By Medha, Vancouver Sun July 30, 2011
Property developer Marc Williams’ proposal for a sixstorey condo and commercial building at the site of the former Pantages Theatre failed to earn the support of the City of Vancouver’s Urban Design Panel. This was the first review of the Sequel 138 planned development and the minutes of the meeting do not disclose any reasons for the unanimous decision.
Additionally, Williams’ comments that the Downtown Eastside property is a “dead zone” provoked outrage among DTES residents and community organizations working in the area. Williams made the remarks in a Thursday interview with The Vancouver Sun. “This is a community of dreamers; of loving human beings, it has a rich cultural history.
“There are problems here, but the solution is not pushing these people out,” said Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project.
Anthony Kuschak, general manager of Sequel 138 Development Corp., countered that Williams was referring to “the actual site where there is nothing right now,” and not to the DTES community in general.
Williams told The Sun that he was planning to bring affordable housing to the area through the project.
Harsha Walia, DTES Women’s Centre project coordinator, contests this claim saying that of the more than 80 dwelling units planned at the site at 138 East Hastings St., only 18 have been set aside as social housing units – the bare minimum to comply with the Downtown-Eastside/Oppenheimer official development plan.
The development of condos has “ripple effects” in the area, leading to problems such as “higher land values, increased rents and exclusion zones where low-income people don’t feel comfortable,” said Pedersen.
“DTES is one of the last neighbourhoods in the city where low-income people live. This project is in the core of the community and if given a go ahead will fundamentally alter the character of the place to its detriment,” said Walia.
The Urban Design Panel is an advisory body that can only make recommendations.
It does not have the authority to approve or refuse projects, but is an advisory body for city council and the development permit board.
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