Homeless in Vancouver: Redevelopment of 1489 West Broadway takes over public alley ahead of city approval

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      Since November 29, when almost all the RBC Royal Bank signage was removed from its exterior, the emptying-out of 1489 West Broadway has continued apace. So has the expropriation of adjacent public alley space—days ahead of any city approval.

      Loads of furnishings and equipment—from filing cabinets to overhead projectors—have been hauled and carted out of the old office building on the northeast corner of West Broadway and Granville, to be trucked to who knows where.

      Thursday morning (December 5) the moving company Wingenback could be said to have redoubled it efforts to empty the old building when it wedged two large moving trucks, side-by-each, into the mouth of the alley on the north side of the 1400 block of West Broadway.

      Within an hour however, a crew from the construction fence rental company Modu-Loc, complicated matters by erecting four sheets of green-painted, steel grid fencing across the mouth of the alley.

      Fortunately for the movers and others involved in the redevelopment of the property, two of the four fencing sections erected are designed to function as leaves of a gate. Unfortunately for the general public, this gate is there to keep the rest of us out of the alley.

      It is not clear whether the alley will be gated for just a few days or permanently, until the alley disappears altogether in 2020, as part of the proposed redevelopment.

      A close-up look at some of RBC’s high tech office equipment and the careful way that it was being moved on Thursday.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Redevelopment is apparently a done deal

      The proposed demolition and redevelopment of 1489 and 1465 West Broadway (as well as the alley that separates the two addresses) has not been officially approved by the City of Vancouver—and it will not be until a public meeting at Vancouver City Hall, on Monday (December 9), when the first item on the agenda will be to consider the request, by PCI Developments: “To develop this site with a five-storey mixed-use building, consisting of retail and financial institutional uses on the first-storey, with general office use from second to fifth-storey, along with at grade transit station entrance at southwest corner of the site, to serve the anticipated underground Broadway Subway project, and six-storeys of below grade parking having vehicular access from the existing lane.”

      All the same, by prematurely claiming the alley between the two properties, it is clear that industrial movers and construction workers—all appearing to be acting on behalf of the redevelopment proposed by PCI Developments—are proceeding as though approval by the city is a foregone conclusion.

      Further evidence of this presumption was provided by a street-embedded couple—one of whom has transitioned from the street into public housing but spends quality time with their partner, who is still homeless and sleeps in a parkade in the alley on the north side of the 1400 block of West Broadway.

      Just after 9 a.m., the housed half of the couple told me how they had been disturbed earlier in their parkade campsite (long sanctioned by the building owner) by a nosy construction worker-type, who acted like they owned the place and asked a lot of suspicious questions.

      This person, described as being dressed like a construction worker—with an orange safety vest, blue jeans and steel-toed work boots—quite startled my friend by silently appearing beside them and demanding to know what they were “up to”.

      There then followed a stream of questions concerning the owners of the building wherein the parkade was located, such as: what were the owners’ names, what time did they show up, and which of the visible doors did they use?

      These questions, coming out of the blue and from a complete stranger, made my friend quite uncomfortable and rather than answer any of them, they insisted that the person should go around to the business side of the building and ask the owners themselves.

      Finally, before the nosy parker left the parkade, they officiously declared that the alley was closed—both for the day and period, according to my friend’s recollection.

      At no point did this inquisitive person identify themselves by name, or as working with a particular company, and I will not speculate as to their employer. I will say, however, that many such construction worker-types can now be seen poking about, inside and outside 1489 West Broadway.

      On November 29, while I was photographing the removal of the signage from the building, one of them approached me and asked if I was the person they were supposed to meet from Ledcor, a large, Alberta-based construction company. 

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer.

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