Over the past few months, a cascade of local businesses have closed down on Main Street. The reason? Escalating rents and real estate prices. Some established gems have been shuttered. What amazes me most about the changes I see is the businesses that are moving in to replace the stand-bys…Cafe Montmarte replaced by the Shameful Tiki Room, Cipriano’s replaced by the Acorn Restaurant, Mainly Organics replaced by Three Dog Bakery to name a few. Personally, I was very sad to see Cafe Montmarte close it’s doors. They were a mainstay in Vancouver’s spoken word and indie music communities. I sang and read there a few times & even had a book launch/CD release there a number of years back. I supposed change is inevitable, but I wonder who these new businesses are catering to. Does this shift speak to a changing demographic? Many places are sitting empty, their front windows papered over with big For Lease signs looking to attract new entrepreneurial blood.
What happens to a neighbourhood, a community when so many of the small, locally-owned, family-operated, indie businesses are replaced by trendy chains, expensive businesses potentially owned by those with no connection to the identity or character of a place?
It’s not news that Vancouver’s real estate market is out of control. This has been going for a number of years. The character of neighbourhoods has been transformed due to the outflux of residents who can’t pay the inflated rents or mortgages and the influx of those who can. This article from The Globe & Mail (written almost 4 years ago!) sums of the how real estate is driving force in the shift of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods:
Although $30-something a square foot is a reasonable rent in Vancouver’s high-priced commercial real estate market, there was a strong chance that rents would skyrocket in the area. That has happened in several Vancouver commercial neighbourhoods in the past 20 years as they’ve gone from funky industrial (Yaletown) or moderately hip (Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano) or ethnic and alternative (Robson Street) to ultra-trendy and expensive.
I hate to see this “ultra-trendy & expensive” mania shift to more neighbourhoods in Vancouver, but it has made it’s move into Mount Pleasant and Main Street for sure. Is Commercial Drive next? Perhaps there’s already a shift there too?