View from Harbour Centre Lookout south east

The before image here is from 1981, and the contemporary image was taken about 18 months ago, although very little has changed since. (That won’t be true in future, as the viaducts cutting across the image are due to be demolished at some point in the near future).

There are three landmarks, each over a century old. In the foreground is the top of the Dominion Building, developed by the Dominion Trust in the late 1900s and completed in 1910, designed by J S Helyer and Son, and replacing an earlier retail building called The Arcade. On the corner of Hastings and Cambie is the Province Building (once home to the newspaper of the same name) developed by the newspaper owner Francis Carter Cotton and completed in 1908. He also built the adjacent and linked building on West Pender Street that became home to wholesale fruit and vegetable dealer H A Edgett. A A Cox designed both buildings. Further up West Pender is the Sun Tower (the name coming from another newspaper) developed in 1910, designed by W T Whiteway and completed in 1912 for Daily World owner L D Taylor, who was mayor of Vancouver for several terms between 1910 and 1930.

Beyond those buildings, and the row of warehouses down Beatty Street, was a soon to abandoned industrial landscape. Once home to heavy industries, and heavily polluted with metals and chemicals, in 1981 there were a number of warehouse and shipping operations and at the ends of False Creek, a concrete batching plant. The viaducts were the second structure – the first so badly built that the plan to run trams over the bridge was abandoned as it couldn’t take the weight. The new viaduct was the only part of an ambitious plan to run a highway through and round Downtown from Highway 1. It would have cut through the early residential Strathcona neighbourhood, removed much of Chinatown and then replaced the warehouses of Gastown. Some versions of the plans added complex cloverleaf junctions and cut through the West End. Delays and changing governments (and priorities) ensured only the replacement for the structurally compromised existing viaduct was funded.

It crossed a landscape that changed significantly after this picture when Expo 86 was built on the land around the end of the Creek in the mid 1980s. Subsequently the land was sold to a few developers. Concord Pacific developed most of the site (and continue to do so today, over 30 years later), but two other developers were responsible for the residential transformation today. Between 1989 and 2007 Bosa Development built over 1,000 units at the end of False Creek, between Main and Quebec Streets. Five towers can be seen today, with a sixth the headquarters of the Vancity Credit Union which spans the tracks of the Skytrain. Closer to us is International Village, a complex of six towers and a supermarket, retail mall and cinema built over a similar period to Citygate by Henderson Developments, a Hong Kong based developer. The worst polluted soils were retained on site and capped, with Andy Livingstone Park built on top.

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