Vancouver’s Newest Business Improvement Area
The Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association defines Hastings Crossing as the Downtown Vancouver area along Hastings Street from Richards Street east to Gore Avenue with portions of Cambie, Cordova, Dunsmuir, Hamilton, Main, Pender, and Powell streets.
There is no actual physical crossing except from East to West Vancouver, a divide that has influenced city culture, economics, and politics. The crossing is also temporal, says the association, into a new era as community groups, planners, and political leaders question and challenge established ways of doing business. Hastings Crossing is a business community for creativity, enterprise, and innovation. More than 650 businesses and property owners in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside comprise this creative and innovative community of entrepreneurs.
The association takes a leadership role in managing change to a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable Downtown Eastside local economy, meeting local business needs with community organizations that foster a vibrant, diverse area for all whether here daily or just one day.
The association mission is to promote and support member business and property owners, to advocate for their interests, and to contribute to the social, cultural, and economic well-being of the Hastings Crossing area. Driven by strong social and environmental values, the association dedicates itself to the authentic urban culture of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
The Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association works and cooperates with City of Vancouver planners and staff of elected leaders and with community groups, nonprofits, and local businesses to create and support initiatives to improve the condition of the local economy, management of the urban domain, and stewardship of the natural environment. The association supports removal graffiti and street debris, commercial and cultural events, and market strategies to draw consumers to area businesses.
Hastings Crossing has hundreds of innovative software designers, web developers, and other creative services, cozy cafes, fashionable restaurants, retail stores, professional services, social enterprises, and post-secondary educational institutions. The Carnegie Community Centre, Vancouver’s first library and one of its most beautiful neoclassical buildings, and Vancouver’s original city hall are in Hastings Crossing among scores of other heritage buildings.
Hastings Crossing enjoys a high concentration of artists. The Simon Fraser University School for Contemporary Arts and the Vancouver Film School draw musicians, actors, fashion designers, and entrepreneurs eager for a creative urban culture.
Hastings Street between Main and Cambie can be a study in contrasts of wealth and poverty. The challenge for the business improvement association is to revitalize the neighbourhood with new investment without displacing residents of modest means. All property owners inside association boundaries pay an annual contribution of $0.40 per $1,000 of assessed property commercial value to support the association’s programs. On paper, there are more than 300 businesses in the area, but only 70 have participated actively the association started in April 2011.
The association pursues an inclusive development model for future prosperity of the area, which, it argues, must not be gentrified traditionally by demolition, reconstruction, and displacement of the poor. The association’s pursuit may seem quixotic in a world where big money always seems to have the last say, but a former city planning director says social inclusion is a smart business strategy: Hire local people and help them make money so they can buy your products and afford your services and keep money in the community.