The Sun Press Building – Beatty Street

The ‘today’ view will be demolished soon, as this re-purposed printing works will be replaced with a curving office tower to be called SAM and designed by BIG, the architecture firm led by Bjarke Ingels. The Vancouver Sun built their new press building on the corner of Beatty and Georgia in 1949, and it started operating in 1950. We don’t know who designed it. The paper sold 175,000 copies, and the 14 high-speed Scott presses that had been installed could print 60,000 copies an hour.

In 1953, on a slow news day, the newspaper reported that ‘prowlers’ had entered the premises over the New Year holiday and had stolen the chocolate from a vending machine. By 1957 both the Province and the Sun were owned by the same company, and plans were made to expand the building to change to larger Goss presses. Commonwealth Construction built the additions, which were extensive and mostly on the back of the building. In 1964 a replacement printing plant was built on Granville Street, south of the bridge, and the last copies of The Sun rolled off here in July. To ensure continuity of production, the presses from here were subsequently moved to the new plant, where there were already two lines of Goss presses operating.

In 1967 the 15,000 sq. ft. warehouse space was advertised as available to lease, and only a year later construction was underway for its new owners, Central Heat Distribution, adding boilers and chimneys to connect to a new circuit of steam pipes that ran round the Downtown. It was the city’s first private district energy heating company, and was controlled by the Trans Mountain Oil Pipe Line Company. Initially 17 buildings contracted to link up, and one boiler was all that was needed, although in theory there was space for eleven. The system expanded rapidly, and by 1973 a fourth boiler was being commissioned. (The steam that can sometimes be seen escaping from inspection covers is not the system leaking, but ground water in contact with the super-heated steam pipes, which despite 3″ of insulation get hot enough to turn water into steam on the outside).

In 2014 Central heat Distribution was sold to Westbank, who will be developing the new office building and replacing the existing steam generation boilers with a new more energy efficient replacement on site. An application has been submitted to allow the steam to be generated by electricity, which would lower GHG production substantially. The project was nearly derailed when Cadillac Fairview tried to acquire the property based on a 1970 covenant registered against the land. A court case established that the intent was to ensure that Pacific Centre Mall, owned by Cadillac Fairview and currently heated by the plant, would get first refusal if redevelopment threatened their heat supply. As this is not contemplated when the plant is redeveloped, the claim failed. The central heat system is now run as Creative Energy, and has 215 connected customers in over 45 million square feet of buildings.

Image source: Leonard Frank, Jewish Museum, LF.00299

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Posted 3 October 2022 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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