On April 19, one day after the B.C. Place Casino fiasco, city council voted in favour to allow taller buildings in North America’s second largest Chinatown. Unlike the casino debate, there was a strong voice of support from the local businesses who have been longing for people with money to step into the neighbourhood mix. Of course there was the usual opposition to progress/gentrification that came out against it.
The plan allows 9 storey building south of Pender Street to with a possibility to go up to 12 storey’s upon councils discretion. The tallest towers will be 15storey’s along Main Street. However, if a development application includes affordability housing (I think all the new towers should have some affordable housing) the city could grant additional height. So you may see 170ft towers.
The business leaders in the community wanted this for a long time as they believe this will lead to the economic revitalization of Canada’s poorest neighbourhood. With new buildings, you’ll get new retail options. This will eventually lead to higher rents and force some of the smaller, less popular establishments out or at least clean their awnings for a change.
The opposition’s main fear is that another generic neighbourhood without a heart and soul will be the result as market housing moves in. The soul of Chinatown cannot be neglected. I don’t want this to become another Yaletown, we already have that. The city’s has to ensure that a good residential mix remains. Basically this is Woodward’s multiplied by 100 and a good mix of rental, non-market and market housing needs to happen.
With that being said a select few don’t have the rights to the Downtown Eastside and there is no reason it should not progress. The area needs more people and that will revitalize the DTES for the better.
In a highly inflated housing market I don’t know how the city can say no to increased density. This is the start of what will eventually become a West End type neighbourhood. Perhaps we’ll call it the East End one day.
Image: Vancouver 125