The thicket of condo towers and abundant public spaces in Vancouver, British Columbia, make this Canadian city an urban planner’s dream. Over the past two decades, the downtown population has doubled to 80,000 residents. But as the city prepares for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the spotlight is turning to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, which is located in Canada’s poorest zip code and suffers from chronic homelessness, drug abuse, and prostitution. Revitalization has the support of mayor Sam Sullivan, who wants cleaning up the area to be an Olympic legacy, but affordable housing advocates fear a new wave of displacement in a city that already has Canada’s highest housing prices.
Designed by Henriquez Partners Architects, the Woodward’s District encompasses four interconnected buildings containing 500 market-rate and 200 low-income residential housing units, a supermarket, drug store, and offices for nonprofits (top). The 400-foot “W” tower will feature a living “green wall,” consisting of evergreen and deciduous vines mounted on a steel exoskeleton (middle). The redevelopment calls for restoring masonry facades and making seismic upgrades in the original Woodward’s department store structure, built in 1903 (right).