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Mayor Robertson hopes city can help save Waldorf

A man makes his way past the Waldorf Hotel in East Vancouver on January 9, 2013.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has moved to try to resolve the uncertainty swirling around the future of the much-loved Waldorf Hotel on East Hastings Street, which has become a cultural hotspot in recent years.

In a statement released Friday, following meetings with many of those involved with the property, the mayor said he is taking action to protect the hotel and "its heritage values".

He said he has asked city manager Penny Ballem to prepare a report for next Tuesday's council meeting, outlining ways to prevent any demolition permit being issued for the hotel and options for preserving it.

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"The Waldorf is both a significant cultural amenity and a major neighbourhood asset, one that resonates with people of all ages in Vancouver," Mr. Robertson said. "To lose [it] would be a big blow.

"I want to ensure the Waldorf Hotel is protected, and that we don't lose a valuable live performance venue."

The mayor's statement also included hope for the current Waldorf operators, who announced earlier this week that they were shutting down all their activities at the hotel on Jan. 20, after the hotel was sold to a development company. That would have put an end to what has become a vibrant indie arts scene there, with an art gallery, performance venues and live music.

But Mr. Robertson said he will introduce a council motion directing city staff to meet with the operators to discuss their business plan and the possibility of returning to the Waldorf.

The operators, Waldorf Productions, said they had no alternative but to walk away, after being unable to secure more than a week-to-week lease from the landlord. They renovated and revived the aging hotel in 2010.

The Waldorf also has a restaurant and liquor lounge, plus a cold beer and wine store.

The mayor's motion will ask staff to also consult with the current and pending property owners "to see if any accommodations can be made to keep Waldorf Productions on site".

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Said Mr. Robertson, in his statement: "It's disappointing that Waldorf Productions is intending to stop operations – we need more cultural venues in Vancouver. … I'm hopeful we can find a new solution."

News that the Waldorf could be headed for the scrap heap produced an outpouring of protest in the city, both from those who loved the heritage value of the 1947 hotel and those who mourned the pending disappearance of its cultural activities.

Waldorf Productions said they were told that the new owners, the Solterra Group of Companies, who take possession in September, planned to erect condominiums on the site.

However, Solterra said Thursday they have an open mind about the Waldorf's future. "We want to work with the city to explore possible ways to retain and improve the hotel. … At this point, we certainly have no intention of demolishing the Waldorf Hotel."

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