When W E Graham took this picture in 1966, Strathcona was an area of the city that was still threatened with obliteration. The ‘urban renewal’ of the neighbourhood and parts of Chinatown were still on the table – although it was becoming apparent that the local community weren’t going to roll over and allow their homes to be bulldozed, at least not without a fight. Several blocks of houses and businesses had been flattened, and new rental housing (at higher densities) had been built, ostensibly to rehouse the community. The McLean Park housing development between Union, Keefer, Gore and Jackson is immediately behind the photographer; construction was started in 1963, and completed in 1970 (although the design dates from the 1950s).
The homes in the picture had already been expropriated by the City of Vancouver some years before. We don’t know who built them, or exactly when, but they were already built when the 1901 Goad’s Insurance map was published. In 1967 it became apparent that even if the City of Vancouver still favoured ‘slum clearance’ of the entire area, other levels of government wouldn’t be funding the remainder of the program. We’re not sure exactly when the houses were demolished; there’s an Archives image that shows a few were still standing on the block in 1973. The dramatic change in levels that resulted from the redevelopment can be seen clearly – the houses were on a much higher level because, as with much of Strathcona, the streets were leveled after the houses had been built.
The City’s plans for this site intended it to be sold to a private developer for market housing, and it was sold for a third of the cost to assemble it. The purchaser blew the deal and didn’t develop the land as promised; lawsuits ensued and the city eventually regained the land. The City then proposed that a fire hall should be built on the site, but after local objections that was built on Prior Street and the land was reserved for family housing. Mau Dan Gardens was developed by the Strathcona Area Housing Society, (a spin-off from the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association – SPOTA – the community group who successfully fought the comprehensive redevelopment of the area). It was designed by Joe Y Wai and Spaceworks Architects, and built by the Turnbull and Gale construction company. Some of the units were sold, and remain freehold properties.
The majority of the 128 unit project is a housing co-operative. The founding membership of the Co-operative were predominantly of Chinese ethnicity, but included families of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Japanese and Canadian origin. In the past couple of years the complex has been comprehensively updated for the first time since its 1981 completion. New energy efficient windows and roofs were provided, the wooden frame repaired where needed and a new rainscreen stucco finish applied to the outer walls over improved insulation and soundproofing.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-35 (reversed)