It's hard to have a conversation about gentrification, with all the baggage around the word. As long as many argue that any level of gentrification is to be absolutely avoided, positive and responsible change remains virtually impossible. Recently urbanist Richard Florida joined others in suggesting we need a new word to replace gentrification, asking "if all economic development and neighbourhood revitalization is gentrification, how do we grow and improve our urban areas?"
Don't underestimate the power of a letter, especially the power of many pens. Sandi Rae, a teacher at Mt. Slesse Middle School in Chilliwack, B.C. recently wrote an email -- that counts as a letter, right? -- telling us about her Grade 9 Leadership class and their letter-writing campaign to protest funding cuts for the Rainier Hotel in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
This model of development, mixing both non-market and market uses in a self-supported manner is an innovative, yet repeatable approach. We recognize these two projects will not solve the housing or affordability issues that plague Vancouver, but we do believe they are small, positive steps forward towards creating more vibrant mixed communities throughout the city.
Talk is cheap, and Vancouver's Mark Brand exemplifies the social entrepreneur who's all about getting things done. Brand's business isn't about stuffing his personal bottom line. Over coffee at his diner, Save On Meats, he shared his vision and goal for being a leader and creating a social business model that's independently sustainable, while supporting the local community.