The Dales House at 414 Alexander Street circa 1890 CVA Photo SGN 490

Friday, April 16, 2010

Strathcona Residents Association Website

In between trying to make my living as a house history researcher and intermittent neighbourhood history walking tour guide, I also work on a number of boards. For a few years now I have been on the board and am currently the chair of the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives. It's a great organization that works to raise the profile of the work of the City of Vancouver Archives and also raise funds for specific projects at the archives. These include things like reprinting the old crumbling city directories used by house history researchers like me, scan and digitize thousands of old Vancouver photos and upload them to the CVA site, etc. Membership has its benefits. If you are interested in purchasing some archival photos of Vancouver's historic buildings, people, or scenes, you get a 50% discount on 8x10 black and white prints if you are a "Friend".

Another group I was involved with was the Heatley Block Preservation Society. We organized to fight against the planned demolition of a landmark East End building on East Hastings at Heatley and in the course of our fight, found out that one of the two old houses attached to the Heatley block was probably one of the four oldest houses still standing in Vancouver. After a year and a half of fighting tooth and nail against the Library Board, they finally listened to us and let the Heatley Block go. So you see you Borgs out there, "Resistance is NOT futile!".

At about the same time I got involved with the Heatley Block fight, I also joined the board of Heritage Vancouver Society. This is an amazing organization the advocates for Vancouver's built heritage. Each year they organize a Top Ten Endangered List. They helped us raise awareness of the Heatley Block struggle by including the Heatley Block in the Top Ten Endangered List two years running.

My most recent, and perhaps my most passionate involvement, because it concerns the neighbourhood I live in and love, is that I am now the Chair of the Strathcona Residents Association. The SRA was created in 1992 at the end of a three-year process of community meetings with city planners, during which very large numbers of residents participated in planning for the East End neighbourhood’s future. The community planning process asked the local residents to articulate what they wanted for their neighbourhood’s future, and the answers led to the formation of the Strathcona Community Plan. The Plan was written by City staff and includes zoning regulations, a traffic plan, and an expression of social goals.

In accordance with the goals of the residents, the plan was designed to preserve the heritage architectural character, to protect the streets from commuter traffic and make them safe for walking and cycling, and to maintain a multi-cultural and mixed-income family population through modest increases in density, and through a supportive attitude to the maintenance of affordable rental accommodation alongside owner-occupancy. The Strathcona Residents’ Association was formed in conjunction with the Community Plan and was recognized by City Council when the plan was approved.

I am a relative newcomer to Strathcona. I lived in the West End from 1978 to 1995, then moved to a house in the East End's Grandview Woodland neighbourhood where I lived for five years. I have been living with my partner Richard in a 1908 rowhouse unit on Hawks Avenue since Hallowe'en 2000. Though I have lived here for only a decade, it somehow feels like I have always been an East Ender. I explained the origins of my love affair with this neighbourhood in my Message From The Chair on our new website.

When I was considering taking the job of Chair I had to think about the goals I wanted to achieve if I took this job on. One was to raise the profile of the SRA within our neighbourhood. There have been lots of newcomers to the neighbourhood even since I have moved here, and many are seemingly unaware of this neighbourhood's history and how and why the SRA exists, and what the SRA does and has achieved.

Second was to ensure that the recently completed Strathcona Neighbourhood Vision Statement was uploaded on to the City's Strathcona Community Webpage. In the 1960sand 1970s this neighbourhood was almost bulldozed to the ground because City Hall thought they knew what was best for the East End and proceeded to enforce their vision without properly consulting the residents of this neighbourhood. Currently our neighbourhood is under threat again and depending on which city department or social agency you ask, Strathcona's boundaries jump all over the map.

Over a period of three years, an umbrella group called the Strathcona Revitalization Committee, composed of several Strathcona organizations including: the Strathcona Property & Tenants Association (SPOTA), the Strathcona Residents Association, The Strathcona Community Centre Association, the RayCam Cooperative Centre Association  and the Strathcona Business Improvement Association, worked together to create the vision statement for Strathcona. Called Strathcona 2010: A Clear Vision For Our Community, this vision statement clearly defines the boundaries of Strathcona as from Gore to Clark, and from Railway to Malkin. I have contacted the person in charge of the City's Community Webpage's and asked herto ensure that our Vision Statement was uploaded. There have been several e-mails back and forth, but we are still waiting.

In order to achieve these two first goals, I thought it wwas absolutely necessary for the SRA to have its own website. Not only could we upload information about the SRA, its history, our community vision statement, neigbourhood events and news etc., we could also upload a much needed explanation of what this neighbourhood's specailly designed Zoning By-law, RT-3, was all about.

Long story short, our long awaited SRA Webpage is up and running. It still is a work in progress, but there is an awful lot to look at and read there. Please take a look. If you like the design and are in the market for a Content Management model website for your business or organization, I can highly recommend our webmaster Digiboy Pete. As you can see, he does some pretty amazing work. And you are only seeing the front end of the website.

Anyway, I best get back to work on a more history oriented posting. Until then, take care, and see you in the Blogosphere!

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