Vancouver, the Beautiful

View of Mountains in North Vancouver
Last week I was in Vancouver for the first time since the early 1980s. A lot has changed both in my circumstances and in those of the city. Downtown Vancouver no longer appears to be the end of the line for runaways, drug addicts, panhandlers and prostitutes. This may still be the case in the Down Town East Side (DTES); however, I was struck more by the opulence of the city's core--the empty office towers, the new BC Place stadium, the Colosseum-style library, the Skytrain, the Olympic and Expo buildings and the emptiness of the once thriving Chinatown.

Cherry Blossom
If my memory serves me correctly, downtown Vancouver was much more Asian, Native and gritty. I was told that the city had gone through several successive clean-ups in recent decades and that certain populations had been shifted to other areas of the Lower Mainland. I once felt like a foreigner in the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, which has apparently moved south to the city of Richmond. The empty office buildings, I was told, were the holdings of wealthy Chinese poised for the next economic boom, which was expected sometime in the next three years. In addition, some 130,000 new immigrants were expected to arrive in Vancouver shortly, according to our tour bus driver.

Gates to Chinatown

Of course, some things had not changed. The 1,000-acre Stanley Park, just west of the downtown, was still there with its towering trees and relatively new seawall for cyclists and pedestrians. The fresh forest air, the smell of red cedar and the beauty of the surrounding coastal mountains are among my fondest memories of British Columbia. We were just in time for the cherry blossoms and azaleas, but it had been a cold spring, so the rose garden in Stanley Park had only some tender green to offer.

So which Vancouver do I prefer? The new orderly wealthy White city or the old, adventurous, multi-ethnic chaotic mixture of rich and poor. Difficult to say...orderly is good for investments, which leave me indifferent, while diversity makes for a much more interesting city, or is that just nostalgia speaking? Whatever you prefer, the sushi is still cheap and the rain plentiful.

For further reading on real estate speculation in Vancouver click here.



JWL | May 16, 2011 at 11:20 PM

if anything the change in Vancouver has had the phenomenon of Ethnic groups settling in poorer districts
and then moving on as they get more affluent. The DTES is rapidly being gentrified and the real-estate bubble is about to burst due to offshore speculation.
The city is definitely much more Asian than 20 years ago but more spread out.


Heather | May 18, 2011 at 6:31 AM

Yes, I've read that 98% of all real estate holdings in Richmond are Chinese-owned. I still miss the Chinatown of old.

Johanna | May 25, 2011 at 9:14 PM

I discovered the azalea and rhododendron garden at the Montreal Botanical Garden this weekend. I'm sure it'll be fully in bloom soon, and it's a wonderful spot for the kids to run around and play hide and seek.

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