Rebuilding Woodwards


For as long as I have been visiting Vancouver, the abandoned Woodwards department store has loomed over the Downtown Eastside, a hulking reminder of the neighbourhood’s long decline into commercial and social oblivion. For more than a decade, developers and government squabbled over what to do with the site. In 2002, an organized squat took control of the building, demanding that it be converted into social housing.

The next year, the City of Vancouver purchased the building and started a public consultation project that eventually led to a unique $300 million redevelopment plan. Most of the building was demolished, except for a chunk at the corner of Hastings and Abbott, and it is in the process of being replaced by a large mixed-use complex that will incorporate 536 units of market-rate housing, 125 units of social housing for singles, 75 units of social housing for families, a supermarket, a drug store, retail space, government offices, a daycare, space for non-profit organizations, Simon Fraser University’s new art school, and green space.

For the most part, Woodwards has been hailed by many as an example of what can be achieved when the community comes together with public and private sectors to shape urban development. I’m inclined to agree: it serves as a model for future development on the Downtown Eastside, one that will reconcile market interests with those of a community riven by deep social problems.

The challenge now is how to deal with spinoff development, to ensure that enough social housing and social services are provided to counterbalance the effects of new market-rate condo construction.



This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Thursday November 01 2007at 07:11 pm , filed under Canada, Heritage and Preservation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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