Queen’s Meat and Deli is getting its chance at having a mid-century modern makeover.
Following a public hearing on Monday night, council unanimously approved a heritage revitalization agreement bylaw and a heritage designation bylaw. The bylaws will allow the applicants to add additional floor space to the one-storey 1926 building at 404 Second St. through a 31-square-metre (332-square-feet) side addition, an 18-square-metre (191-square-feet) rear addition and a basement.
In exchange for several zoning and sign bylaw relaxations, the building will be restored to its 1951 design, legally protected through a heritage designation agreement and listed on the city’s heritage register.
Elana Zysblat, the project’s heritage consultant, said a neighbourhood that was once dotted with corner stores, now has only two surviving corner businesses – the meat market and the muffler shop on Sixth Avenue. She said that protecting one of them through the use of an HRA is a significant opportunity for the city.
“You conserve the most character-defining era of a historic place, the one that embodies its heritage values. In the case of the Queen’s Park Meat Market, it is 1951,” she said of heritage preservation. “The mid-century era is immensely important to New Westminster’s story and identity.”
Camelia Mezo, who owns the building and the business with her husband Florin, said they took over the butcher shop in 2016 and purchased the property in 2019. When they took over the shop, she said a health inspector told them the building was a tear-down, but they’re hoping to make changes that will ensure it’s able to remain a neighbourhood store for years to come.
“We really wouldn’t want to see it go,” she said. “So many small family businesses have disappeared from our city in the past years, so the purpose of this HRA is to protect and provide a better service.”
More than 20 residents spoke as delegations during Monday’s three-hour public hearing.
Some Queen’s Park residents, including several who live near the site, opposed the application. They cited concerns about the tripling of the size of the commercial space, potential impacts from having a larger commercial business in the neighbourhood, the use of a heritage revitalization agreement rather than a rezoning application for the expansion, and the plan to restore the building to its 1950’s design rather than its original 1920’s appearance.
Several residents expressed concern about the “failed” consultation process, saying it wasn’t clearly articulated until “very recently” what commercial uses would be allowed in the space. They said some residents supported the butcher shop’s application without knowing that other uses would be allowed.
A staff report said the application will “regularize and expand the non-conforming commercial use” of the building in what’s primarily a single-family residential neighbourhood. To provide flexibility and support for the continued commercial uses, a variety of uses would be allowed: business and professional offices; cafes and restaurants, excluding drive-in, drive-thru restaurants; personal services establishments, excluding dry-cleaning establishments, electrical appliance repair shops and launderettes; and retail stores, excluding convenience stores that are open past 10 p.m. or before 7 a.m.
Gary Mockler, who lives a near the shop, said more than 40 commercial uses would be permitted in this building, such as restaurants and retail stores. Sue Lee, who lives next door to the shop, said nearby neighbours already deal with impacts related to traffic and idling cars, but that could get worse because the application would allow other business uses, expand the size of the business and increase its operating hours.
Support local business
Queen’s Park resident Brian Taylor said he’s never attended a council meeting but felt compelled to do so because he believes in the project and fully supports small business in New West.
“All around New Westminster you see shuttered businesses because of COVID. While we want to hope otherwise, the reality is that many of these small businesses will not reopen. They will be gone forever,” he said. “Here we have a small business owner who not only wants to stay but wants to grow. How anybody cannot support … is beyond us.”
Brow of the Hill resident Brad Cavanagh urged council to support the application as-is and not to restrict the commercial space to a butcher shop, saying business owners need to be able to adapt in order to survive. He said he’d like to see small businesses peppered through residential areas as they make for more complete neighbourhoods, and suggested locations like this would be ideal for a home-based businesses, such as those selling coffee, cheese, doughnuts and pastries, bagels, books and flowers.
Maria Prevolos, who lives in Queen’s Park, said these types of businesses make the community more walkable and create community by providing a social hub in neighbourhoods. She said concern about potential future uses are “bordering on hysteria” as businesses would be required to get a business permit and the heritage revitalization agreement rules out certain types of businesses.
Queen’s Park resident Kurt Wipp said he isn’t worried “something bad” may open at that spot in the future, as it’s unlikely a business owner would open in a business deemed undesirable by the community.
Helen Sage, the daughter of the George Davies – who operated the butcher shop from 1961 to 1998, said her father later sold the building at its assessed value so it could continue to be used as a butcher shop or another business if a butcher shop wasn’t successful. She encouraged council to support the application.
“Please, just take a moment to remember what heritage is really is,” she said. “It isn’t just based on structure. It’s based on history. And that is what the Royal City is founded on.”