We visited this same corner in an earlier post, when it occupied by the Empress Theatre. We thought that after the theatre was demolished in 1940 the site sat empty until this commercial block was completed in 1987. This 1979 image seems to confirm that belief.
The rezoning sign on the site identifies the future building’s architect as William S Tong, and the developer as Harry Fan. You can read about Harry on his website: he was born in Hangzhou City on the east coast of China, attended Law School in Shanghai then in Chicago, and at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of British Columbia, where he received his Batchelor of Law degree in May 1951. Mr. Fan was the first Asian to graduate from a Canadian Law School. However, he had to work as a carpenter for 5 years to acquire residency and then citizenship before he could practice law. As well as practicing law Mr Fan has had a wide variety of business and charitable interests, including the Fan Tower which used to be known as the Stratford Hotel.
It’s an interesting and perhaps surprising coincidence that the Empress was run by Walter Sandford while his wife built and operated the Hotel Stratford from 1912. More recently Mr Fan has interests in both properties, although this site is now offered for sale and seems like a good candidate for the rejuvenation redevelopment of parts of Chinatown that is slowly taking place.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-324