Vancouver's Downtown South neighbourhood rises

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      Early diners trickled into Tsui Hang Village Chinese Restaurant, a late-night establishment in Vancouver’s entertainment district.

      Business was starting to pick up after 6 p.m. on August 24, and manager Robert Pan was taking an order by phone for delivery.

      “Spicy prawns,” Pan later told the Georgia Straight, not missing a beat, when asked which menu item sells best at the restaurant at the corner of Granville and Davie streets.

      However, Pan isn’t sure how long Tsui Hang will stay at this location. He also doesn’t know whether it will reopen at a different spot.

      Outside, on the Granville Street side, a city notice has been posted announcing that an application was made on July 10 to redevelop the site.

      Deecorp Properties Ltd. is seeking to build a seven-storey, mixed-used building with 94 residential units above street-level commercial spaces and 47 underground parking spots.

      The project is another addition to Downtown South, a rapidly transforming neighbourhood between the gay-friendly West End and trendy Yaletown.

      Granville Street is in the middle and one of the four subareas of this emerging community, extending from Robson Street to the north end of the Granville Bridge. The three others are Burrard-Granville, Hornby Slopes, and New Yaletown.

      Cressey Development Group seems to have captured the former essence of Downtown South in its promotional material for Maddox, its new 32-storey condo tower at the corner of Howe and Drake streets.

      “The south end of downtown has been a place where traffic has always passed through,” according to Cressey. “There was no place to stay or linger, and no reason to gather with friends.”

      Well, not anymore. Cressey is also developing Neon, a rental building of 89 apartments at the northern end of the Granville Bridge, next to the Best Western Plus Downtown Vancouver Hotel on the south side of Drake.

      Across the street is the Rolston, a 23-storey condo development by Rize Alliance Properties. That used to be the Cecil Hotel, where, over beers in the bar, Georgia Straight publisher Dan McLeod and artists Michael Morris and Glen Lewis came up with the name of this newspaper in 1967.

      During the 1990s, the city laid down guidelines for the future development of the 800 to 1200 blocks of Granville Street. According to the city, the guidelines aim to “assist in the creation of a distinct urban character for Granville Street as an entertainment district for the city and as a pedestrian-oriented shopping area for Downtown South”. The rules will also “ensure a high standard of livability for residential projects and for the area as a whole”.

      In 2010, the city also rolled out guidelines for the future removal of the freewaylike elevated loops at the north end of the Granville Bridge in the area bounded by Pacific, Seymour, Drake, and Howe streets, freeing up land for development.

      Jay McInnes has eaten at Tsui Hang (1193 Granville Street [also 717 Davie Street in the development application]), and the downtown realtor is knowledgeable about what’s going on in Downtown South.

      McInnes mentioned the Tate, a condo-tower project on Howe Street by the Bonds Group of Companies, which will rise kitty-corner to Cressey’s Maddox. He also pointed to the Salt, a 33-storey condo development by Concert Properties. At the corner of Beach Avenue and Howe Street, Westbank Corp. is building a new condo tower called Vancouver House. The Onni Group has the Mark, a 47-storey condo tower at the southern end of Seymour Street.

      “There’s a lot of dated buildings around there, so they’re just trying to—I mean, pick your word—revitalize, gentrify all this sort of stuff and paint a new, crisp image of a neighbourhood to sell, basically,” McInnes told the Straight in a phone interview.

      “There’s not much room left in downtown, and especially not in kind of—again, for lack of a better word—unbranded neighbourhoods. If you’re buying in Coal Harbour or Yaletown, you’re obviously paying premiums for the land and to get in there.”

      McInnes added: “It’s [Downtown South is] one of the kind of not-as-developed neighbourhoods that they’re trying to sell now.”

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