it's been a lot of work with little to show for it. He's painted and washed it himself, and used BIA resources to clean up needles and redo electrical systems (USB ports were installed, though Wyles isn't sure if they've been stolen).

He also talked with Kingsgate to clear up some of the bushes on the corner to make sure the shelter was lit properly.

Despite his efforts, Wyles says it's regularly vandalized and damaged. Ultimately, the one-time beautification project has become the ugliest part of the corner.

"I've run out of steam for it," he says. "And this last round, someone smashed the glass again and they've done something to the electronics."

He notes the shelter is not the BIA's responsibility. From a legal and financial perspective, they have no connection to it.

"We have no claim on it, we just keep putting money into it," he says, estimating the BIA has put $5,000 into maintenance over the past few years, plus hours of staff time.

That's why he's requested the city remove it, and while no timeline is set he hopes it happens this year.

"It's come to the end of its useful life; we're not using it as an asset," he says. "What I've requested when it is removed is that we actually put two benches in that corner."

While it does mean the neighbourhood would lose something that's become a bit of an icon to Mount Pleasant, it's not a loss with lasting impact, Wyles says.

"It's a landmark"

Quin Martins disagrees and is hoping to rally more support to keep the shelter.

"It's always been there," he says. "It's a landmark at the corner of Broadway and Kingsway."

Martins has started a petition to keep the trolley-themed shelter and is concerned about a lack of public consultation about its removal; the city says it's consulting "key stakeholders."

Martins believes the shelter is an icon for the neighbourhood.

"It's symbolic of what's happening," he says. "And symbolic of the changing neighborhood of Mount Pleasant."

The gentrification of Mount Pleasant means there's a lot of physical change in the neighbourhood, and the shelter is a connection to its past that shouldn't be lost, Martins argues.

"For me, this campaign is to save these last remnants of this old Mount Pleasant that is cherished by people who've lived in Vancouver for a long time," he says.

To Martins, it goes beyond the corner of Broadway and Kingsway, as well.

"This has taken on a symbolic meaning where we're going to tear down a structure because it doesn't seem to have much value," he says. "The structure does have value and it does have a charm to it, I think it should be preserved."

Could it be kept?

The city says it is taking action on a request from Wyles and the BIA, but he's not against the idea of it staying, so long as it's cared for and the BIA isn't the only one sinking time and money into the shelter.

"If someone else wanted to pick up the ball and run with it, I'd help them," Wyles says, adding he thinks a real groundswell would be needed.

Otherwise, Wyles expects it's "inevitable" the shelter will be removed. So far, Martins's petition has about 45 signatures.

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