Some Marpole residents struggling with rapidly changing face of neighbourhood
Extensive redevelopment is destabilizing many long-term locals
By Virender Singh
Marpole is losing its sense of community due to rapid and widespread redevelopment, according to some long-term locals who have seen the neighbourhood evolve fast and furiously.
New condos and townhomes being built along Cambie, Oak and Granville streets are not only changing Marpole’s socio-economic landscape but also displacing some of its long-term residents, who can’t afford to remain there or feel the area’s character has been compromised.
Rob Johal, a Marpole resident for over 30 years, said though the side streets are still the same, the main corridor is changing “the feel of the neighbourhood.”
“You’re getting the feel of a downtown in an area that’s not a downtown, which is why Vancouver is not very family or kid friendly anymore,” Johal said.
The City’s vision
In 2014, when the City of Vancouver approved the Marpole community plan, it promised to retain the neighbourhood’s character by only “focusing growth near major streets.”
While the City of Vancouver is waiting to collect more recent data from Marpole neighbourhood house as part of the census to analyze whether there is an actual shift in the demographic, residents like Johal point to a trend of families who would “rather live a bit more comfortably” out in Fraser Valley, in places like Surrey, Coquitlam, or Abbotsford. The last data was collected in 2016.
“Marpole itself, the original non-native settlement, is actually older than Vancouver,” said John Atkin, a heritage consultant and part of the team that helped write the historical context for the Marpole community plan.
Residents’ concerns on redevelopment
Local Anna Curtis rents one of the older, single-family homes that could be torn down soon. Whether the new development will be rentals or condos is still unknown and depends on developers.
She had hoped her family would not have to move while her children are still in school but her co-op’s land lease is ending soon. If developers don’t have a solid plan for the land, co-op residents will get to stay, she said. However, if they have an acceptable plan, residents will have to move. Once the land lease expires, the residents will know if rezoning has been approved.
“We are in a prime area, I know, but that shouldn’t mean that people who have been here for years get kicked out,” Curtis said.
Most tenancy agreements state that existing tenants get the right to move into the new development first, but many like Curtis are concerned they won’t be able to afford the new rent. Finding temporary housing in the interim should the new development proceed could also be a problem for residents.
Betty Henshaw, who has lived in Marpole for close to 70 years, is worried about how the new construction will affect the landscape.
“We won’t have enough green space,” said Henshaw, adding that some new developments are built much higher than smaller residential buildings and houses, casting a tall shadow over them. “If they’re going to build, it can go up to six storeys, so the people behind you won’t get any light.”
Atkin said it’s possible to redevelop the area in a way that “contributes architecturally because it keeps something and provides a really important service to the community.”
While some long-term locals may struggle with the rapid changes, gathering spaces like Marpole Neighbourhood House, once a firehall, have been developed to function as a “living room” for people to meet their neighbours.
Many heritage buildings have been preserved and used for different purposes over time. The Abbeyfield House, built in 1912, once served as a children’s hospital, and is now a retirement home.
John Atkin a civic historian talks about significant changes in Marpole area.