We’ve put Downtown & Yaletown together in our neighbourhoods because not only are they umbilically attached by way of Cambie/Homer Street, they also share the same modern, decidedly urban character. The architecture of downtown’s core is certainly older and more diverse (Vancouver Art Gallery, Hotel Vancouver, Christ Church Cathedral), but its newest and tallest buildings share the same Yaletown and Coal Harbour “City of Glass” aesthetic, so much so that it is at risk of being swallowed by its surrounding uniform ubiquity. The natural consequence, at least from the sidewalk perspective of the humble pedestrian, is a seamlessness that makes it tricky to distinguish the neighbourhoods apart.
That being said, there is an ordered box of blocks within Yaletown – the area inside Pacific, Homer, Drake, and Nelson – that is very distinct. It arose from the original warehouse/industrial district after Expo 86 as a gritty, somewhat edgy and affordable place to open fashionable eateries and boutiques. This area became the “it” destination spot of the ’00s, especially on the food and beverage front, with countless restaurants and lounges opening between the turn of the millennium and the 2010 Olympic Games. Its success, however, also attracted the big restaurant chains (eg. Cactus Club, Milestones, The Keg, Earls) and made the lease rates soar, two things that have put the area’s cool factor on ice and made it difficult for independent operations to compete. Today, only a handful of excellent eateries remain within this grid, like lighthouses in a raging sea of awful.
The liver of the downtown core has long been the Granville Entertainment District (GED), that is “the strip” of Granville St. between West Georgia and Drake. It used to be known as Theatre Row back in the day for its preponderance of movie theatres and live music/theatre venues. Today, only a few performance-oriented establishments remain, the movie theatres are all gone, and the business of “entertainment” is almost exclusively centred around the service of liquor to people coming in from the suburbs “to party”, which is to say fight, kick, spit, barf, stab, urinate, fuck, and occasionally shoot. Indeed, the modern GED serves as a cautionary tale. It is a black mark on City Hall’s dismal social engineering track record, for by purposely concentrating so many liquor primary establishments in one glammed-up touristy strip in the late 1990’s (so they could – ahem – “control” the drunks), they created an alcohol-fuelled, testosterone-driven shit-show that is of constant detriment to Vancouver’s reputation.
Of course it isn’t all bad, and if you’re really to understand what makes Vancouver tick, walking the GED’s length during the hectic course of a late Saturday night is absolutely essential, however unpleasant the prospect (and consequence) might be. It ain’t pretty, but the GED is – for better or for worse – an undeniable facet of who we are. It’s also important to note that downtown is so much more than just the GED. Though much of it is given over to the corporate, speculative, and financial world (not to mention the chain restaurants that aim to serve that world), there are many isolated pockets of fascination, like the ESL student concentrations around Dunsmuir and Howe, the Crosstown block of Beatty St., the growing food & books strip on the 300 & 400 blocks of West Pender, the vinyl shops of West Hastings, the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery, and so on. There’s a lot to explore and enjoy in these parts, so get at it!
In Downtown & Yaletown at the moment (our HOOD palettes are ever-changing), we’re seeing spray-on tan bronze/orange; Glowbal’s puke green; Montreal smoked meat at PHAT, Copper blue/green roof of the Hotel Vancouver; Cactus Club staff miniskirt black; Chambar burgundy and gold; Canucks green and blue (see also the Electra Building); Vancouver Whitecaps two shades of blue; dyed blond hair; Starbucks green; Translink (Skytrain) blue and yellow; the walls at Cioppino’s.
AN ANCIENT BOWLING ALLEY WITH THE CITY’S MOST ANCIENT WASHROOM
LIVE MUSIC VENUES BOTH SMALL & LARGE
THE SUMMER FOLIAGE TUNNEL ON HORNBY (SEE PHOTO ABOVE)
THE ART DECO MASTERPIECE KNOWN AS THE MARINE BUILDING
PETTY DRIVERS/CYCLISTS ANGRY AT PETTY CYCLISTS/DRIVERS
THE SOARING KINETIC PENDULUM SCULPTURE IN THE LOBBY OF THE HSBC BUILDING
DRUNK SUBURBAN WANNABE GANGSTERS SPOILING FOR A FIGHT
THE STORIED PENTHOUSE STRIP CLUB
ROGERS ARENA AND BC PLACE (VENUES FOR VANCOUVER CANUCKS, WHITECAPS, BC LIONS)
THE EMBARRASSING SHITSHOW THAT IS THE GRANVILLE ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT
DOZENS OF BORING HIGH RISE BUILDINGS THAT ARE INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM ONE ANOTHER
THE INEXPLICABLE ABSENCE OF ROOFTOP PATIOS
BUS DRIVERS WHO COULD GIVE A SHIT
THE AWESOME CHAOS AND MAJESTY OF MCCLEOD’S BOOKS
STRETCHED SUV LIMOUSINES FILLED WITH SCREAMING GIRLS WITH NO RESERVATIONS
THE STUNNING ELECTRA BUILDING
GOOD PICNICKING IN DAVID LAM PARK
VERY SMALL DOGS LIVING IN VERY SMALL APARTMENTS
THE VANCOUVER ART GALLERY
ANNUAL 4/20 MARIJUANA CELEBRATIONS
THE BURGER (AND SO MANY OTHER THINGS BESIDES) AT HAWKSWORTH
PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING AT CIOPPINO’S MEDITERRANEAN GRILL
MONTREAL SMOKED MEAT SANDWICHES AT PHAT
CANADIAN WHISKY BACON DONUTS AT CARTEMS
FRESH OYSTERS AT JOE FORTES
MIXED BAG OF EVERYTHING FROM KARAMELLER CANDY
CONFIT CHICKEN & PROSCIUTTO SANDWICHES AT UVA
COFFEE FROM CAFFE ARTIGIANO
OUTSTANDING MODERN PERUVIAN FARE ON THE SEAWALL PATIO AT ANCORA
MINIATURE SALTED CARAMEL CHEESECAKE AT SMALL VICTORY
CHICAGO STEAKS AT GOTHAM
JIDORI CHICKEN & FOIE GRAS GYOZA AT MINAMI
EAST WEST CRAB CAKES AT BIN 941
MOULES FRITES & PINK PEPPERCORN POUTINE AT CHAMBAR
OH MAN…THE CHICKEN AT HOMER STREET
DOUBLE STUFFED POTATOES AT HY’S ENCORE
SPECIAL “UNSUNG HERO” SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD MENU AT BLUE WATER CAFE
MAFALDA ALL’AMATRICIANA AT LA PENTOLA DELLA QUERCIA
TERIMAYO HOT DOG AT JAPADOG
SPAGHETTI POMODORO AT LUPO
ALSATIAN TARTS & A LA MINUTE BEEF TARTARE AT LE CROCODILE
MANHATTAN COCKTAIL AT BACCHUS
– Established in 1930, the Commodore Lanes is Canada’s oldest surviving bowling hall.
– The Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown features an original engine turntable as its amphitheater. This area, prior to post-Expo renovation, was a large industrial zone filled with warehouses and factories.
– Vancouver once boasted over 19,000 neon signs, most of them found along busy Granville Street. It was known during the 1940s and 50s as “The Great White Way”.
– The first Vancouver Art Gallery, opened in 1931, was located in a 1911 art deco-style building a few blocks down from its current location. At its entrance it featured large busts of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
– From 1946-1948, the second Hotel Vancouver (two blocks from the current location) was used as housing for homeless World War II veterans.