By ERICA BULMAN, 24 HOURS
The owner of the Pantages Theatre defended his intentions to develop the site, stating his proposed development will revitalize the Hastings Street “dead zone” which hasn’t seen any activity in decades “apart from drug dealing.” The Sequel 138 project has come under fire from Downtown Eastside housing activists who fear gentrification of the area. But building owner Marc Williams said the lot has been vacant for 30 years, plus no one has ever lived there. “There will be no displacement of anyone,” Williams said Wednesday. “No one lives there now. Not one person. Only rats. No one will be displaced.”
His standpoint has infuriated housing advocates, who said the 100 block of East Hastings is home to the Carnegie Centre and Insite. “It also includes almost 400 human beings who live in SROs, who are not dead,” said Jean Swanson of the Carnegie Community Action Project that works on housing issues in the DTES. “They’re valuable, thinking, dreaming, loving human beings and to dismiss this as a dead zone, as an area where there’s been no activity, is complete poor bashing.”
Last week, protesters called on Studio One Architecture – which filed a development application with the city on Williams’ behalf – to withdraw from the project.
Williams on Wednesday unveiled the project’s details, which include 79 low-cost housing units for artists and DTES non-profit workers. The one-bedroom units would start at roughly $227,000 and 450 square feet.
There would also be 18 units of social housing operated by a non-profit housing provider, 2,500 square feet of art and gallery space, and retail space at street level.
Williams said a “reverse qualification” process would allow only people with incomes below $61,000 to buy.
But Swanson said a recent similar project at 60 West Cordova had completely failed. She said one couple she knew was told their income was too low to buy.
“We work with a lot of Downtown Eastside artists and they could never afford a $230,000 condo. It’s ridiculous,” she said. “For a developer who’s flipping a development that cost him 1.5 million or so, it might seem low cost. But if you live down here it’s high.”