Curtain closing on crumbling DTES landmark

A gaggle of protesters, including a few from Occupy Vancouver, paid a visit to the Downtown Eastside last night.

They’re unhappy with the number of condos being built along Hastings Street, and wanted to tell the world that no market housing should be allowed in the Downtown Eastside, so long as there are still people living on the streets and in shelters.

Carrying signs and umbrellas, the group of activists unfurled a banner in the middle of West Hastings, tying up rush hour traffic for a few hours.

Some even climbed the scaffolding of a condo development that’s still under construction next to Save-on-Meats.

I was a little worried it would turn messy, but the protestors proved reasonable and decided to leave after a few hours. I think they realized they’d made their point. Many of the demonstrators thanked myself and other police officers for giving them the opportunity to have their say.

One flipped me the bird and told me to get a real job. Oh well. Can’t please everyone.

One of the projects the group is most upset about it the redevelopment of the old Pantages Theatre, next to the Regent Hotel on East Hastings.

I’ll admit that I, too, have watched with some sadness for the past couple months as that little piece of Vancouver history has been torn down — literally brick by brick.

The Pantages Theatre opened in 1908 as only the second in a chain of theatres built by vaudevillian Alexander Pantages. It was the oldest remaining vaudeville theatre in North America.

Now, most of the structure is reduced to a pile of bricks and rubble, as work crews tear the old theatre to the ground to make way for condos.

Supposedly named Sequel 138, the new project is said to include some affordable market housing and space for artists.┬áIt’ll be smack in the middle of skid row, surrounded by three of the most run-down rooming houses on the block and directly across from the supervised injection site.

Though it was never much to look at from the outside, I’m told the interior of the old Pantages was quite something to see.

It’s been mothballed and locked up since I started working here, and though there was some suggestion a few years back that it would be restored as part of a major redevelopment, those designs obviously fell through.

Too bad. It would have been nice to see this place restored to its original glory rather than gutted. I’m sure it would have been a great place for a concert, a play or a town-hall meeting.

Heritage Vancouver Society had been pressuring the City of Vancouver to buy the old landmark and come up with a plan to save it.

Unfortunately, the building had been neglected for too long and was practically beyond repair. A leaky roof had caused a soggy mess inside, and much of the structure was in danger of collapse.

Demolition started months ago, and it seems like it’s taking forever. While poking around the site last week I asked one of the workers why they don’t just take a wrecking ball to it.

He explained that the 100-year-old theatre is being dismantled brick by brick then shipped out to be used in another development project elsewhere in the Lower Mainland. So, at least parts of the old Pantages will live on.

That’s a little comfort for we heritage buffs. Not so much for the housing advocates.

Tweet the Beat: Don’t forget to join me tonight as I make my first foray into the Twittersphere. Starting at 3 p.m. I’ll take readers on a tweet-a-long through the Downtown Eastside, giving regular updates throughout my shift under the hashtag #CstSteve. You can follow along at VPD’s Twitter feed, @Vancouver PD. Be sure to send in your questions and comments. I’ll try to get to them when I have some down time.

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7 Responses to Curtain closing on crumbling DTES landmark

  1. Dan says:

    Healthy communities need a mixture of housing types and people, not just social housing for the poor. The DTES has enough social housing already. Future social housing projects should be built in other parts of the city. Don’t concentrate poor people into a single neighbourhood, it’s not good for anyone, including poor people.

  2. Lenae Silva says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing this blog. Thank you for not making these people out to be monsters. My oldest brother is a heroin addict (you probably know him actually) and I have grown up on the outside looking in. I see the way people treat addicts, as some sort of less than human waste of space, and to me it seems that just progesses their illness further. It’s so hard, because as you say, these people are someones son, daughter, brother, sister, etc. He is my brother, who I worry about and love very much. People like you, especially as a cop, speaking out like this, just talking about your own views on the people and places you see everyday, I believe will help a lot of people recognize that the people living down there are still people. Some are amazing, talented, wonderful people, that in DTES context “aren’t that bad”, and there are other who are at rock bottom, at the worst points in their lives and in the worst state that anyone could face, and have to do terrible, ugly things to survive (and yes, surviving unfortunately means getting that next fix). But in reality they are all still people. And I feel like quite often, that’s forgotten. Please never forget that they are people, and there is someone somewhere who loves them dearly. Thank you for stopping to talk to them when they are alone and at the end. Thank you for not throwing every addict in jail for trying to survive. Thank you for saving so many lives. Thank you for helping a person in need, one who other people would walk past because they’re a “junkie”. Thank you for writing this blog. Keep writing so you can show the world who they are. Thank you.

  3. james Moffit says:

    I’ve lived in the DTES for a few years, and as an artist, this is pretty much the only place in Vancouver that I can afford to pay in rent costs. I walk by the Pantages on a daily basis. The 100 block of Hastings and Main is a sad depressing place and the building itself has been shuttered for years. It makes me sick that these so called activists calling for a boycott are not looking at the bigger picture. Nor do they represent the people here. They certainly are not my voice, nor the voice of reason. I suspect that the real reason behind people like [deleted] and [deleted] opposing the building is because a healthy neighborhood threatens their jobs.

    Instead of working with the developers and small businesses and the community in general it seems from what I’ve read they’ve resorted to petty tactics bordering on criminal.

    I welcome affordable housing. I welcome the small businesses that may open on that block, I welcome the city doing something about the open and rampant drug dealing on the corner. When the ugly business of protesting is over, these social worker activists [deleted] go home to their suburban houses in Burnaby and Surrey or [deleted] who lives according to her city nomination papers on Oxford Street where ever that is leaving people like me and some of my neighbors waiting and wondering what tomorrow will bring

    • saddison says:

      Some interesting points James. Thanks for taking the time to write. I’ve removed your references to specific individuals, as I’d like to keep this conversation from getting personal. That would only detract from your message.

  4. James says:

    The guy who flipped you the bird must have felt real big, flipping off a police officer. Prick. And if all cops got “real jobs”, i wonder how he would feel if he or a loved one was getting robbed, and no one answers 911.

  5. Raingurl says:

    My boyfriend was quite adamant about tearing the whole DTES down and starting over. I said some of the buildings are just too precious. He said TEAR IT DOWN and start over again. I was quite shocked since this has been his ‘hood on and off for years.