Observations and Ideas

From Creating a future for the Strathcona neighbourhood
Transcribed and edited by Janet Leduc for Heritage Vancouver

Heritage, History and Scale

It is really critical that the heritage elements are retained. Heritage needs to reflect the current character of the neighbourhood and keep the thread of Strathcona’s history. (Shirley)

Strathcona is unique, it has terrific individual buildings and heritage architecture and it is this collection of buildings and the unusual relationship between them that makes Strathcona so significant and unique. (Ray)

We have to work really hard, be strong, and cohesive in our vision of protecting the heritage buildings north of Hastings. (Claudine)

We are examining how we can make Japantown more actively Japanese Canadian. The Powell Street Festival Society would like to have a place on Powell Street (Rika).
The northern part of Strathcona is slowly eroding. I would like to preserve what’s there and bring back some of the things that have disappeared. (Pete)
It is important to preserve the heritage of this neighbourhood (Shirley)
There is a rich history, when I talk about history it is not in an abstract sense and when I talk about the houses and the heritage value of the small houses, it is not the buildings per se, it is the human history that was there. It is made up of people who came with nothing, who faced huge social and economic hurdles, who struggled and worked together, collaborated and thrived. It is what the little houses mean, the context and the human history that is so important. (James)
The whole neighbourhood has history. It was the centre of commercial and social activities and was very working class. (Rika)
We want to keep the existing scale along Hastings so it doesn’t become a causeway or the way to somewhere else. We want it to stay small scale, cozy and attractive. (Claudine)

Community character

People from different backgrounds are a huge part of the identity of this neighbourhood. In this neighbourhood diversity is very important (James)

Historically this neighbourhood has been a working class, ethnically diverse neighbourhood (Rika)

Strathcona is the most mixed area in the entire city and we can’t create what’s here ever again. (Patricia)

It is an immigrant reception community where people pass through (Shirley)

Diversity is one of the characteristics of this community. (Jeffrey)

Culture

I am amazed at how many people and businesses support the Cultural Crawl. (Jeffrey)

People used to live and work in adjacent communities and participate in activities that don’t require a car, those were much greener values. Now people go outside the neighbourhood to shop (Shirley)

Ideas

Zoning

We need to engage in the current zoning review process and develop a list of characteristics and qualities of the neighbourhood that people want to preserve. (Shirley)

My biggest concern in terms of the city’s rezoning is scale. I am worried that the city will want to put in tall buildings that are not in keeping with the existing character of the four story heritage buildings along Hastings Street. (Claudine)

Scale is important and we can limit land assembly through zoning (Graham)

I think rezoning is looming and we need to have a strong cohesive voice, at least on scale, business development, and heritage preservation, and we need to request or demand some specific zoning created for the area north of Hastings to preserve the heritage buildings there. I think this is one framework we can put into place and then our other community interests can be addressed. The rezoning is coming and I am concerned we are going to let this slip through our fingers because the social issues distract us. (Claudine)

One of the first things we need to do is ensure the area is recognized and designated as a heritage area. We need to ensure that the heritage elements of this area, as a founding community for the City of Vancouver, are part of the review and taken into consideration in the rezoning. We need to maintain the scale, rule out the tower forms, keep the warehouse forms, and not move to million dollar residential properties. (Shirley)

In the Strathcona North position paper prepared by Heritage Vancouver there is a recommendation that the RT 3 zoning be extended to include this area. What we did in the industrial area of Mount Pleasant 25 years ago was change the zoning to light industrial but with very specific provisions made for the retention of the existing housing stock that was non-conforming so people could get a permit to renovate or get insurance. That custom modification was put in place specifically to protect the housing stock, and it has been successful, and people have been able to get renovation permits. Because of the industrial and commercial nature in this area it might be easier and more effective to come up with some kind of custom modification to the existing zoning. Simply extending the RT3 zoning may not work. (Anthony)

Regarding zoning, inventory and heritage, the buildings themselves are a repository, a physical touchstone. It is important to find the means of addressing the zoning with immediacy. The RT3 zoning is a blunt instrument that does not rely on an inventory, it provides a first cut at looking at pre-1920s buildings. (Graham)

We need to start exploring some potential zoning changes

Heritage and Historical Inventory

We need an inventory of the industrial, manufacturing and business buildings. (Patricia)

We don’t have a good inventory. The Heritage Register is not in good shape. (Anthony)

I have done a rudimentary inventory and it is available on my blog as a virtual walking tour of the forgotten east end. I think it is important to not only honour what is, but also what was, with the stories and historical markers (James)

We need to make people more aware of the history and heritage of Strathcona and create interest in building an inventory of the heritage resources of Strathcona North and Hastings

There are the City of Vancouver’s 125th Anniversary grants which can be applied for in February. The Strathcona Community Centre Society, Heritage Vancouver and several other community groups could apply for and administer the grants. (Shirley)

The funding from the 125th can be used to engage the broader community and come up with a plan. (Jeffrey)

Business Development

Many businesses wouldn’t touch Hastings because of a lack of street presence, lack of people walking on the street and low density in the residential areas. (Jogi)

We have a stake from the point of view of the Business Improvement Association about how this area develops especially Hastings Street and the industrial land. If we want to have more of a business presence or attract new businesses we have to make Hastings more than a drive through to downtown. (Jogi)

There are many ideas that could encourage smaller development. The city could reduce the amount of loading space to one loading area per block, reduce the amount of parking requirements, and eliminate the requirement for elevators in small scale buildings. (Kieran)

If restrictions were relaxed or reduced building owners would be able to develop a commercial enterprise in a single building, preserve the heritage buildings, and create a street presence in the form of galleries, drop in centres, or other community facilities. (Kieran)

We need to foster and nurture small businesses that meet the needs of our community rather than letting City government decide for us. We need to come together as a community and make it happen. (Pete)

The requirement to include two units of social housing for businesses that want to expand should be removed. (Patricia)

If we reduced the obstacles someone who wants to open a little café or put a floor of apartments on their house to provide low cost housing, could do so without the infrastructure costs. It would mean that individuals who live here or who have just moved here could participate and give something back to the community. If someone wants to start a little coffee shop or a small enterprise to employ people in the community it is very difficult. We need some gentle slopes (Kieran)

Community Framework

Good planning comes from understanding what we are dealing with before you start messing around with it. What we are dealing with is the social, environmental and economic history of Strathcona that is phenomenal, special and delicate. (Ray)

In the data collected there is a lot of commonality and just one or two areas where groups differ significantly. (Ray)

One of the approaches we could take is to set up a framework where we just allow things to develop and happen naturally rather than try to impose order in developments. With one comprehensive plan it becomes much more difficult for people who live in the neighbourhood to be able to do anything. It also imposes homogeneity
(Kieran)

If heritage buildings n the area north of Hastings are to be retained, respected and celebrated it is important that they not be next to a 20-story tower. It would be great to see a mix of housing in this area. Maybe we could use European communities that have used green housing in light industry neighbourhoods as a model. (Claudine)

Whatever we decide to do it has to be more of the same. We need to maintain diversity and space for organizations in order to maintain this dynamic presence in the neighbourhood. (Jeffrey)

If we want to achieve intimacy and community a certain amount of anarchy is needed (Anthony)

The area is fragile. We don’t need a plan, – we need a framework (Patricia)

I think something that might be instructive for us is the concept of embracing complexity and understanding we have a resource that is not an impediment to a healthy, functional community. That resource and complexity could be a way forward for us. (Graham)

We may need to slow down change to give us time to understand, think, and consider possibilities. A slow rate of change is worth considering. (Graham)

I see a lot of places still being built without any eyes on the street and without retail on the ground floor (Ilka)

When we look at the industrial area it is important to preserve the mixed use within this community. This is how we build community with each neighbouhood contributing to one another. We need places for people to shop and places for people to work. (Shirley)

We need to understand the social fabric, to document housing, who lives where, and what happens when we develop things, how many agencies – how much are they spending and who is benefiting It is important to know the essence of the community, before we start fiddling with it. (Ray)

We need to do things so this community can continue to develop organically so if someone wanted to open a shop, they could open a shop without this whole process we have to go through. We could also avoid the idea that in eight years or so when all these studies have been done that people outside the community suddenly have the idea they have the solution. (Kieran)

We need to focus on Hastings Street and not just on the area north of Hastings. It is critical to the equation

We could ask the city to restore the Strathcona Revitalization committee. It was a forum for discussions like this for many years

I think we have an area in North Strathcona that could be a demonstration to other North American Cities as to what the ideal community might be. The neighbourhood has all the characteristics we read in planning literature to make it a model community. (Patricia)

Continuing the Conversation

Community dialogue is one of the solutions. This is an opportunity to get the majority of people together (Ray)

Maybe we need to create a community conversation to talk about incentives for people to open galleries or projects that are in keeping with the existing character of the neighbourhood. (Claudine)

We could extract the ideas and observations about what is special about the character and culture of the neighbourhood from our conversations and use them as the foundation for our next conversation.

We could create a list of opportunities for community contributors and leaders to take on to explore ideas and initiatives and invite more people into the conversation.

We could create a website to inform our community and attract contributions to our conversation around opportunities, ideas, and initiatives we could take to create a future for the neighbourhood around our common community interests.

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