top of page

Hopes and Expectations for Woodward's


The Woodward’s Department Store was an important part of Vancouver’s history. From its beginning in 1903, it was an inclusive space that served hundreds of thousands of people of all incomes and cultural backgrounds. It was also an iconic anchor for many nearby businesses in the Downtown Eastside. When the store closed in 1993, much of the area’s commerce collapsed. For more than a decade, the future of the site became a focal point of community debate. Some wanted it to be redeveloped exclusively for market housing and some wanted it to be exclusively for low-income housing.


In 2003, the City of Vancouver was able to purchase the building and initiated an extensive public consultation process which supported an inclusive mixed-use development with a significant amount of market and non-market housing, as well as space for community organizations, commercial retail, offices and Simon Fraser’s School of Contemporary Arts.A central question is whether the residents and other users of this large development can form a sense of common purpose or whether there will be isolated environments or even significant conflict amongst the different users.


This report contains the first set of interviews with a sample of the people who now live in the market and low-income housing as well as with some of the commercial and institutional tenants. It chronicles the hopes and expectations of the people who are creating the future community at Woodward’s.


Whether or not Woodward’s becomes a place of inclusivity for all the diverse groups involved in it is yet to be determined. There are a great many unknowns as the diverse people within it settle in, figure out how to get to know each other and face the challenges of learning to live successfully within this large complex as well as part of the larger Downtown Eastside community. There are many challenges to overcome – not the least of which is the vocal community opposition of some groups in the neighbourhood to this development (see Appendix 1). Yet, this report shows that there is very significant desire by those who have chosen to live or work in Woodward’s to create a great community in spite of its inherent challenges.
For full report, click here


For media coverage, click here


bottom of page