Vancouver is set to consider a rezoning application for a 16-storey building in Chinatown on Wednesday, at the second public hearing within two weeks for a tower in the neighbourhood.
The proposed development at 633 Main Street, and a 17-storey mixed-use tower approved by council last week at 611 Main Street, are among five sites along the corridor that were identified for rezoning of up to 150 feet as part of the Historic Area Height Review policy passed in April 2011.
Jordan Eng, the vice president of the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Area Society, said the community is happy to see some development in the area proceeding.
“It’ll bring some much-needed residential units into the neighbourhood to help some of the businesses and bring some prosperity back to the neighbourhood, which has gone through some tough times over the last 10-15 years,” he told the Straight by phone.
He noted the developments follow more than a decade of planning by business and community groups in the neighbourhood.
But the buildings are being opposed by some anti-poverty activists, who protested the rezoning policy for the area.
Jean Swanson, coordinator of the Carnegie Community Action Project, is concerned about the potential impacts of the development on low-income tenants in the Chinatown area.
“There are 388 SRO hotel rooms and cheap apartments in that vicinity,” she said in a phone interview. “So we’re afraid that the impact of the gentrification will be that the rents in those places will go up, and the low-income people will be displaced.”
CCAP released a housing report last week detailing what the group says is the loss of 426 low-income rooms in the Downtown Eastside to rent increases that make the units unaffordable to people on social assistance.
“So the situation is not as rosy as the city and the province would paint it,” stated Swanson. “It’s a crisis, and the gentrification that’s brought on by these condo towers in Chinatown is just making the crisis worse.”
The application going to public hearing this week from Chris Dikeakos Architects Inc. on behalf of developer Bosa Blue Sky Properties proposes a 16-storey mixed residential-commercial development at the northwest corner of Main and East Georgia Streets featuring 188 units and retail space on the ground level.
The 611 Main Street development approved in principle by council last week consists of a 17-storey building including 135 condo units, office and retail floor space, and 22 units of rental housing for seniors. Out of the 22 units, 11 will be renting for the welfare shelter rate of $375 a month, six will go for about $850 a month, and five units will be rented for about $900 to $950 a month.
Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie called the 611 Main Street application consistent with the policy approved by council in 2011.
“Council made a meaningful and purposeful decision to pull out this section of the Downtown Eastside and say that Chinatown South...would have this opportunity to proceed, and so based on the criteria as approved by council, this development is consistent with council’s decision,” he said last week.
The public hearing on 633 Main Street will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday (February 27).