By Andrew Fleming, Contributing writer Vancouver Courier September 12, 2011
The daughter of local shoe magnate John Fluevog wants to help put the boots to plans to build Sequel 138, a proposed condo complex from developer Marc Williams, on the site of the former Pantages theatre near the corner of Main and Hastings streets. Britta Fluevog, an up-and-coming artist and self-described “potential condo owner,” has added her name to a list of 1,200 people who have signed a Downtown Eastside Community Resolution opposing the proposal to build a new six-storey building offering 79 one-bedroom residential units, as well as 18 more units earmarked for social housing, a dozen commercial units and another 2,500 square feet of public art display space.
“Purchasing a condo at Sequel 138 is unethical because of the harmful impacts it will have on people in the neighbourhood.” said Fluevog in a press release distributed by the Stop Pantages Condos Coalition, which is calling on condo shoppers to boycott the project because of the potential displacement of residents of the impoverished neighbourhood.
The activist group, which wants the city to buy the land from Williams and turn it into resident-controlled social housing, hosts a march Sept. 17 at 1:30 p.m. at the corner of Columbia and Cordova streets followed by a block party in front of the site to call for for more social housing in the area.
Protest organizer Harsha Walia hopes the campaign will discourage people from purchasing condos in the area, as well as to refute Williams’ claim that “Sequel 138 will provide affordable, entry-level housing for artists and entry-level housing for workers in non-profits helping the people of the Downtown Eastside.”
“According to his PR blitz, artists and agency workers are his target audience in terms of potential condo buyers, so we have a boycott campaign and statement of boycott from artists and also local agency workers,” said Walia. “The gist is that artists and Downtown Eastside agency workers are not going to be complicit in the displacement of the low-income community.”
Last Thursday, hundreds of people gathered for a so-called “picket party” outside the Sequel 138 office in Tinseltown, which drew a derisive response from Williams.
“The idea of a ʻpicket partyʼ trivializes the urgent need for mixed and affordable housing in the Downtown Eastside,” said Williams. “We are willing to invest private capital to help solve a public problem. There will be zero displacement. Not one person lives onsite now.”
Walia said his argument that people can’t be displaced from a vacant building is an oversimplification. “The impact of mixed housing, which is kind of the new trend, is basically displacement. The impact of condos and gentrification in general means an increase in land speculation, real estate values go up and as a result rents go up. Second of all, with an increased amount of middle class and richer people into a low-income neighbourhood comes an increase in private security and policing. We are already seeing that in the western edge of the Downtown Eastside at the Woodward’s development. People are basically being pushed into a tighter and tighter space.”
The project design for Sequel 128 was unanimously rejected by the city’s Urban Design Panel, an advisory group to city council, last month and is once again under revisement.