Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sad News: Art Cowie passed away last night

Dear friends, I had a call from Art's daughter Lisa this morning to tell me that Art passed away peacefully last night. While we all knew he was in poor health, the news of his passing came as a shock for me as I am sure it will for many others.

Art and I had been working on another row house project in West Vancouver and I spoke with him at 6:30 last evening. He was up and about, cleaning up files and throwing old documents away. When I told him to keep his papers for his book, he reminded me that much of what was important to him was on his blog. You can find his years of writing at

I first met Art 35 years ago, and have always marvelled at his incredibly diverse interests and accomplishments and enthusiasm for life. He was a renaissance man, and always slightly ahead of his time.

For those who didn't know, until the past year, Art was very active and certainly didn't look his 74 years until an accident when he hit his head and fell in his crawl space. He then started to stoop over, but was still very involved in various projects including a three unit 'fee-simple' row house development on Cambie Street at 33rd. This dream project had been a long time coming, and after a few aborted attempts, was finally nearing completion. He was planning to move in early next year.

However, immediately after a wonderful 75th birthday party at one of his daughters' home, he was checked into hospital and diagnosed with ALS. He went downhill very quickly. I saw him in the hospital a few times, and in our last meeting, he asked me to write a small book on fee-simple row housing and his efforts to make it a viable housing choice in Vancouver. I will finish the book as soon as his project is completed.

One of the challenges building his project was the fact that for whatever reasons, the Vancouver Law Department had reservations about registering party wall agreements on title. This is despite the fact this form of housing is common in most other parts of Canada and around the world. Ironically, in recent weeks, Councillor Suzanne Anton, a long-time friend and colleague had been in contact with the city and province to accelerate legislation facilitating party wall agreements in BC. I am sure Premier Gordon Campbell will help to move this along since he knew Cowie for many many years. In fact, it was Cowie who gave up his legislative seat to allow Gordon to run provincially.

In a note I received today, our mutual friend Bob Ransford had this to say about Art:

"Art's ideas were vital, his interests many and diverse and his persistence admirable. Art was motivated entirely by a desire to do good, to be innovative and to serve because he cared about this place we call our community."

My thoughts are with his wife Cathy, his daughters Lisa and Sharon and step-daughter Corrie, and the rest of his family. I will keep readers apprised of details regarding a memorial service.


jim said...

that is so sad. Art was a great man.
i met him about 40 years ago when he was an alderman & i was a planner in city hall.
I shall miss him.

otto said...


This was such sad news.
Having worked with Art over the years designing the Cambie rowhouse project, I admired his resilience and determination to get the city to understand this "new" form of housing--Art worked hard on getting the rowhouse project accepted with the city...
Through him I learned a lot about the strength you need to bring your dreams into the real world.

And though it is sad that he never got to see the completed rowhouse project, I am glad that he was able to see the dream take form.

I am very glad to have know him. I will miss him.

otto lejeune

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