New East Hastings location eyed for Downtown Eastside Market

Mar 9 2023, 11:07 pm

The controversial Downtown Eastside Market will be relocated again to a new site with facilities and equipment to handle its unique needs and requirements.

Staff with the City of Vancouver have submitted a new development permit application to relocate the City-supported market to a mid-block location on the north side of East Hastings Street between Columbia Street and Main Street.

It would be situated at 123 East Hastings Street, which would require the demolition of the site’s existing 1901-built, two-storey building to create the outdoor space for the market.

The existing Hastings Folk Garden immediately to the west will remain. The Insite safe injection site is in a building immediately to the south.

According to the application by the municipal government, the new space, roughly 2,700 sq ft in size, will have space for about 30 to 35 vendors. Currently, the market has space for about 20 to 40 vendors each weekday and 50 to 70 vendors on weekends on a rotational basis, but City staff have noted that the number of vendors has decreased in recent years due to a reduction in available vending spaces, frequent relocation of the market, site limitations, and the pandemic.

Vendors will have access to 10 ft x 10 ft tents, tables, and a storage container, and two portable toilet units will be acquired for the site.

The market will be allowed to open daily between 9 am and 4 pm, with set-up starting at 8 am and clean-up and tear-down by 6 pm. If the development permit application receives approval, the market is expected to open by September 1, 2023, with MakeWay Charitable Society dba Binners Project operating the facility.

123 East Hastings Street Vancouver 1

New location of the Downtown Eastside Market at 123 East Hastings Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

123 east hastings street downtown eastside market 2

Site plan for the new location of the Downtown Eastside Market at 123 East Hastings Street, Vancouver. (City of Vancouver)

The market has moved around over the years but is currently located about one block to the west at 26 East Hastings Street.

In an email to Daily Hive Urbanized, the City of Vancouver states the market’s existing location is on a short-term lease, and BC Housing is preparing the site for redevelopment.

“The City appreciates BC Housing’s support of the market to date and recognizes the importance of developing more housing,” reads the statement.

“The development permit application is a short-term option the Downtown Eastside market until there is a longer-term solution for vending. The proposed site will be smaller and have fewer vending stalls than the existing site.”

The City and market operator have an agreement through October 31, 2024, and the agreement may be extended for seven consecutive one-year renewals.

The municipal government also stated that its current long-term goal is to follow the recommendations of a recent UBC study on low-barrier street vending that recommends a “distributed way of handling vending.”

The market provides low-barrier income generation opportunities for residents in the Downtown Eastside, and such spaces enable this purpose, as vending on public sidewalks and parks is illegal. The City notes that it has been working with vendors and non-profit organizations to create and run such a space.

“Legitimizing a space for the informal vending economy has shown to be an essential means to generate income, increase social connection, reduce waste production through the recycling/reuse of goods, and provide a pathway to access other services like housing and substance use supports,” reads the application.

31 west hastings downtown eastside market

A previous location of the Downtown Eastside Market on a vacant lot at 31 West Hastings Street, as seen in 2018. (Google Maps)

But formal and informal vending in the Downtown Eastside have also been known to be hotspots for the disposal of shoplifted goods, contributing to property theft and crime in and around the downtown Vancouver peninsula.

In late 2021, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) went as far as asking the public to avoid shopping at the street market, after an undercover sting operation found “rampant trafficking of stolen property.”

“These officers saw people openly selling drugs and stolen property – everything from power tools and electronics still in store packaging, to cosmetics, designer clothing, and sunglasses that still had anti-theft devices attached,” said Inspector Gary Hiar, officer in charge of VPD’s General Investigation Section, in a release at the time.

The VPD also suggested at the time that local residents in the area were being pushed out by people who do not live in the Downtown Eastside but go there to traffic goods. As they are “unable to compete with these criminal enterprises, many locals are resorting back to crime just to make ends meet.”

“Using sophisticated investigative techniques, detectives confirmed that thousands of dollars in stolen property are being moved in and out of the Downtown Eastside every day by people who don’t even live in the community,” added Hiar.

“The demand for stolen goods is entirely fuelled by greed and desperation. Impoverished and drug-addicted people are now being recruited to steal by predatory fences, who in turn pay pennies on the dollar for stolen goods and resell them to bargain hunters who are all too willing to turn a blind eye.”

Daily Hive Urbanized reached out to the VPD on their thoughts on the current condition of the existing market location, and the proposed new market location and operations strategy, but did not hear back in time for publication.

When asked about the VPD’s previous concerns relating to stolen goods and trafficking, the City stated that bi-weekly meetings have been held between the VPD, municipal government, and the market operator for several years to address any concerns that may arise.

In recent years, the social issues of the Downtown Eastside have spilled over into surrounding areas, especially into Chinatown immediately to the south.

“In the past, the market has been a magnet for the sale of stolen goods. In addition, the sidewalks near the facilities become clogged with street vendors, a de facto open market of stolen goods,” Jordan Eng, the president of the Chinatown Business Improvement Association, told Daily Hive Urbanized.

“While we understand the reason for having the market the City has so not been able to control the unintended consequences. The same problems have reoccurred each time they have moved the market. It would be nice to see the City take a proactive approach to these anticipated issues.”

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