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Bruce Allen: The condo proposal for Keefer Street needs to be approved

The Beedie proposal is a good place for Chinatown revitalization to proceed
A model of Beedie's condo proposal for 105 Keefer St.

Over the years, I’ve met various members of the Beedie family. They are in the construction business and over the years have contributed to our skyline.

But I have always wondered why they battled over a small project (for them) at 105 Keefer Street.

The Beedie team wanted to build a nine-storey mixed-use building, but those who opposed the idea seemed to think that such a structure was not in keeping with the neighbourhood. And in 2017, the Beedie’s application for a development permit was denied.

Put a fork in it. Done. Move on. You’d think so.

But then out of nowhere, in December of 2022, the courts ordered the city to reconsider the Beedie project and what they were offering.

Let's call a spade a spade here. Building a nine-storey building at 105 Keefer Street is not out of place in that area. In fact, the area needs it. Desperately. Because Chinatown seems to be heading toward oblivion, and anything that smells like an improvement should be welcomed with open arms.

There have been other movements in that direction with provincial and civic funding being targeted for that area. Vancouver City Council approved $1.5M to clean up the area. And the province of British Columbia is kicking in another $2.2M grant to help support revitalization of the neighbourhood.

What is also nice to see is that the feds pitched in another $1.8M to support the revitalization. No, these aren’t big numbers, but they are a start. And getting the go- ahead for a nine-storey condo development is going to be a winner.

A spokesperson for the development company has said that the construction of the building will bring much needed housing to the area. I believe that should not be housing for only those needing social housing. The area is rife with these places and look at what it has accomplished. Nothing. It’s worse than ever. We need Chinatown to be what it was in the 70’s and 80’s; vibrant, with great places to eat and have fun.

The Marco Polo (with the best Chinese buffet in the city) brought in great shows like Richard Pryor and Nina Simone and was shuttered in 1982. The HoHo is gone. Along with the Daisy Garden Restaurant and “the knock twice before entering” Red Door. (I don’t know why you had to knock twice but at least it felt nefarious for a minute!) All of that vibe is gone.

Chinatown is under siege. I don’t need to explain why. Those who support the condo development say it will stop the legendary area from turning into another Vancouver disgrace. But those who want social housing are well-organized. They are already out there, protesting anything at 105 Keefer that doesn’t turn a beacon of hope to Chinatown into another mixed-housing disaster.

As usual, this dogmatic group is missing the big picture. If the Beedie development goes ahead it will be an asset in many ways. It will be the demarcation for people who want to believe that they can live down in Chinatown safely. There can still be a decent number of units in the development that could house senior and low-income people who want to live in a well-kept building.

Believe me, that is hard to find in the Lower East Side. Again, if the Beedie project can go ahead, it will be an important cog in the revitalization of Chinatown. It’s a no-brainer. It's time for a statement to be made. The city should be saying that they are not giving up on the area surrounding 105 Keefer Street. A “yes” to the Beedie Plan is a good place to start.

Bruce Allen is a music manager and a commentator.