“The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
Goldman Sachs’ kind walk among us. They’re definitely smaller, a little less conspicuous, but every bit as bloodthirsty. The Beedie sub-species are on display at the 105 Keefer rezoning application open house at the Chinese Cultural Centre. They’re here to observe and spin, in the face of community opposition, a positive impression of the latest iteration of their Chinatown condominium project.
Of course they’re playing the game, making revisions, changing designs. They’re all too willing to shave off a floor, reduce the number of social housing units, and plop some art, somewhere.
But it’s their forth kick at the can. They’re not here to engage in some kind of public dialogue about the cultural life of Chinatown. This is America: time is money. It’s the square footage they want and they’ll take it anyway they can. This is going to happen, by hook, crook, and campaign donation. Patience is running low. The beast must feed.
The tension level is set by the rent-a-thugs at the front door. Beedie’s security drones are thick of limb, thicker of skull, and dead of eye. I saunter past a lunk watching me with all the sentience of an upended chesterfield. Clearly, I’m too legit. With others they take a more hands-on approach.
I enter on a demonstration already in progress: a phalanx of placarded youth are rallying against. Meanwhile, community organizer Melody Ma is being harassed by the aggressively incoherent marketing subordinate Renu Bakshi.
A few City of Vancouver flunkies decorate the periphery, trying their best to blend into the displays. They’re doing well.
Judging by the architectural drawings, Beedie & co. are definitely not wedded to an idea, a “vision.” The concept, if we can call it that, is an out-of scale lump, sporting a few Chinese characters and staggered setbacks.
A street-level passage will invite porousness. It’s fun trying to locate it in the renderings.
And there will be retail and restaurants, if not exactly those depicted.
I thought myself early, but the intrepid Kevin Harding is already here the better part of an hour. He reports a large crowd of very-unlikely locals filling out comment forms and promptly leaving. Stooges, more like, of the lower company echelon variety.
But senior management, the squids proper, remain. In this crowd of the unfashionably but comfortably attired they stand out like highly polished carbuncles – artisanal warts. It’s mostly white male gym jockeys, in form-fitting suits and Italian shoes. I suspect they have lines of credit to accommodate their obviously intensive grooming regimes.
Perusing the bumf, I wander into earshot of well-articulated concern about the private wealth these projects produce for a few and the negative consequences they bring to many others. Bravo.
In response a little company twerp wannabe – sporting a tight suit, a tighter haircut and a flag pole stuck up his ass – offers, “Well, there’s the Community Amenity Contribution.” I snort so hard that I involuntarily power eject a glob of winter mucus out of my left nostril. Not very classy, I know, but I would argue a fitting contribution, given the circumstances.
I wander over the scale model. This is how they see Chinatown: a bland undifferentiated collection of beige polygons begging the gift of their cynical capital.
Squids drift into view. They hover over Chinatown like a pair of outsized, well-healed, coldly calculating aliens, contemplating the lifeforce to be sucked dry. And if its blood they need, the empty lot at Keefer and Columbia is a bulging artery, all too exposed to the funnels that are steadily probing.
Outside, beyond the models and the thugs of various description, in the cold, some other ideas.
1940 to 2017
On December 20, 2016, Translink announced the sale of its Oakridge Transit Centre property.
Previously an army barracks, since 1948 the 5.6-hectare (13.8-acre) site bounded within 37th and 41st avenues and Oak and Willow streets served as a bus depot. At its peak the Oakridge Transit Centre accommodated 244 trolley buses, 182 diesel buses and more than 1,200 staff. By 2006 most services were moved out to TransLink’s Eburne, Hamilton (Richmond) and the Burnaby facilities.
At $440 million, the sale represents the second largest real estate transaction in the province’s history, behind the $480 Jericho land sale also concluded in 2016.
The property is to be developed by Vancouver-based Intergulf Development Group, Richmond-based Kunyuan International Group -a company linked to China-based investors that has acquired more than $740 million in Metro Vancouver real estate over the past three years- and Beijing-based Modern Green Development Co. Ltd. (Developers of the offshore-marketed-by-MAC “sustainably designed” Yu residential project at UBC; “yu” meaning “jade” and jade being green … get it? Cha-ching!)
Curiously, the closed captions of a youtube video on Intergulf’s “conquest of the Cambie corridor” suggests it’s vice-president goes by the moniker Fascist Bus Stop.
With the missus convalescing from a bad cold and that unique form of overexposure caused by family, we opt for an undemanding train ride on the new Evergreen line to deepest darkest Coquitlam.
At Renfrew, we find a love seat with unobstructed views and settle in. Through a world temporarily freeze-dried into an ice-rink, squinting against the sun sitting low in a clear blue sky, we sail over the highway and steadily on through the Eastern Mallships.
At Loughheed Town Centre the train shifts tracks. No longer a circular route sharing a significant portion of the Expo Line, the Millennium Line now runs from VCC Clark to Loughheed Town Centre and back, or -via two-car trains like the one we’re riding- onto the Evergreen Extension to Port Moody and back into Coquitlam.
It starts with a quick confirmation that these above-grade capital megaprojects are less a response than a spur to growth. Pulling out of the station and turning due north, the first thing that greets these tired eyes is a sign for “The City of Lougheed,” a 40 acre master plan community with “23+ stunning high-rise towers, diverse neighbourhoods (sic), shopping and restaurants, striking architecture (sic) and the most connected SkyTrain hub in Metro Vancouver.” If you need something, talk to my Skytrain hub -it’s connected.
The first of the new stops is a local joke that I like to think of as the perineum of Metro Vancouver: Burquitlam. Even here, among the autobody shops, are freshly excavated craters.
Against the concrete and glass bunker with papered-up windows and expensive signage -“The Intersection of Life + Style”- the loose assemblage of unfranchised donair, pizza and coffee shops are the confluence of Living+ Dead. “How long before that turns into a Cactus Club?” she asks, indicating Rhino’s Pub and Liquor Store.
We go underground for a good stretch, turn east again, and resurface at Port Moody –or, rather- “Moody Centre.” (I make a note to stop by the next time I’m suffering the blues.) We pass on the subtle pleasures on offer at Inlet Centre, carry on to Coquitlam Centre, turn north and past Lincoln Centre –actually, just “Lincoln”- and get off at the next and terminal stop, Lafarge Lake-Douglas.
We’re at the foot of the snow dusted Westwood Plateau, itself framed by snow capped mountains. Not all that long ago I knew this place as The Edge of the Civilized World, a where you couldn’t easily distinguish the bears from the yahoos.
Now it’s a civic-commercial nexus, a mix of municipal hall, library and cultural and aquatic centres, with towers and heavily branded malls. (Excepting a surprise clutch of downmarket and idiosyncratic shops and eateries, as well as social service agencies, at Henderson Place.)
Mostly though, it’s just another burgh trading natural capital for a buck. The pines are falling on Pinetree Way, along with the detached homes. In their place a forest of towers and trees made of plastic and fiberglass.
Evergreen? Less green all the time.