Gritty, varied, authentic, fraught: few areas of Vancouver are home to as much controversy as the Downtown Eastside. Once the glittering centre of downtown, with Main Street more than living up to its name, the area is now home to a dense concentration of services for people on the margins, and was until recently also known as “Skid Road.” Spurred on by its relative affordability, heavy development encroaches on the DTES’s north and west flanks; these areas have been marketed as eastern Gastown and Railtown, to distinguish themselves from what’s seen as a less-than-sellable name. But the DTES is an unavoidable part of the larger community; it’s home to a great number of historic landmarks and plenty of underappreciated businesses worth a visit.
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The controversy over a proposed Keefer Street development begs a big question: can we preserve our heritage and keep our neighbourhoods alive?