One of Cloverdale’s iconic buildings is up for sale, putting its future in jeopardy just seven months after its former owner and proprietor passed away.
What was Dann’s Electronics at 5657 176 Street – currently home of The Bowerbird Stop, an antique store – is listed at $995,000.
Its real estate listing makes no mention of its heritage status.
“Excellent corner site ideal for redevelopment,” the Valley Pacific Realty listing says, noting it may be possible to build a 7,000 square-foot new building with commercial space at street level and a two-bedroom residential unit upstairs.
“These properties are rarely for sale,” it continues. “Good revenue source ‘till redeveloped. Don’t miss this excellent opportunity.”
The Reporter contacted the current owner to find out why the building is marketed as a tear-down, but she declined comment.
Although Dann’s Electronics is listed on the City of Surrey’s heritage register, the designation doesn’t guarantee protection or preservation of a building or heritage site, something that might surprise the many friends and former customers of Allan Dann, who sold the building in January 2013.
News that her father’s childhood home and former family business has been put up for sale has Kathleen Dann Honey worried the building will be torn down and the history of the site will be erased.
In an email, she said she was glad her father isn’t here to witness it.
Unless protection is formally imposed through a bylaw, such as a Heritage Revitalization Agreement, which is the case with the Clova Cinema a block away, or through a restrictive covenant, the building can be altered or re-developed.
Listed on the Canadian Register of Heritage Places and the City of Surrey’s Heritage Register, it was built in 1920 as a Royal Bank of Canada.
The bank closed in 1923 and became a liquor store until 1931, when it was purchased by Ernest and Dorice Dann. Ernest moved his bicycle repair shop there, and installed his young family upstairs in the former bank manager suite.
The operation evolved into an appliance and electronics sales and repair shop that sold everything from vacuum cleaners to stereo equipment.
Many residents of Cloverdale remember buying their first bikes or colour televisions there. Son Allan Dann (pictured at left in 2011, greeting trick or treaters at the Halloween Costume Parade) grew up in the apartment upstairs and ran Dann’s Electronics from 1973 to his retirement 40 years later. He passed away last December at 91 after a lifetime of community service, including volunteer fire fighting.
In 1998 Dann’s Electronics became Surrey Heritage Site #47, a designation proclaimed on a plaque that was removed when the building was recently repainted and is no longer displayed.
Don Luymes, manager of community planning for the City of Surrey, said realtors are not obliged to disclose heritage register designation in a real estate listing.
Further, if the heritage building is purchased and the new owner plans to redevelop or renovate, altering its character or even tearing it down, there would be nothing formally standing in the way.
“It is not protected,” he said.
The city can offer temporary protection by withholding a demolition permit for a period of time, during which the city would attempt to negotiate with the owner for some protection of a building.
In the case of the Dann’s Electronics building, there are some challenges for an owner or buyer.
“At the same time, that area we would not see as a high-density redevelopment,” he said.
“It’s not like there’s a huge upside to somebody tearing it down and building something larger,” he said. “It’s possible somebody purchasing it may wish to renovate it, and if they did, we would hope to have some influence on that renovation and perhaps protect as much of that heritage as possible.”
A Heritage Revitalization Agreement is the main tool the city uses to preserve heritage buildings in Surrey. It specifies key elements to be retained or protected.
Luymes said incentives may include relaxing parking requirements, as was the case with the Clova Cinema when it was sold to CrossRidge Church, which sought to have the zoning amended to permit assembly use.
An owner may also see up to a maximum of $5,000 a year over three years (for a maximum of $15,000) in property tax reductions provided the money is spent on heritage renovations.
The seller could voluntarily enter into an agreement, he said. “That didn’t happen in this case – it was sold without protection.”
In the case of the Bose Farm, Luymes said five heritage buildings were saved as a condition of redevelopment – the developer was allowed to increase density as an incentive to ensure protection.
The city also has the authority to designate a building as a heritage building without the owner’s consent. It’s rarely done because “in many cases, heritage designation could reduce values of a property,” Luymes said.
“In general, the city doesn’t pursue designation against the wishes of an owner,” he added. “It’s not something you do lightly.”
There are 209 buildings and sites listed on Surrey’s Heritage Register.
And there are 67 protected sites in the city. Of those, 35 are protected through HRAs, 30 through designation bylaws and two through restrictive covenant.
“Hopefully the Dann’s Electric building will have a happy ending. If it is sold, we’ll deal with the owner when the time comes,” he said.