Condos proposed for Pantages Theatre site draw opposition in Downtown Eastside

A development application for the 100 block of East Hastings Street is being opposed by a group of Downtown Eastside organizations, who are concerned condos could impact low-income housing and services in the area.

A group of Downtown Eastside residents and activists presented a letter outlining their concerns to architect Tomas Wolf at the Studio One Architecture office in Vancouver today (July 21). The firm is designing the project proposed for 138 East Hastings.

“Adding more condos to our neighbourhood is like dropping a bomb in the neighbourhood,” Carnegie Community Action Project organizer Wendy Pedersen told reporters. “That bomb means that rents go up nearby, and people are displaced because of that.”

Social housing advocates foresee condos on the block having an impact on rental prices in the surrounding area, which is mainly comprised of single-room occupancy hotels, and on services such as the supervised-injection facility Insite, which is directly across the street from the proposed development.

“These kinds of projects create mass forces of displacement, exclusion and hostility to people who already live there,” said Dave Diewert of the organization Streams of Justice.

But Marc Williams, the owner of the site, said the proposed development won’t displace any residents at the site of the historic Pantages Theatre, which is currently under demolition.

“The development isn’t displacing anyone,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

“The site only contained vacant commercial buildings.”

A development permit application has been submitted by Studio One Architecture for a mixed-used six-storey development called Sequel 138, which would include 18 social housing units, 79 “affordable home ownership” units, and 12 commercial units.

Under the official development plan for the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer district, a minimum of 18 social housing units are required for a project the size of Sequel 138. The developer's proposal would see18 units sold to a non-profit housing group to house seniors, people with disabilities, or individuals and families “of low income”.

The below-market condos would be targeted at purchasers “with low and moderate income levels”, and would first be offered to buyers who are associated with non-profit groups, and who currently live or work in the area.

Williams noted a letter of intent has been signed with the non-profit group Art Space Action Society to purchase about 2,500 square feet at a discounted rate for an arts facility on the main floor.

The application also includes a proposal for a “community breezeway” linking Hastings Street and Chinatown.

Opponents of the development called the number of units proposed for social housing “token amounts”, and said they plan to continue fighting the project.

Thirty four groups have signed a community resolution calling for the City of Vancouver to reject the development permit application, and for the site to be dedicated to resident-controlled social housing and community space. Over 1,100 signatures have also been gathered on a petition endorsing the resolution.

In a letter dated July 20, MLA Jenny Kwan and MP Libby Davies backed the group’s concerns and urged municipal, provincial and federal governments to work with members of the community to determine the nature of the facility.

“Residents of the 100 block of East Hastings Street and the surrounding neighbourhood have voiced understandable concern over what would happen if a private-market development featuring primarily market-priced condominiums were introduced to this block,” the letter reads.

“We echo their concerns that such a development will significantly impact the affordability of nearby housing, as well as the ability to provide crucial front-line services in the area.”

According to a public notification letter distributed by the City of Vancouver, the application requires a decision from Vancouver’s director of planning, due to the site’s existing zoning.

Neighbours of the site have until August 12, 2011, to submit written comments on the application.

Comments (18) Add New Comment
Ray I
What a bunch of outdated, class-warfare whining! These Povertarian "activists" are only concerned with one thing and that is keeping this sesspool in the current, disgusting condition that it is so their livelihoods and or voters don't actually get their shit together, get off the glass pipe and get jobs, homes and lives.

As long as they are dependent on governments and fucked up on drugs these leeches get to keep their jobs doling out our tax money. Give me one example where ghettoizing the poor, mentally ill and addicted has ever solved anything? Seriously give me one example?

Integrating these people with productive, job-holding, law abiding members of society is hardly risking making their pathetic lives worse. Just walk down a few blocks to the area around the Woodwards building or T&T Market if you need proof. Those areas were disgusting just a few years ago and now they host all kinds of people, drug selling is down and business that are not just fronts for dealers are thriving.

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Dread Nugent
uhhh .. yeah... the photo reminds me of that wacky song lyric ' I don't wanna work .. I just wanna bang on the drum all day!".....

Don't worry the drum will sound just as good .. if not better in Prince George .... but go ahead and blister your hands trying to stop the inevitable if you must...
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Captain DERP
It's only a matter of time until they californicate the entire DTES.
Land is just worth too much money to let it sit vacant, or let a bunch of ex cons and junkies move in to trash it.

As for the above guy saying drug selling is down, no the dealers moved into those condos by TnT. I see their hungover girlfriends getting kicked out by obvious looking steroid meathead gangsters every morning when I go to work still in their club clothes


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Standing Water BA LLD MBA BBQ WTF
If only there were jobs for everyone.

Statscan shows that's a Liberal Myth! Never has Canada had full employment, but one of the Myths that the working classes use to justify their cruelty is to pretend that they have jobs because they "try good enough" and that everyone who doesn't could, if only they would "try good enough."

Labor is and will continue to be a buyer's market, by design, except in certain niche industries.

As for insulting people who're drug abusers, which is a disease with metabolic and behavioral consequences, that's very shameful.

That being said, but the condos in the DTES/Chinatown, not Mount Pleasant.
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rr
unreal - why stop here? let's provide these hardworking contributers to society waterfront condos with concierge service. There are plenty of hard working vancouverites that would love to live so close to downtown but the economic reality is that they can't. Why do bend over backward to provide social parasites this oppportunity? I am finding it increasingly frustrating the uproar from bleeding heart vancouverites anytime progress is suggested.
Glib responses aside, the answer is for the market to dictate development while providing for sustanainable development. I truly believe the answer is gentrifcation coupled with provisoin for lower income units incorporated in future projects.
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RCL
You know, I don't think people really understand this issue. At a face value this is about the wealthy not getting to move into a "prime real estate area", but what it represents is a much larger problem. The point isn't that DTES residents WANT to live in a ghetto, it's that they found themselves in a situation where the DTES was the only financial option they had for housing, and after building a community there of other people like themselves (whether out of necessity or choice is debatable), this human dumping ground gets "realized" as an area with "potential" so they are financially forced out of it and into the next "ghetto", wherever that may be. I hardly think opening T&T's and Nester's Markets, whose employees I doubt make much more than minimum wage, will save Vancouver.
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TransMission
Who stands to benefit from keeping the DTES a ghetto for the poor?

The people who make their living working for the poor? The people whose whole identity is fixed around being poor forever?

The people who benefit most from keeping the DTES a ghetto are the drug dealers. As long as it stays like it is, their prey are easy pickings. They know where they live, and where they hang out. Dealers know people will turn a blind eye to their criminal behavior. That's why drug dealers favor keeping the DTES a ghetto, just like it is.

This new housing plan is long overdue. We need to bring healthy life into the DTES. We need a mix of incomes and backgrounds there.

Ghettos are only good for one thing, identifying, corraling and exploiting the poor. We don;t need to keep the DTES as a ghetto. We already know what happens when we do.
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Standing Water BA LLD MBA BBQ WTF
"I am finding it increasingly frustrating the uproar from bleeding heart vancouverites anytime progress is suggested."

Hive-housing is not progress---that is the issue. If someone wanted to bulldoze the DTES, put in single family residential lots, I would sign on. Condo towers are not progress. City of Vancouver already rations water during the summer. We're full. Creating new housing is simply retarded. If anything, Vancouver needs a comprehensive strategy to reduce its population.

And say what you like about the DTES residents, I doubt they're the ones driving cars cutting me as I try to cross at marked intersections off all the live-long day. And what is with incompetents who cannot turn into a major thoroughfare without being a whole carlength _ahead_ of the stop-line, thus obstructing my right line of motion? If anyone wants to work out on social parasites, car drivers are way up the list, DTES residents way down.
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Mike L.
Okay, so the prevailing opinion is to develop the DTES into a yuppie den like Yaletown. Where do the disenfranchised go? They're broke, jobless, some are addicted, and many are unemployable. What do we do with them? Or do we say "screw 'em--it's their fault that they're in that situation" and just let them sleep in our doorways and under our bridges and overpasses. Either way, I'm not hearing any ideas, just bitterness and bullying thinly disguised as civic high-mindedness. It's easy to say "Hey, it's not my problem" but the reality is that these people are our fellow citizens; we owe it to ourselves to aid the lowest amongst us. Leave it to the Americans to bully the poor. We're better than that.
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R U Kiddingme
@MikeL

While I agree that a civil society doesn't just say screw the disenfranchised, there is a perhaps equally valid perspective that people, poor or rich, have the right and responsibility to obtain their own housing.

One day I will be priced out of my neighbourhood too but hopefully I will have the wherewithal to locate a place that I can afford. If I am not competent to do so, then I assume the public trustee can figure it out for me. But then I would be effectively a ward of the state, with much less agency in my decisions about where and how to live.

Mobility rights are Charter protected, immobility is not.



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Josh W
Why oppose a project that will add 18 subsidized housing units for the extremely poor, 79 units for the average-poor, 2,500 square feet for a socially-conscious arts group, and NO new units for the wealth? Why oppose this project?
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TransMission
Mike L makes an excellent and humane point. It is worth a considered reply.

The first answer is, like Hippocrates' medical oath, to do no harm. This is fundamental. 90% of the people of Vancouver realize that keeping the DTES as a ghetto for disorder, disease, drug addiction, and crippling poverty is a mistake. These anti-social syndromes feed on on another. They reinforce one another. They are an endless cycle, and have been for forty years.

Keeping the DTES as it is makes its inhabitants easy prey for drug dealers. They stand outside Carnegie all day long, swooping down on their victims. On Welfare Wednesdays, they stand outside Pigeon Park Savings & Loan (actually run by Vancity) and do the same thing.

Drug dealers LOVE keeping the DTES exactly as it is: a ghetto for the poor, the mentally ill, and the sick. They know that the majority of their neighbours will not call the cops on them.

The DTES has a higher HIV/AIDS rate than Botswana.

The first thing we must do is no harm. That means reversing the ghetto mentality in the DTES.

The second thing is help move the able poor OUT of the DTES, and into every neighbourhood in Vancouver. ALL NEIGHBOURHOODS must welcome our people, and help normalize their lives. That is a job for you and me -- to contest Nimbyism wherever we find it.

The third thing we must do is help the poor find stable homes in the suburbs too, where their kids can have normal, healthy life experiences. What kid should have to grow up fearing a deranged hype coming after them? Or watching prostitutes ply their suicidal trade? It is indecent.

The new project on 100 East Hastings is long overdue, and very welcome. It will mix housing and arts, according to the City Hall application. It will mix young and old. It will invite poor and home owners alike. It will mix social housing ad low-entry home ownership. 2500 square feet for one of David Duprey's wonderful arts projects is built in, from the beginning.

In this way we start to break the back of the ghetto, and make the DTES a safe and sober neighbourhood once again. Your good question leads to a good policy.

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Dread Nugent
Josh W: Cuz the poverty pimps don't want the lucrative cashcow to dissapate .....thus robbing the Pederson / Eby / Tan / Davies cabal of easy tax dollars and perceived social power ... They want a concentrated "Poor Town" to retain as much govt funding as possible.... The Carnegie Centre should be turned into an Art Gallery or boutique hotel ... the whole area will flip tho .. it might take another 15 years .. but it will happen.
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Marc Williams
Thank you for publishing Yolande Cole’s article about our project. It’s important that Straight readers be given the facts.

Sequel 138 is a housing and arts project. It will provide 79 units of low cost, entry level housing for the working poor of our district. For many, this will be their first chance at the Canadian dream: home ownership.

Sequel 138 will also provide 18 social housing units, to be administered by a qualified non-profit.

These are not towers. Our highest building is six storeys at the street, and five storeys at the lane. The Regent Hotel is eight storeys tall, and the Brandiz is five storeys. We are less obtrusive than both our neighbours.

Sequel 138 will provide 2500 square feet of space for the arts. We are currently negotiating with several arts groups, including David Duprey and the not-for-profit Liberate Arts Space Society. David is owner of the Rickshaw Theatre and Acme Studios. His track record is superb.

There is a simple truth here. This part of the 100 Block East Hastings has been a dead zone for 40 years. Our project displaces no one. Not one person. Only rats live there today.

We are introducing entry-level and social housing for ninety-seven people and families, and 2500 square feet of public art space. This continues the steady improvement seen in the DTES, and offers hope to hundreds.

Our formal application is on file at City Hall, DE414810. The legal owner is Sequel 138 Development Corp. I would be pleased to discuss this personally with your readers, and can be reached at Info@sequel138.com

Thank you for reading this.

Marc Williams
Sequel 138: a housing and arts project
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Steve Y
Good luck Mr. Williams, I hope this project succeeds. DTES is improving slowly but surely, this will be another great project.
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Telling Truth
These people will only be satisfied when every building in the DTES is free rent for crackheads, free stores where no one pays for anything, free needles and crakpipes for everybody, and free housing for every activist who says she is.

Nirvana on Hastings! Ghettos forever! Paradise for the Unworking Class!
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da truth
libby davies and jenny kwan are too busy making jobs for their family and friends to care about the homeless!!!!!! keep em poor for our job sakes!!!!!
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Trank
As much as I'm opposed to condo developments someone needs to break this block. The drug free-for-all has gone on too long. The poverty pimps don't want change.
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