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Waldorf Productions warns new owners redevelopment of hotel site won't be easy

The sign on the Waldorf Hotel in East Vancouver in October 2011.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The operators of the Waldorf Hotel, set to end their acclaimed activities at the hotel this weekend, have warned the site's new owners that the arts community will scrutinize "every single step" of any rezoning application to build condos on the East Vancouver property.

"Our intention will be to support the City of Vancouver in insisting that any rezoning must minimize market condominium uses, and maximize benefits and space for the arts community," the operators declare, in an open letter to the development company, the Solterra Group, which recently bought the Waldorf.

The letter, signed by "the Waldorf Creative Group", was released late Tuesday.

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Waldorf Productions, which has operated the hotel since 2010 and made it a beacon for emerging artists and cultural performances, allege Solterra has refused to meet to discuss a possible future for them at the hotel. Their open letter would appear to seal off any chance of Solterra changing its mind any time soon.

The city's cultural community has strongly protested the loss of valued venues at the Waldorf to what many fear will be yet another condominium development in Vancouver.

However, the property is currently zoned for mixed commercial and industrial use, and would have to be rezoned to permit a large number of condos.

The open letter to Solterra said the operators' intention is to mobilize "all the resources and contacts we have in the arts community" to make sure rezoning does not go through, without rigorous scrutiny.

The Waldorf group said they believe that rezoning process would mark "a key watershed moment" in the city's ability to preserve space for the arts.

"We are with the arts community. We have a voice, and we will use it to be heard, as you work your way through the process of rebuilding this critical part of our town," their open letter cautioned.

They further urged Solterra to start discussion by hosting an open public forum "as a goodwill gesture," giving the company an opportunity to present its vision for the Waldorf property and hear the views of others.

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Waldorf Productions decided to end its involvement with the hotel after learning the Waldorf had been sold and they were unable to obtain more than a week-to-week lease.

"We may have lost our base of operations, and we are hopeful that we will find good space elsewhere," their letter said. "But the loss of the Waldorf has renewed our passion to fight for the kind of Vancouver we want – one full of art and life."

Solterra has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the furor over their purchase of the 65-year-old hotel and the imminent end to arts and cultural programming there.

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