Vancouver’s experiment in revitalization without gentrification

Note from Storm: This 2009 article announces an attempt to repurpose an old department store—empty since 1993–into a mixed-use development with a larger-than-normal allotment of affordable housing. At 1.1-million-square-foot and a budget of 500 million Canadian dollars (about $475 million U.S. at the time), is one of the largest redevelopments in Vancouver’s history.

Readers familiar with the current condition of Vancouver’s Downtown East neighborhood are invited to bring us up to date on how well this project met its social objectives in the Comments section at the bottom of this page.

This city (Vancouver, BC) of elegant luxury condominium towers and grand public spaces won the right to hold the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in part because of a promise to create “the inclusive Olympics.”

But critics have long complained about a blotch on the city’s self-image as an urban utopia: the Downtown Eastside, a notorious high-poverty neighborhood known for its concentration of homeless people and drug and crime problems.

The city, which has a population of 578,000, has long listed the area as a target for redevelopment, but some community groups have balked because of concerns about displacing low-income residents.

Now the first step in that redevelopment is under way: Woodward’s, a 1.1-million-square-foot project with an inclusive design. The project, which is costing 500 million Canadian dollars (about $475 million), is one of the biggest redevelopments in city history.

The other project partners are the Peterson Investment Group, the city government and Simon Fraser University. The site, which covers a full block, originally housed the Woodward’s department store, which closed in 1993.

It is a microcosm of the city,” said the project architect, Gregory Henriquez. Mr. Henriquez said the project was intended to revitalize the Downtown Eastside, but not to gentrify it.

See original 2009 New York Times article.

You must be logged in to post a comment