Sam Pawlett rsp at
Sat Aug 14 09:52:03 PDT 1999

Doug Henwood wrote:
> Sam, I visited Vancouver - that's where you are, right? - for the
> first time last fall. I was staying at 56 E. 5th Ave, which has been
> a pretty funky working class/light industrial neighborhood, but my
> host told me it was being filled with folks like him - artists,
> writers, bohemians, the avant garde of gentrification. And downtown
> was truly a gentrifier's paradise, with warehouses being turned into
> condos, Planet Hollywoodish theme joints everywhere, movie sets
> everywhere, etc. (I saw one warehouse-to-condo conversion that had a
> sign in the window advertising the contractor as "rebuilding downtown
> Denver" - an actual transformation was doing double duty representing
> one in a TV movie!) Of course, downtown east side still looks like
> the poorest neighborhood in Canada I was told it was, but otherwise
> the city seems to be going this way too. Is my impression correct?

To some extent yes, but I live in the middle of it all so I may not notice it as much. Some of the great neighborhoods like Strathcona(Downtown Eastside), Main St (where you were staying) and Commercial/Victoria Dr. are still too poor to support the boutiques and restaurants/bars usually associated with gentrification not to speak of high rents. There are some good neighborhood/community orgs that require chain restaurants etc. to sort of hide and blend in a bit and put a lot of pressure on to keep rents affordable and make sure there is enough good, cheap housing. They've been mildly successful, though it's fast becoming either Hard Rock Cafe or skid row.

There was a big wave during the Expo 86 world's fair when thousands of people were thrown out of their apartments in the downtown eastside to make way for luxury towers, sort of what happened in Atlanta during the Olympics. A lot fo the gentrification efforts in Vancouver have been abysmal failures, thousands of square feet of empty office space, hundreds of unsold, unoccupied warehouse-style apartments etc.

> there anyplace in North America this isn't happening?

I think its a matter of degree, some places are worse than others. Gentrification and urban rot reflect the widening gap between rich and poor.I've found that the best urban areas are where there are many people living downtown (low rents) and where there are lots of colleges and universities (like Montreal).

Seems like in
> addition to the old model of suburbanization we've got a
> transformation of older city cores going on at the same time - a mix
> of concentration and dispersal that it's hard to describe in a single
> phrase.
Yep, there are contradictory processes going on. C. Parenti analyzes it quite well, so does David Harvey in his early work.

Doug, overall what did you think of Vancouver?

Sam P.

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