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Revitalization or Gentrification in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

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Museum of Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia

Revitalization or Gentrification in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
Form your own opinions after learning about the controversial redevelopment of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, through analyzing two iconic venues and researching their contemporary settings.
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Audio 1 - John Ethier
DJ Joe has lived in the Downtown Eastside for 12 years, and has spent the last 11 years living in the Balmoral Hotel on Main and Hastings. John Ethier, a former fisher, lived at Main and Hastings in the late 1980s.
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© 2012, Museum of Vancouver. All Rights Reserved.
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Audio 2 - Mark Brand
Helen Hill shares her thoughts on the Save on Meats revival. Save on Meats owner Mark Brand reflects on the sign.
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© 2012, Museum of Vancouver. All Rights Reserved.
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Audio 3 - Helen Hill
Local residents like Helen Hill remember the original Woodward's W as an orienting, often comforting, landmark in the midst of an unpredictable downtown. Vancouver architect Gregory Henriquez is the managing partner of Henriquez Partners Architects. Henriquez Partners was selected by the City of Vancouver in its call for developers to revitalize the Woodward’s site.
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© 2012, Museum of Vancouver. All Rights Reserved.
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Audio 4 - Liz Lee
Liz Lee remembers the scene from Woodward’s $1.49 Days. DJ Joe remembers riding the Number 20 bus from her former home in Grandview-Woodlands to $1.49 days at Woodward’s.
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© 2012, Museum of Vancouver. All Rights Reserved.
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Save on Meats Exterior
Save on Meats exterior
Save on Meats' over-the-top, animated neon sign was grandfathered in under the 1974 sign by-law and had to be repaired where it hung during recent renovations. If it had been removed, the City would not have allowed it to be reinstalled. Vancouver Sun photo

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New Woodward's Sign
Installation of New Woodward's Sign
A re-creation of the original 1955 sign was hoisted on to the building on January 9, 2010 to mark the completion of the Woodward's redevelopment project. Vancouver Sun photo

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Woodward's 2010
The New Woodward's Sign
The new Woodward's sign weighs 2.5 tonnes and uses 6,000 energy-saving LED lights. The original sign was removed in 2006 and is now displayed on Cordova Street outside the Woodward's atrium. Vancouver Sun photo

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Woodward's 1938
The Woodward's beacon circa 1938
The Woodward's beacon circa 1938. In 1927, Charles Woodward had a replica of the Eiffel Tower placed on top of his department store. In 1955 he installed a revolving neon W on top of the tower. City of Vancouver Archives Van Sc P114

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Woodward's 1907
Corner of Abbot and Hastings circa 1907
Corner of Abbot and Hastings circa 1907. Woodward's Department Store opened in 1903 after Charles Woodward moved his store from Main Street to 101 West Hastings. Philip T. Timms photo, Vancouver Public Library 5248

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Save on Meats
The Save on Meats sign at night
When Save on Meats opened, interurban trams still dropped off as many as 10,000 people a day to the depot at Carrall and Hastings. After the transit system closed in 1958, Hastings Street drifted into a slow, steady economic decline.

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Revitalization or Gentrification: Activity 1 (Discussion)
- What differences can you see between the 1907, 1938, and 2010 photos of the Woodward’s “W”?
- From the information provided, how can you tell that places like Woodward’s or Save-on-Meats were important to the everyday lives of local residents? For what reasons was it important for them? Give specific examples from the interviews you listened to or read.
Revitalization or Gentrification: Activity 2 (Research)
*Use Google Earth or Google Maps technology.

- What is the Woodward’s building used for today?
- What does the neighbourhood to the west of Woodward’s look like now? What kinds of stores or other establishments surround Woodward’s?
- What does the neighbourhood to the East of Save-on-Meats look like today, and what surrounds it?
- Do you see any major differences in the organizations along Hastings street within four blocks of Woodwards and Save-on-Meats? What kinds of communities do you think these organizations serve?
- How do you think the changes in the neighbourhood, reflected by the changes in the Woodward’s and Save-on-Meats stores, affect local residents?
Revitalization or Gentrification: Activity 3 (Read)
A recent article from the local Vancouver magazine, The Dependent, discusses the rapidly changing situation in the Downtown Eastside and its implications: http://thedependent.ca/featured/gentrifiers/

In a group, answer the following questions:
- What is gentrification?
- Why is it problematic?
- What does the author mean by revitalization?
- How does revitalization relate to gentrification?
- Why is the line between revitalization and gentrification “blurry and awkward”?
Revitalization or Gentrification: Activity 4 (Play Game)
Students play the game of Monopoly, but with a few additional rules, to understand the processes and effects of developing a neighbourhood in the context of an unequal playing field.

Become the wealthiest player by buying, selling, and renting property.

Rather than starting everyone off equally as the regular rules suggest, in our game, two players will be given $50 start up money rather than the usual $200, and two players will be given $400. Two other players will only be able to throw the dice every second turn. These and every additional player will be given $200, as per the regular Monopoly rules. The players to whom these special rules apply will be randomly chosen through a roll of the dice to begin.

As the game progresses, some players are able to gain income and develop properties in particular areas, while others pay to pass through developed areas. If players cannot pay because they lack money, they are banished from the area and even go to jail.
Revitalization or Gentrification: Activity 5 (Class Brainstorm)
- Based on your individual research, the article in The Dependent (Reading Activity), and your experience playing Monopoly, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of developing the Downtown Eastside?

Learning Objectives

This Visible City activity is based on the debates around the redevelopment of the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver. The photos and descriptions of two iconic neon signs in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, as well as original interviews with residents will introduce students to the neighbourhood and the importance of the places that the signs indicate. Students will do some basic research on the contemporary settings of these signs and the surrounding neighbourhood, play a game that will enact urban development, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of developing the Downtown Eastside.