250 Powell Street

Remand Centre 1When our first ‘before’ picture was taken, in 2002, the Remand Centre round the corner from the Main Street courthouse was just closing. Designed by Richard Henriquez in the late 1970s and completed in 1983, the building was taken out of commission as it became unnecessary to hold enough prisoners on remand to warrant the cost of running the building.

In 2008 the bottom floors were converted to the Community Court, but the upper floors and their massive concrete pods remained unused. A $21m makeover later, designed by Henriquez Partners, the building is now a 96 unit low cost and non-market housing project managed for B C Housing by the Bloom Group.

Remand Centre 2

Before images: 2002 and 2012; After images 2015.

The Budzey Building

Budzey 1 v2

Here’s one of the thirteen non-market housing projects funded by BC Housing on land provided by the City of Vancouver. It’s big – 147 rooms – and managed by the Raincity Housing and Support Society. It’s named after Lorna Budzey who died in 2000, a resident of Raincity’s first shelter. The building is designed by Neale Staniszkis Doll Adams Architects and is 10 storeys high.

The site was previously the home of the Drake Hotel, a small (24 room) hotel dating back to 1912, and bought by the City of Vancouver in 2007 at the same time the Province started buying SRO Hotels. The City carried out a basic renovation of the property to allow it to be used as temporary rooms for tenants whose building was being given a more significant upgrade that meant they had to move out for a while. The hotel’s neon sign, dating back to 1950, is in the Museum of Vancouver’s neon collection.

Before image, 2008; after image, 2015

The Flats – East Georgia Street

The Flats 1

The Flats is an innovative condo building on nine storeys on a 25 foot wide lot. It features concertina shutters on the façade that filter the light and allow residents to have greater privacy, and they add a dramatic yellow splash into an otherwise brick coloured street.

The Flats 2Designed by Birmingham and Wood (with UBC’s Inge Roecker) the site the building sits on had been vacant for at least a decade. The first building on the site was the house built by D J McPhalen back when East Georgia was still called Harris Street.

Before images, 2011; after images 2014.

Skwachàys Healing Lodge & Residence – 31 West Pender Street

Pender HotelThe Pender hotel was one of over 20 Downtown Single Room Occupancy hotels bought by the Provincial Government in the past few years to help stabilise the supply of non-market housing in Vancouver’s Downtown. The Pender was the one structure that wasn’t worth repairing – the building was in such a poor state that demolition was the only option. The W T Whiteway designed facade was propped up, and a new building inserted behind, designed by Joe Wai.

The $12.2 million development offers 24 apartments of supportive housing for homeless people or those in danger of becoming homeless. In addition, the building includes 13 “healing lodge” apartments that provide 20 beds for aboriginal people traveling from rural communities to Vancouver for medical services. On top there’s a totem pole carved by Francis Horne Sr., whose traditional name is Khut-Whee-Mul-Uhk..On the main floor there’s an aboriginal art gallery, with a basement workshop.

Built in 1913 for Storey and Campbell, it was a residential building initially known as the Palmer Rooms over retail on the ground level. The building remained was purchased by Lai Hing who lived in the building and operated a hotel business as the Wingate Hotel for about 30 years, when the Pender Hotel name was used.

Before image 2010; after image 2012.

Paris Block and Paris Annex

Paris block

The Paris Block was rebuilt at the end of 2008, with Gair Williamson’s conversion of the former home of Pierre Paris and Sons, boot makers and later orthotics specialists. Built as a traveller’s hotel, the Strathcona, by the early 2000s the building was deserted, sometimes squatted, and in a bad way. 

Paris Annex

Finally completed in mid 2012, the Paris Annex is a small (17 unit) 6-storey condo over retail that is joined to the adjacent heritage restoration of the former Strathcona Hotel, these days called the Paris Block. Also designed by Gair Williamson Architects the Annex is uncompromisingly contemporary, standing back (literally) to give the restored neighbour the street-front presence.

It replaced the Miller Block, a 2-storey building dating from 1947 that had an almost Art Deco feel with its unusual black and green facade.

Before images 2004; after images 2010 and 2012

Pacific Place Apartments

Pacific Coast Apartments

The Pacific Coast Apartments is one of fourteen projects for non-market housing funded by BC Housing on sites provided by the City of Vancouver. Designed by Davidson Yuen Simpson it replaces the Pender Ballroom – also known as the Pender Auditorium, once home to Grateful Dead concerts, which went up in flames in 2003. In between the fire and construction the site was temporarily a parking lot.

The new building now provides 96 units of housing, completed in early 2011 and managed by the Coast Foundation.

before image, 2001: after image 2011

1005 Station Street

1005 Station 1

Altogether fourteen sites for new non-market housing were offered by the City of Vancouver for funding by the Provincial Government. This was the first to be completed, with 80 tenants moving in from January 2011. Although it has a Station Street address, it also fronts onto Main Street. All the schemes are designed to meet LEED Gold standards; this one is by Neale, Staniskis, Doll, Adams. The site was cleared for many years, altghough you can just see where a smaller 2-storey building used to stand on the southern end of the site.

Before images 2008; after images 2011

1005 Station 2


V6A 1

V6A is the postcode and the name of this condo and retail building on the Union Street bike route just off Main Street. It’s a single building, designed by Lawrence Doyle Architects to look like three, and it’s a huge change from the almost windowless produce sheds and century old remaining houses that were there only a couple of years before.

There are several successful restaurants in the main floor, showing that sometimes condos and food establishments can co-exist.

Before images 2006 and 2007; after images 2011

V6A 2


Woodwards 1

Woodwards is known for the two massive condo towers with over 500 apartments, and another 200 units of non-market housing. On the Hastings side the brickwork of the original 1903 W T Whiteway building was tied to a new frame, with offices behind, while further west a new building houses SFU’s Arts Faculty with residential above. Inside the Henriquez Partners designed atrium is a huge artwork by Stan Douglas called Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, with a recreation of the violent end to a Gastown clash between the police and counter-culture of the day. There’s a food store and London Drugs too.

before images 2003 and 2005; after images 2010

Woodwards 2

Wing Sang

Wing Sang

Chinese trader Yip Sang built his first Wing Sang Company premises in Chinatown in 1889. Over only a few years he added additional phases, and in the back a 5-storey residential wing for his wives and over 20 children (He had four wives, but only three were alive at the same time). By the turn of the 21st century the building wasn’t in great shape.

Property marketer Bob Rennie spent over $20m restoring the buildings in 2010, with his offices on Pender and his extensive contemporary art collection filling the residential wing. Martin Creed’s neon artwork reading ‘Everything Is Going to be Alright’ was added on top – something Bob must be hoping is true as he tries to sell the remaining Olympic Village condos.

before image 2005, after image 2010