Business in Vancouver has published a think piece by Kirk Lapointe regarding the contentious development of a twelve storey building by Beedie development on an empty lot in Chinatown. As Lapointe notes ” The city administration has made many mistakes in how it has approached the development of neighbourhoods, but none is more troublesome and telling than its rezoning of Chinatown. No neighbourhood would believe itself anything but unique. But the case of Chinatown is as persuasive as any in articulating how our city was created, how there were sacrifices made along the way, how people demonstrated compassion in sheltering each other from the storm, and in turn what our obligations are to honour those distinctive contributions to our culture and to our community.”
There is a clash of policy and thought on this proposal, done by a well-known and respected development group. The problem is not with the proposal, but with how we as society and the City of Vancouver itself is looking at Chinatown, already identified by Canada’s National Trust as one of the ten most endangered places in the country.
Price Tags has already documented the importance of this place, and the fact that Vancouver’s Chinatown is the largest existing in North America. It contains a unique melange of culture and history, as well as the stories of people who built this country through the railway, have a rich and enduring legacy and created the Vancouver we know by stopping freeway expansion.
Lapointe notes that “of the 800 housing units built in Chinatown since Vision Vancouver assumed power, only 22 were non-market units”. Much of the pressure for redevelopment falls upon seniors who can no longer afford to stay in the area. The rather unfortunate design and scale of the proposed development does not so much address the need for housing in Chinatown, but creates the template for further higher density development that can further erode this precious area. Why do we not value what we can never replace and never replicate in this unique area?
As Lapointe states “The city has spent unwisely before on pet projects. It could spend wisely here to mop up the mess it has made. Making the developer whole here would be a rounding error on its mishaps. Beedie shouldn’t have to pay the price for a process the city shouldn’t have perpetuated. It’s time to take a step back, let the developer find another place for the proposal, and more considerately honour one of our city’s formative cultures bound to be through demographic change our most dominant in short order. “