Construction begins on Downtown Eastside's largest social housing project ever

Jul 28 2021, 1:36 pm

After 10 years of consultation, planning, review, and fundraising, construction will begin this summer on the largest social housing project in the Downtown Eastside and one of the largest developments of its kind within Vancouver.

In addition to social housing, this development will include a major healthcare facility. The federal and provincial governments announced a combined funding of $79.4 million towards constructing a 10-storey, mixed-use building at 58 West Hastings Street.

It will be located just half a block east of Woodwards, across from the former Army & Navy department store complex, and immediately west of the Portland Hotel.

The federal government’s contribution is $45.8 million from the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, with $18.5 million as a contribution and $27.3 million as a repayable loan.

The provincial government, through BC Housing, is providing $33.6 million in funding and an annual operating subsidy of up to $1.8 million over the 60-year lifespan of the building — a total of $141 million.

The not-for-profit Vancouver Chinatown Foundation (VCF) initiated and spearheaded this project, and will provide $30 million from community fundraising. This brings the project’s total construction cost to just under $110 million.

58 West Hastings Street Vancouver Chinatown Foundation

Site of 58 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

58 West Hastings Street Vancouver Chinatown Foundation

Site of 58 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. (WT Leung Architects/Vancouver Chinatown Foundation)

58 West Hastings Street Vancouver Chinatown Foundation

Site of 58 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

“Vancouver Chinatown Foundation is excited to begin construction on this urgently-needed social housing project after years of careful planning and fundraising,” said Carol Lee, chair of the board of directors for the VCF, in a statement.

“In partnership with the federal, provincial and local governments, we are proud to be creating a safe and welcoming space where residents have not only a roof over their heads but are part of a community with healthcare and other services.”

Occupying half a block, the site has been vacant for several years and was previously a homeless encampment, second-hand market, and community garden. The municipal government is contributing this land to the project through a 99-year lease.

There will be 231 units for individuals experiencing homelessness and low-income families within the upper seven levels, including 120 supportive housing units.

A total of 181 units will have rents averaging at $563 per month, which is equivalent to 41.5% of the median market rent. The remaining 50 units will still be below-market at about $1,080 per month.

58 West Hastings Street Vancouver Chinatown Foundation

Artistic rendering of 58 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. (WT Leung Architects/Vancouver Chinatown Foundation)

58 West Hastings Street Vancouver Chinatown Foundation

Artistic rendering of 58 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. (WT Leung Architects/Vancouver Chinatown Foundation)

The fourth level of the building will include a shared amenity space featuring two unprogrammed indoor amenity rooms, an outdoor common area with urban agriculture plots, and a children’s play area. Residents will also have access to the foundation’s community partners program, comprising over 20 businesses and organizations to provide wellness services, life skills training, and accessible cultural experiences.

United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society, the not-for-profit commonly known as SUCCESS, will operate the social housing and be responsible for selecting residents.

58 West Hastings Street Vancouver Chinatown Foundation

Artistic rendering of 58 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. (WT Leung Architects/Vancouver Chinatown Foundation)

58 West Hastings Street Vancouver Chinatown Foundation

Artistic rendering of 58 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. (WT Leung Architects/Vancouver Chinatown Foundation)

Additionally, over the first two floors, the building will have a new 48,500 sq ft integrated health centre developed and operated by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). It will offer health services and provide easy access to the unique needs of neighbourhood residents, including those in need of specialized mental health and addictions treatment.

“This new integrated health care centre is an important part of creating welcoming and culturally safe facilities and services that will support people living in the Downtown Eastside,” said Bob Chapman, interim vice-president of Vancouver Community for VCH.

“We look forward to enhancing access to care and services for clients in this community.”

In addition to the VCH facility, the ground level will have five retail units to help activate the building’s frontage on West Hastings Street. As well, vehicle parking and bike storage will be provided within 1.5 underground levels.

Site preparation began this past spring, construction will officially begin later this summer, and the milestone of structural completion is expected by Winter 2022. The building is scheduled to reach full completion by late 2023 or early 2024. W.T. Leung Architects is the project’s design firm.

58 West Hastings Street Vancouver Chinatown Foundation

Artistic rendering of 58 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. (WT Leung Architects/Vancouver Chinatown Foundation)

58 West Hastings Street Vancouver Chinatown Foundation

Artistic rendering of 58 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. (WT Leung Architects/Vancouver Chinatown Foundation)

Artistic rendering of 58 West Hastings Street, Vancouver. (WT Leung Architects/Vancouver Chinatown Foundation)

Just across the street at the northeast corner of Abbott Street and West Hastings Street, the surface parking lot will be redeveloped by Holborn Group into a 10-storey building with 132 market rental homes and 6,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant space. Vancouver City Council approved this project in 2018.

Bosa Properties and the Cohen family recently made public their plans to redevelop the large former Army & Navy site. Early concepts for this redevelopment include rental-only housing, office and retail spaces, and public spaces.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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