More than one thousand people gathered at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver Saturday to remember long-time activist and former city councillor Jim Green at a public memorial.

Green was best known for the numerous housing projects he pioneered on the Downtown Eastside — including his fight to turn the Woodward's building into a low-income housing project — as a leader for the Downtown Eastside Residents' Association and as a co-founder of the Portland Hotel Society.

"He challenged us to act, to dream the big dreams and then to actually take it up and to own it and to try to realize it," MLA Jenny Kwan said at the memorial Saturday.

"Jim believed that the City of Vancouver can be the caring capital of Canada, and he lived that vision each and every day. He brought opera to the Downtown Eastside. Where else would you find the beauty of opera comingling with the poorest neighbourhood of the community?"

Green, who died February 28 after a battle with cancer, is best known for his work to create hundreds of units of social housing, and for revitalizing the old Woodwards complex.

Green was born in Alabama in 1943 but moved to Canada to avoid being drafted in the Vietnam War in 1968. He was first elected to city council in 2002 and ran unsuccessfully for mayor as the leader of the Vision Vancouver slate against Sam Sullivan in 2005.

He also ran for mayor unsuccessfully in 1990 against Gordon Campbell, and then lost again to Campbell in the provincial election as a NDP candidate for Vancouver-Point Grey.

Green graduated with a master of anthropology from UBC, where he later taught opera and architecture, and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris.