Downtown Eastside Vancouver British Columbia
For those familiar with Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the header image for this website is a common view of the area – one of poverty, drugs, prostitution, gangs and death. Of course this is a narrow view of the Downtown Eastside, as once you start to look closer you see more. There may be no other area in all of Canada with such a vibrant community centred on compassionate and fervent activism.
For those unfamiliar with the Downtown Eastside, we hope to give you a better understanding of the area. The DTES can claim the title of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood. At the turn of the 20th century it was the heart of the city with city hall, Carnegie Library, the courthouse and it contained most of the shopping areas.
With the passage of time the city of Vancouver stretched West towards the Pacific and this started a decline in the Downtown Eastside. As the 1980’s approached and into the 1990’s the real estate market in Vancouver continued to climb putting new housing units far out of the reach of many. The DTES contained a disproportionate amount of rundown public housing and cheap hotels, and with an influx of drugs and prostitution pushed out of other Vancouver area neighbourhoods, the Downtown Eastside quickly became downtrodden. Many long time stores including Canadian icons Woodwards, and Eatons moved away leaving empty buildings covered in graffiti in their wake.
The Downtown Eastside in advance of the 2010 Vancouver/Whistler Winter Olympics was one of many faces. There are real problems and real-life suffering going on. The DTES for instance has the dubious feature of having the single highest rate of HIV infection in the Western world. It is also Canada’s poorest area by postal code, and there is a complete lack of adequate safe and affordable housing for those that need it. But change is on the wind.
For instance one of Canada’s largest property developers has recently finished purchasing a half-block-long stretch of real estate in very heart of the Downtown Eastside. Concord Pacific Group is Vancouver’s largest developer and is now casting their gaze on the DTES.
Concord Pacific’s purchase on West Hastings street was summed up best by Vancouver real estate extraordinaire Bob Rennie, “We have no land left downtown, so the city is going to move east.” Cheaper prices, and older buildings ripe for knocking down, have drawn in property developers and real estate investors.
Revitalization of the neighbourhood is coming as much from the inside as it is from outside influence. Local charitable groups and community action has started to make for changes in the Downtown Eastside. Some new businesses are opening up including galleries and restaurants. Vancouverites looking for character homes and buildings are moving to the area, and along with others are helping to change the face of the Downtown Eastside.