About three dozen hardy souls braved the frigid temperatures last night and came out for the GWAC February meeting. I think they had a fun and though-provoking evening. The theme last night was the revival of Venables Street, and I quickly disposed of a few housekeeping items at the beginning of the meeting to get to the programme that had been arranged by a few other Directors.
We began with a prose poem by local writer John Roberts about the #20 bus — our one and only bus — that was pointed and funny and very well received. This was followed by Director Tom Durrie circulating his flyer protesting the current state of transit on the Drive, a good debate about transit in general, and a report from Director James Taylor Irvine on the progress of the Powell Street overpass.
Local historian Bruce Macdonald then regaled us with an illustrated history of Venables Street that included fascinating diversions into the history of Ireland, the cedar tree business, and Okanagan horticulture. That was very well appreciated.
After that came what was the centrepiece of the evening, a discussion about the Venables Greenway project that won a design prize in 2005 for its plan to develop Venables as a quiet, tree-lined street servicing low-rise retail, light-industrial, park and cultural spaces. We were privileged to have Emily Chu to speak with us. Emily had been one of the primary designers of the Greenway which she described as both an entrance way for Grandview but also a living link between Grandview and Strathcona. It was agreed that a high-rise at Commercial & Venables as proposed by Boffo Properties did not fit in this design concept and would do nothing to improve that part of the neighbourhood.
The main presentation was completed by Mina Matestinic who talked about the East Van Culture Crawl and, more generally, on the difficulties that artists and musicians have in finding work and display spaces, and how the Venables Greenway could be very useful in this regard. I suggested that arts groups and artists lobby hard with both the City and the Cultch to preserve the Green House which could provide a wonderful space.
It was agreed that we will set up a Working Group to push for the reinstatement of the Venables Greenway project into the Community Plan and beyond.
A very good night indeed!