Photo: Ariana Gillrie
Skip the steam clock and venture deeper into this historic ’hood to sip cocktails on a cobblestone patio and watch the tourists take photos of anything and everything. People watching is practically a mandatory pastime for those who live and work here—there’s no shortage of subject matter—but if you’d prefer to look at actual artwork, Gastown is home to a dozen or so galleries open to the public too. There are also several creatively focused post-secondary institutions nearby, including the Vancouver Film School (alma mater of famous dropout Kevin Smith) and the renovated Woodward’s department store, which now houses the fine arts department of Simon Fraser University.
Real Estate: Heritage Character Comes at a Cost
Few neighbourhoods have changed as much as Gastown, which has transformed from an area of offices and tourist shops to a well-heeled, design-minded hub that’s drawing young, creative buyers. Amenities from grocery stores and pharmacies to trendy restaurants, shops and clubs have followed—and with the SkyTrain next door, it’s a favourite for car-free millennials. It’s also where architecture-lovers nab century-old character spaces with exposed brick, wood beams, loft bedrooms and high ceilings that are almost impossible to find in other areas of the city—and they’re paying a stiff premium even as other areas have cooled. Gastown has seen an influx of globetrotting buyers unfazed by the area’s edginess, says realtor Paul Albrighton. “People want to be somewhere more unique and hipster-like. They want more flavour.”
Did you know?
In 1971 hippies and police clashed in what would later be known as the Gastown Riot. Vancouver artist Stan Douglas painstakingly reenacted the event and produced a breathtaking 8-by-13-metre photograph permanently on display in the new Woodward’s building.
Median Age of Residents: 44.6
Average Monthly Rent: $826
Avg. Total Household Income: $54,727
The controversy over a proposed Keefer Street development begs a big question: can we preserve our heritage and keep our neighbourhoods alive?