Take a stroll down East Hastings: campaign hopes to attract people to neighbourhood

The Strathcona Business Improvement Association wants to improve health, environment and economy of area and is offering a summer series of events to do that.

Strathcona Business Improvement Association wants to improve health, environment and economy of area

One of nine murals unveiled in Vancouver's Strathcona neighbourhood on Saturday, June 24, 2017 as part of a campaign to draw pedestrians into the area. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Vancouver's Strathcona Business Improvement Association has begun a summer series of events to draw more people to East Hastings Street and make the area more walkable.

"The idea is to make it, on a human level, a more comfortable, social place to be," said Emma Carscadden with the business improvement association.

"Walking is part of this neighbourhood already, and we want to make it an even stronger part of the neighbourhood."

The association held a street party on Saturday, which unveiled a series of murals on local buildings, featured local artisans, food trucks, a beer garden along with music, dancing and tours of the area.

'We've had a lot of people in the community tell us just how it kind of makes their day to walk by these previously blank grey buildings, and now they're these incredible works of art,' says David Vertesi, director of the Vancouver Mural Festival. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The campaign hopes to transform East Hastings into a pedestrian destination, "by enhancing amenities, comfort, access and sociability and promoting local business," according to a release.

"If it doesn't displace people who already live here and just bring in people who want to walk the street, I think that's great," said Paula Gill, who was at the event.

A person sits on a sidewalk in Vancouver's Strathcona area, which is the city's oldest inner-city neighbourhood. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Breweries, coffee shops and other small independent businesses are slowly moving into the area, but empty storefronts and the lack of foot traffic along the corridor is noticeable.

Strathcona dates back to the late 1800s, but for decades the neighbourhood has been linked to prostitution and illegal drug use, which has kept some visitors away.

'A walkable street is not about gentrification or about pushing anybody out of the neighbourhood," said Emma Carscadden with the Strathcona Business Improvement Association. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

"People are going to come down here just to see the murals," said Jada Stevens of the new additions.

"They'll visit the neighbourhoods and the businesses here because they'll feel like the neighbourhood has been promoted as a safe place to be."

In addition to the murals, Carscadden says the business improvement association hopes to add amenities like street trees, benches, and bike racks, and even try and work with the city and province to reduce speed limits in the area.

The association will be offering other events until July 16.

with files from Jon Hernandez and Meera Bains.