West End: GET OVER IT!


In today’s Province (a Vancouver newspaper staple) the front page story was all about a new high rise development in the downtown West End. And, to no one’s surprise, some long term residents that are YET AGAIN opposing it.

For years, the West End has served as a safe haven for just about anyone. Gay/Straight, Black/White, Old/Young. 30 + years ago the city rezoned many of the streets into a gridded maze, making it pedestrian friendly, and a lovely place to live/shop and enjoy life.

Fast forward to today- it’s swarming with loads of renters/owners in smaller outdated towers. In fact 75% of the West End buildings were built before 1980. 1980!!! Some of our readers weren’t even born yet!

I wouldn’t be shocked if these words came to your mind after all the pleasantries: Outdated. Old. Bed bugs. 1 plug per room.

Plus, so many Westenders have pets, yet practically every building has a “NO PET” policy. This is the one that I don’t get. Evil companies like HOLLYBURN have spearheaded this. Earlier this year they tried to evict long term residences (some being elderly 80 year olds on fixed income) all due to the fact that they had “a small cat.” Truthfully- I don’t think that was their main hang up as they were trying to off load affordable housing by reno-ing and jacking up the rents. Regardless, Hollyburn- I know that there are some really bad pet owners out there, and it’s not always desirable…in this case though- companies like you can suck my fat one.

But I digress…

The West End’s problem go waaaay beyond those Hollyburn assholes and bedbugs (which are everywhere anyway). Try the less than 1% vacancy rate. Yep. Get on that waiting list dear, and make nice with the property manager.

When I moved to Vancouver 2.5 years ago, I lived in the same building as Dan. A 1 bedroom, 565 sq feet, no pets (but I snuck Tacos in anyway) with a washer/dryer and dishwasher cost me $1180, plus $80/month for parking. As my Dad would say “Affordable shoebox”, and that was after throwing out my business card for leverage (next was home baked muffins, but the predecessor did the trick).

Now the West End might have some newer, hopefully spacious buildings. Both are in the rezoning phase, one being at Bidwell and Davie — a 20-story tower with 49 units of rental housing and 98 market condo units by developer Millennium Properties. The other (headlining in the Province) is the former site of St. John’s United Church on Comox and Broughton. The builders, who also just finished the fabulous Shangri-La Hotel, wish to erect a high-rise comprised of 180 apartments, 13 townhomes and 81 parking spots.

Style, views, NEW. Hmmmm that all sounds horrible to me. Seriously WEST END! We love you! Many of us would love to live there, better yet RETURN THERE. Get with it. It’s not the end of the world. Sure, if every building were torn down and Yaletown part 2 was born, I could see a problem. But this is a chance to finally join the future. My only hope is that with something new and awesome, that average Joe’s like us could actually afford to live there. That remains to be seen.

You can have your voice heard on November 24 at the first public information meeting. This gathering is specifically for Comox Street proposal, at the Coast Plaza Hotel. The city’s decision on the Bidwell site, which has been in the works since 2007, is expected on Dec. 1.




  • Adam

    I can understand some of the West end resident’s complaints about development, cause it can be a quaint little area, BUT, in this day and age where environmental impacts and urban density are the buzzwords of the new century, the west end is holding back.

    A lot of the buildings are small walk-ups that are only 2 stories high and maybe have 20 units. People want to live closer to work, a lot of people can’t afford to buy, hence more rental properties, etc.

    I totally agree, it’s time for the west end to get an over haul. And to add to that, would not be nice if perhaps along the way Davie St. and Nelson got a little over haul. For a city that is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the world, I find these two streets in particular a bit of an eye sore. These are heavy tourist areas, especially with English Bay at their meeting place, and they definitely don’t impress. I was quite impressed with the Granville St. project, it still has a way to go, but the work they have done makes the street look more desirable…..just saying West End!

  • Adam, the West End is ALREADY the most dense neighbourhood in all of Canada. No lie.

    The only thing I’m worried about is that the apartments be affordable. Vancouver doesn’t need any more Yale Town specials. $1600 a month for 400 square feet. We need well managed affordable places for real people… including couples and families.

  • WEnder

    My two cents worth…
    Compared with Yaletown, the West End has much more appeal to actually live in. More large trees, more grass, less concrete, quieter streets, more low-rise human-scale buildings, corner stores and well-preserved houses, and all within walking distance of everything the city center has to offer as well as beaches and parks. These significantly beneficial human-friendly aspects should be preserved and enhanced. Many of the existing buildings are quite ugly, I agree, and should be torn down (including many of the older Communist-style towers); but that shouldn’t necessarily mean it should be a neighbourhood of towers. A diversity of building styles and heights is interesting, and allows light and air to street level. Development has been way too arbitrary already, and I’m sure there is great pressure to turn it into the super dense high-rise nightmare of some Asian cities. I hope that doesn’t happen (I, for one, am not breeding to help keep down the population anyway). I’m not saying “no way” to these new developments; I’m just wondering if any thought has been put into the neighbourhood. Does the city even have a decent urban plan for the West End? It certainly doesn’t appear so. I also agree that it’s time Davie and Denman streets were updated – pretty sad looking for a major city (just keep the “BIA” people away from it – not much vision there).
    I think some townhome-and-tower areas like Coal Harbour feel like ghost towns, so I’m not too enamoured with any developer and their “styles! views!” schtick – it’s gotten old and meaningless (except to Jonny, I guess; but he’s still young and naive). Lots of views in Yaletown…i.e.if you want to stare into a wall or someone else’s window, and watch people pick their nose.
    Some people hoped the church site might be a big new gay community center, suitable for a big city – guess that’s not happening now. Every time a tower goes up, there are fewer places to actually do anything. Just look at Yaletown which used to be a large nightclub zone (even with its own rent boy strip!), and now there’s no reason to go there at night (not much reason in the day either, unless you live there). Pretty bad when a city runs out of things to do, places to go, with too many bored people sitting around planning trips to more exciting places to spend their money. And more expensive apartments and condos means fewer artistic people can afford to live in the area, which means less interesting neighbours and more bland stores like the Gap and First Choice Haircutters. Vancouver is well on the road to blandness unfortunately.

  • The moment they tear down old buildings and put in new highrises…. rent will soar. The only thing that’s keeping rent somewhat affordable in the westend are the older buildings. You’re talking about a prime location, so that… plus a brand spanking new building will equal insane rental prices. There needs to be a better plan for the Westend in terms of its development for the future.

  • Gary

    The problem is vancouver is a victim of its own success. The population is growing in the region.

    It’s not a community it’s a mix of people that’s all….

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