The sustained hunger for industrial assets in Vancouver might be gradually erasing the city’s identity as new developments are encroaching into cultural spaces allocated for young artists and marginalized communities.
Former senior planner for the City of Vancouver Michael Gordon argued that the accelerated pace of industrial development has made space for independent artists rare.
“They really can’t afford to be in areas where condos are being sold,” Gordon told the Vancouver Sun.
Two such venues were called Merge and Index, both sharing an industrial space at 1305 Powell Street. They are now being “renovicted” by Low Tide Properties, which acquired the property in 2018.
“I think more than any space shutting down, this one is where the community is most affected by it,” according to Betty Mulat, co-founder of the Nuzi collective that focuses on the city’s black and queer communities.
“These real estate developers don’t understand the significance of these spaces,” Mulat added. “These spaces give people purpose. They give people meaning in their lives.”
Over the past few years, Low Tide has been swiftly acquiring assets in East Vancouver as part of its publicly stated aims to invest in “emerging neighbourhoods” and own $1.5 billion in the city’s real estate by 2026.
Strathcona Business Improvement Association executive director Theodora Lamb said that the situation is rapidly approaching “crisis levels.”
“Smaller tenants like artists and community services can no longer afford to keep their Strathcona roots, and the artist’s community is not immune to that,” Lamb explained.
“It’s losing what feeds the community, is what I would describe it as.”