I happen to think that a free and accessible public library system is one of the highpoints of modern life. But did you know that more than 70,000 Vancouverites are blocked from using our fabulous library and its services because they have outstanding fines exceeding $10? And that most of those 70,000 live in DTES, Strathcona, and Grandview?
Starting on Monday 14th June, and for two weeks thereafter, VPL will clear any outstanding fines and reactivate your library card—available to anyone, for any reason:
We want to offer people a fresh start by removing fines and fees from their library card. Fines create negative experiences for both our community and staff, and discourage individuals and families from using the library. By removing outstanding fines on Vancouver Public Library cards, we hope to reconnect people with their library and the collections and services they love and need to succeed.
People wanting to take advantage of this offer should go to their local branch, or go online to vpl.ca/finefree, or call 604.331.3670
I attended the GWAC ZOOM meeting last night which featured a long discussion about Temporary Modular Housing (TMH) in general and the new building at 1580 Vernon in particular.
The meeting began with an overview of TMH in Vancouver by Steve Bohus. It was a very useful review and was applauded by Lisa Jimenez, a CoV planner.
The meeting was then turned over to Julie Roberts and Robbie Moza of Community Buildings Group (CBG) who are in charge of operating the new building which is scheduled to open in July. CBG operates a number of low-barrier homeless shelters in Vancouver, along with two TMH projects, one in Marpole which has operated very successfully for three years, and another at Naomi House which opened earlier this year.
The new TMH at 1580 Vernon will include 98 housing units, along with a community kitchen, common areas, and office space. Each of the housing units is roughly 250 sq.ft. and includes a private bathroom and a small kitchen area. Ms. Roberts played a short but enlightening video of the TMH at Naomi House which illustrated the kind of housing units that will be available.
CHG is currently working with BC Housing to select the first tenants who will be offered space at Vernon. There is an attempt to prioritize local homeless.
CHG also creates what they call a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) from the local residential community. The CAC is designed to help integrate the TMH within the local neighbourhood. In the case of 1580 Vernon, there are no residences within three blocks of the building and so the CAC will probably be peopled by the businesses that are close by.
CHG noted that there were significant community concerns before the Marpole before the TMH was opened. However, after three years of operation, there now seems to be good acceptance of the building and its residents.
I found the presentation and the discussion to be extremely valuable. I have been a strong supporter of this development, and the proposal for 1st and Clark, and I hope that this presentation helped soothed some of the concerns people may have.
It was good to see CoV Planning and BC Housing staff, along with Councillor Jean Swanson and two BIA executives, join in with the GWAC meeting.
Two of the Drive’s most colourful characters are now both lost to us.
Frank, on the right, and Danse, on the left, have been habitueès of the Drive for as long as I can recall, sometimes carving wood and sometimes just begging. They had several pitches but most of the time they had a spot outside Home Hardware at Graveley.
I found them a cheerful pair, always willing to chat. Danse could be a bit loud on the bus, but in a happy way; proudly announcing with his big grin that no-one had to bow to him as he passed.
A few years ago, they moved back to small-town Alberta, which they hated, and they soon returned to the friendlier streets of Grandview. Their support network included folks at Home Hardware, Tim Horton’s, and the Dime, and I suspect many others too.
Now, they are both gone. Frank died a few weeks ago and I heard this week that Danse had died in intensive care on 27 May. They will be missed.
I understand that their sister is coming up from San Diego for a celebration of their lives on 20 June in Grandview Park. I also hear that Home Hardware will be erecting a plaque in their memory on their wall.
Today was a beautiful day for the walk; it was warm and just the slightest of breezes. On the business front, I hope we have turned a corner: the number of storefront vacancies has fallen this month by a decent number. And we are just a few days into this less restrictive phase of the pandemic which promises significant opportunities to re-open old stores and to open new.
Eggs Canna, the large cannabis dispensary at 2137 Commercial, has completed its make-over with a new sign and logo on the windows.
The Canterbury Tales Bookstore makes it onto Daily Hive’s list of the best used bookstores in Vancouver. The store “has a way of luring you in,” says the review.
The Dollar Plus store at 1983 Commercial is closing down and they were having a massive clear out sale today.
Across the street at 1832 Commercial, Expedia Cruises have temporarily closed their offices while they work online. They say they will be back in the new year.
The old Starbucks site at 1752 Commercial has finally opened as the Sal y Limon Mexican restaurant.
We now have confirmation that the old Libra Room at 1608 Commercial will soon re-open as Loula’s Taverna, a Greek restaurant. The extensive renovations to the front of the building seem complete.
Biercraft at 1191 Commercial is closed at present. Walking by this afternoon I saw what appeared to be major interior renovations going on. Will be interesting to see if it re-opens as itself or as a new business.
I still haven’t called Penelope’s at 1009 vacant, but it has been covid-closed now for a full year and more.
The double-front space at 1003 Commercial, which for years housed the Peg Antiques, and then a hair salon, is now an up-market clothing store called Turnabout.
As I passed by today, I saw bakers baking, which makes me think that Artisan Bakery at 935 Commercial is just about open.
And Covid Cafe has finally opened at 931 Commercial. They have been criticized on social media for the choice of name. I hope they do well; they have put a great deal of effort into remaking that storefront.
After an evening of speakers last night, and an afternoon of debate and amendments this afternoon, Vancouver City Council passed the BIA-sponsored motion entitled “Prioritizing Commercial Drive as a Pedestrian-First High Street.”
This is a plan that — through the midwifery of Councilors Fry and DeGenova — comes fully formed from the Commercial Drive Business Society (the BIA) without any consultation with groups such as GWAC, Britannia, or any others except the Italian Cultural Centre, and it must be viewed in that context: It is designed to meet the BIA Board’s view of what businesses want, and to meet certain of their specific goals.
That being said, in my opinion it has some really good things in it; policies I support and have encouraged for years — a pedestrians-first agenda, slow streets, sidewalk widening and improvements, a better matching of the southern half of the Drive with the northern half.
It also includes some things — such as “maintaining and improving” parking on the Drive — that give me serious pause.
More generally, I have some concerns that the further gentrification of the Drive — and let us make no mistake, that is what this will be — could have significant and negative effects on the poor, troubled, and often homeless folks who live and spend their time in and around the Drive. Councilor Swanson voted against major parts of this Motion for the same reason.
But the Motion passed, so what does it actually mean? Very little in my opinion. There is no budget at Planning or Engineering for any work on the plan to move ahead: that was made very clear during the Council debate. An amendment to the Motion seeks funding in a future capital plan, but that can only be considered as wishful thinking at this point. I assume that lack of funding will also prohibit the kind of extensive consultations that are suggested by the Motion. So, we stay the way we are.
And that, believe it or not, meets one of the BIA’s most important goals — to defeat or substantially delay any plan to put a segregated bike lane anywhere on the Drive (as suggested, for example, in the Climate Emergency Action Plan approved recently by Council). Some might say that was the major goal of the exercise from the beginning. As was to be expected, Councilor Boyle made a number of amendments to get a bike lane included, but each was voted down, to the relief of the Motion’s sponsors. I have no dog in that particular fight.
I am hoping that the BIA will take this opportunity of a public debate to widen their engagement with groups and individuals in the neighbourhood. They fight hard to protect the parking that they believe encourages visitors from other neighbourhoods to come to the Drive. They need to fight just as hard to include the residents of Grandview in their plans. It is we, after all, who, day in and day out, provide most of the revenue to their businesses and make the Drive the lively and wonderful place it is.
The bad news is that Vancouver Coastal Health have declared Grandview (and a few other neighbourhoods) as a covid-19 hotspot.
The good news is that those 30-years old and up in the ‘hood can now apply for an appointment to get a vaccine.
VCH will be opening a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Killarney Community Centre (6260 Killarney Street) and from May 8 to 14, 17 to 21 and 25 to 28 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Vaccinations will be provided by appointment only.
All B.C. residents 18 years of age and older (born in 2003 or earlier) are encouraged to register now through the provincial Get Vaccinated website, call centre (1-833-838-2323) or in person at a Service B.C. office. Translation services are available through the call centre.
Following registration, residents will be notified by phone, email or text message as soon as they are eligible to book a vaccine appointment.
I encourage everyone to register and get vaccinated as soon as possible.
I wasn’t able to do my walk on Friday as I normally would; which turned out to be a good thing because today was just perfect for walking. The Drive and all its patios was alive with people enjoying themselves. Let us hope that the regulatory climate soon improves along with the weather so that more of the new places can open.
Poke Five, the restaurant at 2247 Commercial, has announced that it will be closing permanently later this spring. It opened in May of 2018.
The Harambe Ethiopian Restaurant at 2149 Commercial has a fine new patio, as does Giancarlo’s at 1865 Commercial. The latter was very popular at lunchtime today.
The Liberty Tax preparation office at 1848 Commercial has opened. Our first genuinely new business for several months.
At 1752 Commercial, which used to be a Starbucks and is soon to be a Mexican restaurant, an entire orchestra was out having fun.
The always-wonderful Fratelli’s Bakery at 1795 Commercial gets a long spread in Daily Hive for its almost-25 years of service on the Drive.
Our second new business this month is the CraftMaison store at 1840 Commercial. It is now open (the image was taken earlier).
I believe the Dive-In Desserts at 1706 Commercial is closed. Happy to be proven wrong.
“The new occupants of the retail space mostly appear to be chain stores and medical clinics. In areas with a rich tapestry of local stores and services, is it only chain stores and medical clinics that compete for the new space? Could smaller storefronts, with narrow frontages (for example 25 feet or just a bit more) encourage a wider range of services and more appeal and variety of the street front? What are the effects of high ceilings on the ground floor — in terms of building costs, rent costs, look, feel and ambiance? Are business improvement associations (BIAs, which often speak up at Public Hearings to endorse rezoning and development applications) talking to their existing members to get input on what kinds of developments/buildings will help them survive and thrive? How can the City and developers ensure that small shops and businesses (traditional and startups both) survive and thrive when existing commercial sites are demolished and redeveloped? Or does the appearance of a development application sign in front of a building automatically and inevitably mean the death knell for those existing shops and businesses that add so much to the feel, culture and richness of — and love for — a neighbourhood? These are things for everyone to consider, not the least being our planners and elected officials.”
I had hoped that this would be the turnaround month, when things started to look up for businesses on the Drive. And it is true that there are a number of new signs and canopies for businesses opening soon (see below). However, Dr. Henry’s news this week that all restaurants are banned from in-door dining until April 19 has left a lot of places suddenly closed yet again. That being said, yesterday, when I did the walk, was warm and sunny and all the patios were busy and several places (Fets, Havana, the Social, and Park Drive, for example) were rapidly expanding their patios onto the sidewalks and into the street.
Grounds for Coffee at 2088 Commercial gets a shout out for their “legendary” cinnamon buns.
The storefront at 1848 is still vacant but is soon to be a Liberty Tax outlet, giving some competition to H&R Block.
For some months now, Cannibal Cafe has been advertising the possibility of expanding next door to 1816 Commercial to open a Motherclucker’s Chicken place. But I see this month there is a new For Lease sign on the door, so perhaps they have give up on that idea.
La Grotta del Formaggio at 1791 Commercial is unsurprisingly listed as one of the seven best cheese shops in Vancouver.
What used to be a Starbucks at 1752 Commercial is still vacant, but the sign says a new Mexican Restaurant — Sol y Limon — will be opening soon.
At 1740 Commercial, the storefront is still vacant, but a new canopy suggests a furnishings doo-dads store is about to grace us with its presence.
At 1678 Commercial there is a new sign advertising the coming of Vancity Fried Chicken, though the store is still vacant right now.
The former Libra Room at 1608-12 Commercial is getting a complete make-over externally in preparation for opening as a Greek restaurant (?).
Where Ugly Dumplings is now, at 1590 Commercial, there used to be Merchant’s Workshop. Scout magazine has a fond look back at the place where chefs used to like to hang out.
Memphis Blues at 1342 Commercial is looking for all kinds of staff: supervisors, line cooks, bartenders, etc. That’s a welcome sign in these covid-depressed times.
The haphazardly-occupied storefront at 1303 Commercial is now a store called Velveteen Vintage.
The large double-front at 1005 Commercial is soon to be the home of Turnabout Luxury Resale, a designer consignment store.
The team behind Kin Kao at 903 Commercial are working on opening a second location at 317 E. Broadway in Mount Pleasant. The team and the name will be the same, but the menu will be completely different. “Tang and the core kitchen crew are being given the green light to do completely new things, retooling family recipes and tweaking regional specialities. The drinks program will also be different, with cocktails and wine making playing larger roles.”
* * * * *
I still haven’t called Penelope’s at 1009 vacant, but it has been covid-closed now for a full year
This morning, CityHallWatch sponsored a 70 minute conversation between Scot Hein and I about the past and future of the Grandview Woodland Community Plan. Scot Hein is an adjunct professor in the master of urban design program at University of British Columbia. He was previously the senior urban designer with the City of Vancouver.
As of today, roads in the section of Grandview bounded by Clark Drive, Grandview Highway, Commercial Drive, and First Avenue have a new speed limit of just 30 km/h, down from the city default on local streets of 50 km/h. This is a trial for what many hope will become a more widespread change in traffic habits in Vancouver.
As the City’s press release states: “Slower motor vehicle speeds dramatically improve safety for people walking and cycling. According to studies completed by the World Health Organization, higher speeds equal higher probability of fatality. For example, when a vehicle hits a pedestrian at 30 km/h the probability of fatality is 15%. The probability of a fatality increases to 50% when the speed is 50 km/h.”
In July 2020, Council approved the creation of the slow zone pilot within the Grandview Woodland neighbourhood. The area was identified by staff as the top-ranked neighbourhood based on: speed, collisions, vulnerable populations, and community amenities (we have so few of these last listed, I’m guessing).
I am all for this. I hope the trial is deemed a success and the slow zone is extended throughout the non-arterial streets in our neighbourhood.
Last night there was an excellent attendance at the ZOOMed Grandview Woodland Area Council AGM.
I gave a presentation on the GW Community Plan, which seemed to be well received, and there was a good level of discussion about what GWAC should be doing over the coming twelve months.
Nine Directors were acclaimed for the 2021/22 year, including three who were not on the Board last year. The turnout for the meeting, and the level of debate that went on, augurs well for the organization.
I urge all residents of Grandview Woodland who are interested in the future of our neighbourhood to at least get yourself on the GWAC mailing list and, if possible, to attend — online — their monthly meetings. You will learn much and I am sure many of you have valuable experience to contribute.
I did the walk on Saturday, the last of the sunny Spring days for a while I suspect. I am glad to say the Drive was really busy, with most of the patios full for lunch. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make up for no new openings and two new large closures.
The biggest new closure of the month (by size at least) is the closing of the BCC Ethical Financing company in the storefront at 1848 Commercial. It seems that the upstairs offices of Terra Housing are also closed.
The former Libra Room at 1608 Commercial is still but a distant memory, but I understand the double-front is being renovated for a new place; perhaps a Greek restaurant? During the work, the new owners uncovered a sign for the Windows Bakery that closed at that site in 1950. I hope they find some way to use that sign in their new display.