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Businesses to showcase DTES innovations in wake of gentrification

By Tyler Orton, 24 Hours Vancouver

The owner of Save On Meats Mark Brand talks the media about the the stolen sandwich-board sign outside his shop March 21, 2013. (FILE PHOTO)

The owner of Save On Meats Mark Brand talks the media about the the stolen sandwich-board sign outside his shop March 21, 2013. (FILE PHOTO)

As protesters picket upscale restaurants and anti-poverty activists steal sandwich-board signs from trendy diners, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside hasn’t appeared to be the most welcoming spot to new businesses since the year began, according to Wes Regan.

But the executive director of the Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association wants to prove looks can be deceiving. His organization is hosting a DTES safety and crime community meeting Wednesday evening aimed at highlighting the innovations prevalent throughout the often-troubled neighbourhood.

“When I see people either protesting or stealing signs or smashing windows, that to me is a misplaced use of their energy,” Regan said, adding he wants the meeting at the Lost and Found Cafe on West Hastings Street to showcase the importance of creating more business opportunities in the neighbourhood.

Regan pointed to the Pigeon Park Market, where street vendors gather every Sunday to sell items they’ve collected, as one of best examples of micro-enterprise in the DTES.

“When low-income residents have more spending power, that is good for all businesses.”

Mission Possible executive director Brian Postlewait is speaking at the meeting about his organization’s community safety program — MP Neighbours — which hires about a dozen people who have recovered from addiction or mental health issues to patrol the DTES.

“We’re in a very complex community,” he said. “(MP Neighbours) are able to build bridges in the community because they live in the community.”

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