The Irving Block in downtown Chilliwack is slated for demolition Feb. 24.

The Irving Block in downtown Chilliwack is slated for demolition Feb. 24.

Irwin Block to be demolished

The Irwin Block at Five Corners in downtown Chilliwack will be demolished Monday to make way for future development, the city announced.

A building that has stood for more than a century at Five Corners in downtown Chilliwack will start to come down Monday.

Chilliwack city council agreed unanimously Tuesday to demolish the Irwin Block, which has sat vacant for more than a decade.

It and two adjacent buildings will be replaced by a courtyard while developers are sought to build on the city-owned property.

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz noted a tinge of sadness about the decision, remembering times she spent at the lunch counter at Hipwell Drugs while working at the nearby Fields store.

But she said it was an important step forward in the revitalization of the city’s downtown.

“While it feels strange to entertain a motion to ‘deconstruct’ a building, it also feels so good to think about a preferable future.”

Other councillors agreed. Ken Huttema, who shepherded Chilliwack’s Downtown Plan, called the decision “another bold step forward.”

“It may appear as a step backward, but it is part of the progress that is necessary,” he said.

The city has made no secret of its plan for the area. In 2012, it announced its intention to expropriate the building, saying redevelopment of the downtown was occurring too slowly.

Citing the recent downtown planning process, it said the public had grown impatient with the progress of revitalization.

Tuesday’s decision is aimed at speeding up that process.

The city has set out an aggressive vision for the property, and the other 10 it owns on the block. Two years ago it unveiled a plan that would eventually see a mix of commercial and residential uses developed on a single 1.5 hectare property, with three “mid-rise buildings” built around an urban park.

“This is an important step forward in the redevelopment of our downtown,” said Gaetz on Tuesday. “Some patience is required while we pursue this long term vision, but by assembling this land we are accelerating the process towards positive change.”

The Irwin Block’s history goes back more than 100 years. Built by Burrowes Alex Irwin , it originally housed the B.A. Irwin General Merchant store, a real estate office, and a dental office.

Subsequently, the building also housed the C.H. Cowen Drug Company, the B.C. Katalla Oil Company and Hipwell Drugs. There were plans eight years ago to renovate the building and convert it into a retail and residential development.

But it has sat vacant ever since.

Said councillor Jason Lum: “I really think this building was long ago demolished by neglect.”

The demolition carries a $141,000 price tag. Making it suitable for occupation would cost $800,000, staff said.

Tuesday’s announcement was just one initiative unveiled by the city for Chilliwack’s downtown. It also introduced a new bylaw aimed at discouraging building owners from keeping their properties vacant and untended.

The city also outlined plans to ‘green’ Main Street from the Wellington to the museum. “Hanging baskets, sidewalk bulges with low growing foliage and more will enhance the entire downtown area,” the city said.

All these steps are designed to breathe new life in to Chilliwack’s historic core.

“We envision a vibrant bustling neighbourhood where people live just steps away from unique shops, restaurants, and entertainment,” said Gaetz, noting a similarity between the vision for downtown and the highly successful Garrison Crossing neighbourhood.

Just Posted

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 13

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Madalyn Clempson, 18, of Chilliwack sings ‘Hiney Yamin Ba-im.’ She won the Intermediate Vocal Canadian Music award at the Performing Arts BC Virtual Provincial Festival. (YouTube)
Chilliwack youth bring home awards from provincial performing arts festival

Chilliwack’s 18-year-old Madalyn Clempson ‘a bit stunned’ to have won Intermediate Vocal Canadian Music

These three kittens, seen here on Thursday, June 10, 2021, are just some of many up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Three kittens at the Chilliwack SPCA

Kittens were in ‘rough shape’ when they came into the Chilliwack SPCA, now ready for adoption

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Chilliwack family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read