Kettle Society looks forward to expanding facility under Grandview-Woodlands community plan

Opponents of the plan have argued that tall buildings will alter the character of the Commercial Drive, but the Kettle Society, which provides housing and social services for people with mental health issues, is excited about last week's announcement.

'I think we'll serve the clients we have better,' Kettle Friendship Society

The project is four years in the making and will revitalize the neighbourhood at an intersection that is currently industrial, says Kettle Society's executive director. (Boffo Properties)

The 'no tower' signs may finally come down from East Vancouver windows and off of front lawns now that the Grandview-Woodland community plan has been approved, which allows for higher density and taller buildings near Commercial Drive.

The No Tower Coalition has argued that tall buildings will alter the character of the neighbourhood, but the Kettle Society, which provides housing and social services for people with mental health issues, is excited about last week's announcement.

The plan promises thousands of units of social and market housing and "affordable ownership options" within the next 30 years, as well as the controversial Kettle Boffo project at the corner of Commercial Drive and Venables Street.

The proposed tower will make 30 units of social housing available for the Kettle Society and provide a larger space for their drop-in centre, which it says is currently chronically overcrowded. 

"We hope when it's done that people will have room to sit down. Right now at lunch, people have to stand outside or eat in the courtyard," said Nancy Keough, executive director of the Kettle Society.

"We're also hoping that the centre will have the medical clinic better set up, that we'll be able to have room for some of the other programs there that are so important to people's recovery and well-being."

The property in question, at the corner of Commercial Drive and Venables Street, currently has a low-rise building and a parking lot. (Google Street View)

Keough sees the replacement of the current buildings at the site — the drop-in centre, a dry cleaner, the old Astorino's Ballroom and parking lots — as a chance for growth in the neighbourhood.

She hopes that minds will change to support improving the health of at-risk members in the community.

"I think we'll serve the clients we have better. We see 4,000 a year and certainly if more people come we'll have some capacity," she said.  

City councillors engaged in headed debate before approving the plan. Coun. Kerry Jang said the new development would provide greatly-needed mental health services, while Coun. Adriane Carr voiced her concerns about relying on developers for social housing. 

Applications for rezoning is the next step in moving the development forward, despite push-back from the No Tower group and disappointment from the Grandview-Woodland Area Council about the decision.