More than 100 people rallied against a plan to build a mixed-use development on the site of the demolished Pantages Theatre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
A standing-room-only crowd of local residents and community activists filled a room in the Carnegie Centre for the event today (April 10).
Speakers at the rally complained about Sequel 138, a proposed six-storey development that would be located on the rubble-filled lot in the 100-block of East Hastings Street.
The developer’s plan calls for 79 units of “affordable home ownership” residential units and 18 units of social housing. It also includes commercial space at the street level.
Opponents argue the project will open the door to gentrification in the heart of the Downtown Eastside.
Housing activist Ivan Drury criticized the plan for making only half of the social housing affordable for renters on welfare while the remaining units will be financially out of reach for lower-income residents.
“It’s really important that that project have a high level of expectation for affordability,” Drury told the Straight.
“It sets the precedent and the level of expectation of other developers.”
During the morning rally, a series of speakers read out declarations against the development. They highlighted fears an influx of higher-priced housing will push lower-income people out of the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.
“If we lose our homes because of rent increases or our landlord starts renting at a higher cost to people, we will have nowhere else to go,” said Charles Sanford, a resident of the Balmoral Hotel, located across the street from the Pantages site.
“If the city lets the developer build condos on the 100-block of East Hastings, they will creep into the heart of our community and devour it,” said Tracey Morrison, with the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society.
Marc Williams, the Pantages site owner, defended the development, noting it does not require rezoning and will bring new amenities to the area.
Williams told the Straight by phone he thinks there is a lack of understanding about the project.
“I think they’re fearful of change and I think that with all of the positive things that this project will bring to the area—the art space, the urban gardens, the social housing, and the affordable home ownership—that positive change is getting very confused with keeping things the way they are.”
The coalition of community groups that organized the rally called on the city to block the Sequel 138 project. They also renewed a demand that the city purchase the property and use it exclusively for social housing.
A revised application for the project is scheduled to come before a city development permit board hearing on April 23.
Opponents of the project also plan to protest at the Pantages site on April 17.