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Some residents of new Woodward’s site not too happy to move in

April 1st, 2009 · 5 Comments

As the city prepares for a little Woodward’s opening ceremony tomorrow, the word has gone around at 12th and Main that the lucky departments being considered for a transfer into the city’s space at Woodward’s are cultural planning, social planning and housing.

That’s not sitting too well with many of them (about 35 people in all), who feel like they’ll be cut off from city hall (where they spend much of their time attending meetings anyway) and it won’t particularly benefit the Downtown Eastside, since their departments aren’t exactly storefront operations where local residents will have a counter to belly up to to offer their opinions on the housing, culture and social planning issues of the day. So it won’t help mitigate in any way local advocates’ fears that they’re just being targeted for gentrification, either directly or indirectly, by the city.

Says one unnamed and unhappy staffer, who says the deal has been worked out internally and not gone to council yet: “We assume the politicians are not really aware of how strange a move this will be. It’s one of those short-term solutions with long-term bad consequences.”

Of course, it’s a far cry from what architect Peter Busby suggested as a way of revitalizing the Downtown Eastside several year ago, when he proposed that most of city staff be moved to the new Woodward’s building. That would really boost local businesses and bring life to the area, he said. (We see what they’ve done for Cambie and Broadway.)

While some people think this is a move to fill up space that couldn’t be rented, in fact the city made a commitment to putting staff in the building a couple of years ago after it put pressure on the federal government to move some people in. (Feds say yes, if you match us — just like they do with money!)

It just wasn’t clear at the time who was actually going to be shuffled over there. But since leases at City Centre were coming up for the housing/cultural/social planning people, they became the natural candidates.

On a related note, some people had expressed doubt that engineering is really going to be moving into the new Crossroads site that Lululemon bailed on. It looks to me like that’s actually going ahead, since if you look at the city’s purchasing section on the website, it has recently posted a request to provide office furniture for 85,000 square feet of space there. Unless that all ends up being taken over for the new city manager’s office (joke, people), it seems like a guarantee that engineering is moving.

Categories: City Hall Talk

  • Living in the City

    The move to Crossroads is definitely on; branch managers are in the process of sussing out which branches will sit together on what floor.

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  • not running for mayor

    The city will be spending $2.3Million on furniture from Herman Miller for the crossroads office. Herman Miller is pretty high end stuff. Perhaps Corporate Express would’ve been a better choice considering the tax hikes coming.

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    I suppose moving the social planning and housing departments into the first two high rises to penetrate the otherwise blissfully low-rise heritage district wouldn’t do much to placate fears that the city is targeting this area for gentrification, especially since these offices will sit under two towers with several hundred condos in them!

    But as a local resident, I disagree that situating these departments at Woodwards won’t help the DTES community. Sure, there won’t be much bellying up to the counter to espouse our gassy opinions (like we can do this now?), but I can guarantee that it won’t take long for the City workers to change their laizze faire attitude towards the DTES if they are working there daily…

    The south side of the 100 block West Hastings remains one of the best in tact turn-of-the-century streetscapes in our city (immortalized by Stan Douglas, whose huge mural of the Gastown Riot will be installed in the new Woodwards lobby). The current state of boarded-up dilapidation on this block might finally be a call to arms to get this Vancouver treasure, like the Pantages Theatre three blocks east, restored and back into a state of pride for Vancouver. In most cities, preservation of heritage gems like these are not left up to the whims of private developers. Why? Because cities with any business savvy at all realize that heritage and arts infrastructure are excellent drivers of economic activity, sources of civic pride, and can have numerous social benefits without a full-on displacement of the community that already exists.

    All this is spelled out in the various Housing, Social and Cultural reports that have been so meticulously compiled by these 3 departments over the past few years (and outside reports like Saccho’s infamous report commissioned by VanCity). Yet the actual policy and actions taken seem to have turned a blind eye to the dormant civic treasures buried there, the recommendations that are common to all the reports, and the immense possibilities for Housing, Social and Cultural affairs to work on an integrated plan for the area.

    In five more years, most of the buildings on the 100 Block and the Pantages will have rotted beyond repair and have to be demolished anyway (the prudent developer’s end game, I’m afraid). I don’t think anyone – even the crustiest old bureaucrat – can walk past something every day that is so potentially beautiful and positive and inspiring, and then sign off on policies that will lead to its destruction.

  • Mary

    wait till the million dollar condos get infested with bedbugs. That should slow down gentrification.