As difficult as it may be to imagine, even half a century ago, much of downtown Vancouver’s commercial vibrancy was previously centred around what is known today as the Downtown Eastside.
Today, Hastings and Powell streets are lined with vacant storefronts, dogged by the area’s social issues. But the City of Vancouver is aiming to create policies that could potentially help reverse this trend.
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The municipal government is seeking feedback on potential policy changes that encourage “retail continuity,” by filling vacant ground-level storefronts with new uses.
The intent is to allow more flexibility in the uses of storefront spaces, and lower the barriers to community-serving organizations seeking space in the neighbourhood.
“Conditions in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) have changed considerably since the retail continuity policies were first introduced in 1982 including social health challenges, high vacancies, reduced retail interest, and increased need for community-serving uses, especially in the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer District (DEOD),” reads consultation materials.
“While the retail continuity policies in Victory Square achieves active pedestrian-oriented retail and commercial streets, updates are needed to the DEOD policies to address changing needs. The DTES Plan requires a review of retail continuity policies with the goal of increasing pedestrian activity, commercial and service uses, and general vitality to Hastings, Main, and Powell Streets as well as removing barriers to new enterprises, development, and creativity ”
The specific changes would extend the retail continuity exemption clause to properties fronting Main Street within DEOD sub-area 1 along Main Street and Hastings Street. The types of uses listed in the exemption clause will be updated from the existing “social service centre, general office, or healthcare office uses” to “uses required to serve the educational, cultural, health, social recreational or local economic development needs of the local community.” The same exemption clause will be added to properties fronting Powell Street in DEOD sub-area 3 along Powell Street.
This strategy is one of the quick start actions recently outlined by city staff in the Employment Lands and Economy Review.