Could Railtown be Vancouver's next Yaletown?
Gentrification feared as creative professionals flock to former industrial area east of Gastown
It's attracting entrepreneurs, artists, new businesses, and a lot of attention.
Railtown, an industrial corner in downtown Vancouver east of Gastown, is transforming itself into a thriving scene for creative professionals.
The old warehouses and factories are giving way to restaurants and furniture shops, fashion studios and offices for high-tech firms.
Price is a big part of the attraction. According to Colliers International, prime office space in Railtown goes for between $14 and $22 per square foot, almost half of the price of Gastown where office spaces rent for $24 to $34 per square foot.
Affordable rent is one reason why Josh Dunford set up in Railtown more than a decade ago. What was once a welding shop is now his design studio.
"It's a place where you can get interesting space to work in. For us as a creative shop, it's room for us to think," said Dunford.
"We purchased a building down the street, so we're moving down the street staying in the neighbourhood and really putting down our roots properly."
Steve Thorp has been running the Vancouver Urban Winery in Railtown for nearly two years. He's poured thousands of dollars into the business, expanding from two employees to 30.
"The most unique thing about this space is you can come here and experience wine manufacturing, soon beer manufacturing, and food and beverage under one roof," he said.
While the rapid growth in Railtown is good news for local businesses, some fear that it may bring gentrification.
Wes Regan of the Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association says while it's not as pronounced as some other areas, the nature of the community presents challenges.
"We've got 13,000 low income residents in the Downtown Eastside, several thousands of them on welfare," he points out.
Regan says he recognizes the contribution of new businesses in the area, but he hopes they'll also create jobs for residents with barriers.
"We've really got to have a plan to use our industrial lands for culturally appropriate job spaces."
With files from the CBC's Bal Brach