A Main Street Community in Vancouver, BC
The Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver, once considered the “poorest postal code” and viewed through a negative lens, has been undergoing a serious transformation. Recent city initiatives have targeted crime in the neighborhood, have sought to decrease the homeless population and obtain help for homeless individuals, and to revitalize the neighborhood with a variety of housing-related projects and operations. The results are being noticed by residents and visitors all over the area; more families and young professionals are relocating to the area, trendy retailers are setting up shop in the neighborhood, and many new businesses are moving in.
Although there is some disagreement as to the boundaries of the Downtown Eastside, the community encompasses Chinatown, Gastown, the Industrial Area, Oppenheimer, Strathcona, Thornton Park and Victory Square. The population of the Downtown Eastside in 2006 was just over 18,000 people and the growth (12.8%) between that time period was slightly faster than the growth of Vancouver (10.6%) as a whole. Recently, the City of Vancouver unveiled a $1 billion, 30-year plan to revitalize the Downtown Eastside; the literature for the plan projects a population growth from the current 18,000 residents to between 30,000 and 35,000 in 2044.
Census data from 2006 shows that the median household income of residents in the Downtown Eastside was $12,928, up from $10,393 in 2000. The unemployment rate is 11.3%, which is higher than the unemployment rate for Vancouver as a whole. The top-paying industry in Downtown Eastside is manufacturing; 2,905 residents work in this industry. This is closely followed by professional services (2,025), public administration (1,895), and retail (1,840).
One of the best aspects of the Downtown Eastside area is the number of shopping options. Chinatown offers up the excellent night market on Keefer Street, as well as fun and colorful Asian-import shops offering knick knacks, specialty and novelty items. Commercial drive is a fantastic area to visit, and offers up Italian bakeries, cafes, and gelato shops. Nearby is the Punjabi Market, nicknamed Little India, which covers 4 blocks and offers gorgeous and colorful jewelry, pashminas and scarves and a variety of gifts and novelty items. South Main, nicknamed ‘SoMa,’ is the perfect place to get trendy clothing or gorgeous antiques as well as delicious restaurants, coffee shops, and plenty of other retail spaces.
When it comes to food, the area really shows its diversity. Residents love Mamie Taylor’s in Chinatown, where the menu features sous-vide fried chicken, stinging-nettle pierogi and a range of cocktails. Those in the mood for Italian often check out Ask for Luigi, located in Railtown, where the favorites are the pappardelle duck ragu and ricotta ravioli. Cuchillo, on Powell Street, offers a variety of Latin foods including pork belly and corn shoots as well as many different cocktails. There is a “favorite restaurant” for everyone in the Downtown Eastside area, and no matter what craving hits, there is a diner, restaurant, cafe or pub in the area that can satisfy it.
Research shows that more than 65% of residents in the Downtown Eastside area walk, cycle or take a bus to work. TransLink buses have routes all over the Downtown Eastside area, and stops are located in convenient locations. Residents also have access to rapid transit via the SkyTrain, which travels to nearby cities and features regular routes. Many residents drive their own vehicles, utilizing Main Street and Hastings Street as the major through-roads to reach their destinations.
The Downtown Eastside area is served by several public schools, including the Lord Strathcona Community School, the Admiral Seymour Elementary School, and the Britannia Secondary School. There are several options for adult learning as well, including the Downtown East Education Centre, the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Utopia Academy.
The Downtown Eastside offers up many different options for those interested in the arts. Residents have access to numerous galleries, theaters, live performance venues and more. The Firehall Arts Centre is a great place to visit for live performances, including plays, concerts, comedies, and has even hosted the very popular Post Secret show. Another popular option nearby, the Gallery Gachet is an excellent option for those who want to check out some gorgeous exhibits. Operated by local artists, Gallery Gachet offers up 3,000 square feet of public-access arts space, with up to 12 exhibitions a year as well as residencies, workshops, artist speaking events, and other special events. One of the most prominent public art pieces include the mosaics of Downtown Eastside, created by local artists and residents. The Vancouver Walkers Meetup Group offers tours of the mosaics.
In addition to these options, residents enjoy a variety of significant locations, primarily due to the age and history of the neighborhood. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is an excellent location to visit, and Jimi Hendrix fans will enjoy the “Jimi Hendrix Shine” on Union Street, which is actually the location of what was once Jimi’s grandmother’s restaurant.
Residents in the Downtown Eastside have many public parks to take advantage of, including Oppenheimer Park, Portside Park, and Wendy Poole Park. Portside Park, often called CRAB Park, offers up an excellent area for dog owners, and features a gorgeous beach with views of Burrard Inlet.
Investing in Downtown Eastside Real Estate
Investors, families and young professionals have all started to notice the difference in Downtown Eastside Vancouver. As the area continues to draw in more popular retailers and companies, more jobs are created for citizens of the area. The city has also focused on creating affordable housing, and has made additional improvements in transportation, crime and other issues that once plagued the Downtown Eastside. The result is a changing city area that appeals to families interested in history, culture and diversity; young professionals employed within Vancouver, and investors who see the potential for profit. ■