A Pantages condo tower would be a gentrification bomb in the heart of the DTES

The owner of the Pantages Theatre and several adjoining properties in the 100 block of E. Hastings has been talking to CCAP and city about developing his large property with mostly condos and a few social housing units.

“If the Pantages land parcel is developed with mostly condos, it will be like a bomb going off in the 100 block of E. Hastings, pushing up rents of privately owned hotels with nearly 500 residents.” That’s what CCAP’s Wendy Pedersen says about the owner’s plan to develop his large site with more condos and a few social housing units, required by the area’s zoning.”

The history of the Pantages is significant. CCAP heard from the owner of Pantages Theatre, Marc Williams, that he tried to sell it to the city, possibly for future social housing, two separate times. Both times the purchase was turned down by council. Maybe City Council turned down the project because it was too expensive. More likely, they turned the deal down because it did not fit into their vision for more private market-rate “development” in the DTES. The Pantages Theatre, if turned into mostly condos, will be an important symbol of that vision.

Gentrification is moving through the DTES block-by-block. Woodward’s is the western gate of the city’s gentrification agenda; the ripple effects of Woodward’s have displaced low-income residents from their hotel rooms through raised rents and chased out low-income accessible shops and replaced them with boutiques with clothes for brides and dogs.

Block-by-block, building-by-building, plan-by-plan, project-by-project, the low-income community in the DTES can beat back this agenda. When I went petitioning door-to-door in the Regent Hotel for social housing at the Pantages, it was very clear to me that we can fight each gentrification project and win. Nearly every resident behind every door said the same thing:

“If they build condos at Pantages, we’re toast!”

“A condo tower in the 100 block? They might as well just blow up the Balmoral, the Regent and the Brandiz!”

Many low-income residents in the DTES understand that condo towers create homelessness, and our experiences are hard for the city to ignore. When we collect the signatures of many residents of the 100 block against condos at Pantages, we are setting a strong community foundation to fight from.

Let’s work together to pressure the Pantages’ owner to lower his selling price by showing him the strong resistance to his plan. And let’s pressure the city to buy the Pantages and designate it for 100% social housing because it makes sense. The city “says” they want to end homelessness and stop the displacement of the low-income community from the DTES; what they do at Pantages, an important symbolic site, will demonstrate if they are serious. ~Ivan Drury