One of the oldest communities in Vancouver, the Downtown Eastside is the quintessential example of resilience through changing times. Its boundaries have shifted over the years, but the area is now generally accepted to be within the bounds of the Burrard Inlet to the north, Hastings Street to the south, Clark Drive to the east, and Main Street to the west.
Described as the poorest postal code in Canada, the area is stamped with the face of crime, homelessness and substance abuse, and has been the topic of political debates. Simultaneously, it wears the face of diversity and pride of a community steeped in history and pivotal to the development of Vancouver.
The Downtown Eastside’s development is shaped by multiple industrial, commercial, and residential purposes, and is home to many iconic areas of Vancouver. It includes Gore Street, which was originally a logging skid road leading to the Hastings Sawmill on the waterfront, and the Woodward’s Department Store which was established at Hastings and Abbott in 1903. Designated a heritage building in 1996, the Woodwards building was revitalized in recent years to include market and non-market housing, along with commercial, retail, and institutional arts space. It also houses the W2 Media Cafe.
With its recent revitalization, the iconic “W,” which disappeared from Vancouver’s skyline was set back atop the new Woodward’s building in 2010. Perhaps it is a symbol of the Downtown Eastside’s slowly regaining a sense of balance, with one foot in history and the other stepping forward.
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Pictures by Jan Hilario