Focal Point: Carrall Street

A recent story in the Vancouver Sun regarding an 11th-hour reprieve for the old maple trees on Carrall street, between Water and Cordova, made me want to focus on Carrall Street.

I've heard the project called everything from a 'tiny step in the right direction' to 'the great wall of development', the current demarcation of the 'east' from the 'west'.

The construction seems to be entering its final stages, now that the block from Cordova to Powell/Water is closed off - only the block from Cordova to Pender will remain unfinished. The idea, as a "major public realm, community building and economic revitalization initiative", has been to:

"link north False Creek with the Burrard Inlet, completing a seawall loop around Downtown and Stanley Park, and connecting a series of parks, plazas and historic sites in Gastown, Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and Chinatown".

The street serves as a prime example of the many forces and interests active in this city meeting in one place. Here's what I know of the area, a bit of a stream-of-consciousness tour, starting from the South end, at False Creek. There's a bit of a photo-essay here, courtesy of squeakymarmot.

- At false creek, the recently-built Concord Pacific show-condo setup trumpets "20 years of Concord Pacific". This parking lot, which held the HSST maglev train (out back of the Japan pavilion) at Expo 86, was part of the land purchased by what has since become Canada's largest real-estate development company for a song.

- 525 Carrall St: the Lim Society building, one of the many buildings owned and managed by various benevolent societies from the Chinese community, near the gateway to Chinatown

In this block, between Keefer and Pender, the bicycle path is separated from the road, as it is through the block to False Creek. While it's a whole TWO blocks long, the potential for further similar development has cyclists pretty excited. Though following that link to this one shows some examples of proper cycling right-of-ways.

- 425 Carrall Street: the BC Electric Railway Company Terminal. This building, now housing offices, used to be the BCER headquarters. It was the centre of the tramway network, and the terminus station for the various Vancouver interurban lines was here (where the art gallery is currently).

- Across the street at 412 Carrall Street is the Hotel Pennsylvania, which recently re-opened as an incredible example of new SRO housing. The Portland Hotel Society is running the building, which now sports a total restoration of the neon sign out front, and a private bathroom for many of the restored suites.

- Pidgeon Park is a bit further north on Hastings Street, in front of the Merchants Bank (Bank of Montreal). CFRO 102.7 (a nonprofit, co-op radio station) was located in this building for a long time.

- 16 East Cordova Street: The Van Horne. This condo tower was the 'anchor' or 'beacon' of the farthest reaches of gentrification eastward for a long time (part of the mid-90's wave that also spawned Tinseltown). I still wonder how many people that bought in there either didn't know what they were getting into, or have still just hung on in hopes of the big payoff (now that might 'hopefully' come after the Olympics).

- 9 West Cordova: the Boulder Hotel. An amazing stone building whose upstairs rooms have been vacant for decades, but whose main floor became the fancy Boneta restaurant a few years ago. The fact that the hotel didn't currently house anyone must have been a selling point for the current owners, who also bought up the old Pig n Whistle next door and a nondescript but interesting building / garage in the alley. There was a public stressing over the renewal of Boneta's lease last year, when the owners were looking to redevelop the site, but now it appears they are just trying to sell it all off (it's for sale).

- The entrance to "blood alley" is here as well, as well as what I used to call the "Irish Heather alley", which features cobblestone paths and 100-year old ivy. The Irish Heather, and related Shebeen and Salty Tongue have all recently moved across the street to a very-upscale-stylish-renovated King's Hotel. A Salient development has torn the hell out of the previously accessible thoroughfare of 'Gaoler's Mews'.. it will be interesting to see how it looks when it's done.

- 21 Water Street, which was a touristy restaurant for a long time, is now a crappy Kits-style furniture store filled with upscale Ikea-esque overpriced knack.

- If you could continue travelling north, you'd hit the edge of the original location for the proposed 'waterfront soccer stadium', which has since been relocated next to the seabus terminal (150m west). This proposal has become a huge issue for the neighbourhood. I can't believe this is still in the works, but the latest news story I can find is that Larry Campbell had waded into the fray last April.

- Perhaps the proposed stadium is part of the reason the proposed extension to the new Vancouver Downtown Streetcar would reach this far (after heading up Columbia, one block east of Carrall), and connect to Skytrain / Seabus here, before heading further west to Coal Harbour.

- Oh, and the west edge of Crab park is also at the waterfront.

>> photo by wenzday01