03/13/2014 14:13 EDT | Updated 05/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Historic Vancouver mansion Casa Mia could become seniors home

Plans to turn one Vancouver's most lavish and historic mansions into a seniors care home have been postponed while the city and developer finalise an agreement to secure heritage status for the unprotected building.

The Casa Mia, located at 1920 SW Marine Drive, is one of the most storied homes in the city.

Built in 1930 by George C. Reifel, the 21,000-square-foot Spanish Revival mansion boasts elaborate woodwork, enormous windows, vaulted ceilings.

There is also a nursery said to be painted by Disney artists, and a golden ballroom with a bouncing dance floor like the Commodore Ballroom, which was also built by Reifel.

Current owners Maureen McIntosh and Lynne Aarvold of the Care Group want to convert the property to a long-term seniors care home for 62 residents, but the proposed development has been met with neighbourhood opposition.

The majority of the residents would live in a 23,000-square-foot, two-storey building connected to the main house, which would be used for care and as communal living space.

"We thought it was a great place for care," said spokesman Gavin McIntosh.

As part of the proposal, the original Casa Mia mansion would be granted heritage status. It is currently not designated as a heritage building and could be demolished by a developer seeking to capitalize on the prime Fraser River waterfront.

"We really like the house and thought it would be an opportunity to create something in the city that was special for care."

McIntosh says the original house would be remain largely as it is, and its expansive rooms and open spaces are ideal for people getting around in wheelchairs and walkers.

Rezoning hearing postponed

The city had schedule public hearing on March 13 to spot-rezone the property from single family dwelling to comprehensive development.

But on March 12, the city postponed the hearing because staff were unable to finalize the legal agreement with the owner securing heritage status in time.

A new date for the public hearing will be scheduled once the agreement is finalized, said a statement on the city website.

The delay came as a surprise to Joe McDermid of the Southlands Community Association, who oppose the development.

McDermid says the residents aren't opposed to seniors care, but feel this proposal is too big and is not in line with the unique character of the neighbourhood.

"It doesn't fit in with what the zoning calls for...or [the city's] own community care facility guidelines," says McDermid.

"There's no transit access, no community facilities, no public amenities, no sidewalks. There's nothing for seniors to do around here."

They also feel they have been left out of the planning process.

The association had filed a court injunction to delay the March 13 hearing until the city complied with a Freedom of Information Act request to forward related documents to the association.

The injunction was adjourned in court on March 11, and members of the association had planned to speak out at hearing.