Woodward’s redevelopment scheme receives approval from city council

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

John Bermingham and Matthew Ramsey


CREDIT: Ric Ernst, The Province

The Westbank Projects/Peter-son proposal will redevelop the Woodward’s building site on West Hastings in Vancouver.

Westbank Projects/Peterson Investment Group has been given the nod to develop the Woodward’s site in downtown Vancouver.

City councillors voted last night to give the developer the go-ahead after a long and vocal public hearing and a debate that has raged for 11 years since the store closed its doors.

The approved plan includes at least 100 social housing units, restoration of the 1908 building, saving the landmark W sign, public indoor spaces and a daycare. Work is scheduled to begin in 2006 and be completed in 2007.

The city has the next 180 days to work out the details. Two other proposals are being kept on the back-burner should the process with Westbank derail.

Coun. Jim Green was elated with last night’s results.

“We just had a great victory,” he said, adding that negotiations with the provincial and federal governments for additional money to include more social housing units are ongoing.

“Two hundred is about the proper amount,” he said.

Many speakers at the hearing demanded the city push for a higher number of social housing units. Westbank head Ian Gillespie has said there is room in the development for 236.

Sister Elizabeth Kelliher drew a biblical parallel, saying that the rich man burned in hell for ignoring the cries of poor man Lazarus.

“What had this [rich] man done to deserve eternal punishment? He had not heard the cry of the poor,” she said.

Kelliher said if the city fails to deliver 250 housing units for the neediest people in the new Woodward’s, it will be acting like the rich man.

“Please listen to the cry for housing in this building,” she said.

As part of buying the site from the province, the city got 100 units of social housing guaranteed, but only 60 of those are to be “deep core” or welfare housing units.

Jim Leyden, who heads the Woodward’s Social Housing Coalition, said there should be 250 deep-core housing units, not 60.

All along, the city’s position has been that it must be a mixture of high, medium and low-subsidized units.

“There will not be 250 units of deep-core housing,” Mayor Larry Campbell told Leyden bluntly.

The city figures it would cost $30 million to fund another 135 housing units. And only Victoria or Ottawa has that kind of cash.

© The Vancouver Province 2004

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