A former jail in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood has been converted into an affordable rental housing complex for low-income adults and at-risk Aboriginal youth.
The 1981-completed building at the corner of Powell and Gore streets was originally the Remand Centre, a detention facility for prisoners awaiting trial.
The facility closed in 2002 and sat unused until 2011 when a decision was made to transform the building into a B.C. Housing project. Local firm Henriquez Partners Architects, the original architects of the jail, was contracted to envision the building’s new usage.
Jail cells have been gutted to create 96 units of affordable rental housing ranging between 320 to 560 square feet in size. This includes 38 units for youth participating in the BladeRunners’ entry-level construction program, 42 units for people who work or live in the Downtown Eastside and earn between $26,000 to $40,000 per year, and 16 units for women transitioning out of emergency housing.
The facade’s concrete pods, which served as bed alcoves for prisoners, have been replaced with large windows to provide the airy units with plenty of natural light.
What was once a gymnasium for inmates has been turned into shared amenity space and a convenience kitchen for the residents. The prison’s exercise yard is now into a community garden with vegetables and flowerbeds.
Beginning this month, the first tenants will move into the complex, which will be operated and managed by The Bloom Group. Rents start at $375 and peak at $850.
Approximately $18 million was spent for the building’s extensive refit, with the provincial government contributing $16 million and the municipal government providing $2 million and waiving $890,578 in development fees. Renovations began in early-2014.