Buildings with artist and prop studios face demolition as part of new St. Paul’s Hospital

At the end of June, White Monkey Design will be gone from its home of 33 years due to a development linked to the new St. Paul’s Hospital.

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By the end of June, White Monkey Design will be gone from its home at 496 Prior St. in East Vancouver.

Since 1981, the prop-making studio for the film industry has been in the low-rise building at the southwest corner of Prior and Jackson/Malkin. Many commuters will recognize it as the one with the old Money’s mushroom sign on its west side that says: “What food these morsels be.”

The site is being redeveloped. Sometime in the next few years, the adjacent industrial buildings that house White Monkey and other studios for artists, musicians and artisans will be replaced by two rental residential towers along with retail and office space. The project will be adjacent to the new St. Paul’s Hospital and Jim Pattison Medical Centre, the $2.2 billion project expected to accept its first patients in 2027.

White Monkey is run by Booth Milton and Jocelyn Banyard. Milton is basically resigned to moving after 33 years.


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“I get it,” he said, as he was seated outside at the back of the studio where he’s turned a parking lot into a garden. “I have to go. The closer I get to being finished, the happier I am.”

Milton is already thinking of what’s next. The couple is downsizing the 16,000-square-foot studio to a 2,400-sq.-ft. space in Burnaby, putting it in the hands of a manager, and moving to Nelson. He’s working on designing a greenhouse with salvaged leaded glass.

Banyard is upset about what they’ve been put through.

“I don’t think the city treated us very well,” she said. “I don’t think the city is treating the arts community very well. I think the arts community brings not just cultural value to the life of Vancouver, it brings a great big amount of income.”

Banyard, who took interdisciplinary studies at Emily Carr art school, said many artists like herself work in the film industry.

“Right now, it’s getting pushed out of Vancouver,” she said. “The only thing they seem to care about is condos. It’s not sustainable. It’s not healthy. It’s making us mentally ill.”

Banyard started moving Feb. 1. On the day Postmedia News visited, it was a bit of a crisis because she had run out of boxes for all the incredible variety of props, equipment and material that still remained to be moved.

Banyard said they were told that their building, which is on city-owned property, was needed for an access road for ambulances to the new St. Paul’s. Instead, it’ll be torn down for redevelopment. She feels the city hasn’t been upfront about its plans.


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“I’ve gone on heart meds because I have a crushing pain in my chest,” she said. “I’m so anxious about the move.”

Banyard said White Monkey is a one-stop ‘dirty studio’ that makes custom built objects for the movie and TV business. White Monkey’s artists, designers and engineers can make anything from masks and rockets to alien environments and sculptures.

In 2019, the Eastside Culture Crawl created a scorecard to evaluate new development or redevelopment within the Eastside Arts District. Based on 11 criteria, including whether the project has a negative impact on arts and cultural amenities, the Strand project at 456 and 496 Prior St. scores zero out of 100.

Esther Rausenberg, the Crawl’s artistic and executive director, said she thought the city was moving in the direction of no net loss of studio space. With the Prior Street project, and the loss of an estimated 36,000 sq. ft. in two buildings, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

“We shouldn’t be losing space we should be increasing space,” she said. “Here we have a situation that’s on city property. It’s an opportunity for that to happen.”

At an open house in mid-May, Strand said it wants to build two residential towers of 14 storeys each on a five-storey podium. It would contain 288 market rental apartments, including 11 artist live-work spaces, 10,000 sq. ft. of unspecified cultural space, 15,000 sq. ft. of retail and 240,000 sq. ft. of office space. Strand is expected to file a rezoning application for the site later this year.

“The new St. Paul’s will help establish Vancouver as a medical and innovation tech centre in North America, and it will be an opportunity for neighbourhood-serving businesses to benefit by the additional body heat in the area,” Mike Mackay, Strand Development president, told in May.

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