As a consequence of the West End Community Plan of 2013, there is a massive rebuilding of the blocks on Davie Street from Jervis to Denman.  But the West End is used to that.  The district has already seen such transformations throughout its history.

It began with the ‘New Liverpool’ subdivision prior to the incorporation of the city, bringing with it an explosion of development: mansions of the elite and professional class, along with the ‘Vancouver Specials’ of the 1890s you can still see on Mole Hill. Inserted were the first apartment blocks with the arrival of the streetcar on Denman and Davie in 1900.

Then the crash of 1913, a war, a Depression, another war.  It wasn’t until the late 1940s when redevelopment again transformed a decaying and overcrowded district with dozens of those three-storey walkups.

A rezoning in 1956 brought the most significant change of all: over 200 concrete highrises.  That concrete jungle – the postcard shot – is the West End today: the scale and character of one of Canada’s densest neighbourhoods.

It turned out okay.

Now, the current and expected changes are happening on the border blocks, from Thurlow to Burrard, Alberni to Georgia – and very obviously on West Davie.  Faster than planners anticipated.  The most significant phase of West End development in the last half century.

Here’s an example on one side of one block from Cardero to Bidwell – three towers at the stage where the raw concrete makes a more powerful architectural statement than when the glass and spandrel panels get attached:


On the Cardero corner, the third (or is it the fourth) rebuild of the Safeway on the same site:


Here are two construction workers who from a distance look like women – perhaps the latest in a generational line of workers who have experience in concrete highrise construction.  It’s what we’ve been doing for half of Vancouver’s history.



  1. Be still, my beating heart. Are those balconies thermally isolated from the floor plates? Most Vancouver high-rises are effectively covered in flanged radiators, their exposed concrete plates conducting heat out into the winter air. I’d be encouraged if these buildings are doing something more responsible.

    1. They certainly can be thermally isolated. Products exist to allow significant cantilevers while breaking the continuity of the slab with an insulated structural bond. It’s hard to know if they were used here but the offset in the joint suggests they may have been. It’s such bad timing that a massive boom in highrise construction predated this technology. It’s not something that can be changed after the fact but it should be a requirement going forward.

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