The two-storey-high metal Rod of Asclepius symbol that had been attached to the Fort Royal Medical Building for more than half a century is now on the ground and bent out of shape, as the Richmond Road building undergoes demolition to clear the site for a new five-storey seniors complex.
Pamela Madoff, a former Victoria city councillor who served as liaison for the North Jubilee area, said Tuesday that she’s horrified at the condition of the “finely crafted” piece, which represents healing.
“To see something that substantive put on a private building in the 1960s before the city even had a public art policy, for example, I thought it really spoke to the time, the importance of art.”
Madoff said she spoke to the developer when the project was proposed and he gave her hope the piece would be used.
“If they had gone public, and said: ‘We can’t keep this, it’s not part of our vision of the site, but we can make it available,’ I think there would have been interest in it,” Madoff said.
“It’s a shame for it not to be there because it is the gateway to the hospital and it is a symbol of health and healing.”
She noted that a number of architectural elements from buildings that were taken down have been installed in private developments.
But site developer Donald Milliken, of Milliken Real Estate Corp. in Vancouver, said the piece is made of “flimsy” thin metal, possibility some kind of tin, that made it difficult to remove and retain.
He said it’s not appropriate for mounting on the new seniors facility, expected to be completed in 2023, since it won’t be a hospital or otherwise medically oriented.
The facility will have 124 beds, with rental units geared to memory care and assisted living. Incorporating the piece into landscaping on the property was considered but rejected because it was too big and too flimsy, Milliken said.
“We couldn’t think of what could be done with it from a practical point of view, so it became part of the demolition of the building, which is ongoing.”
A two-storey space would be required to install the symbol, he said, noting that he has reused features of demolished buildings in the past. “So we are not unfamiliar with trying to make use of things like this medical symbol.”
As for offering it to the public, he said: “It’s flimsy. It’s huge. Who is going to be able to do anything with it? We came up blank.”
Milliken is partnering with Amica Seniors Lifestyles, which will operate the facility.
He noted that his company donated $1 million to the City of Victoria’s housing fund.