British Columbia

East Vancouver neighbourhood fears new condo tower will crush popular Filipino businesses

Collingwood residents have launched a petition drive to save a decades-old mainstay of Filipino culture and community.

Residents organize against 32-storey, 293-unit project proposed near Joyce St. Skytrain station

Residents of East Vancouver's Collingwood neighbourhood sign a petition to save a cluster of Filipino stores from a highrise condo development. (Margaret Gallagher / CBC)

A steady stream of socially distanced customers in face masks, some in medical scrubs, drop by a cluster of Filipino take-out restaurants and mini-marts on Joyce Street in East Vancouver.

Resident R.J. Aquino says the loyal clients have been a familiar sight for decades in Collingwood.

"It's central to this neighbourhood because of the large population of Filipinos, and the community comes here to eat,"  he told CBC's On The Coast.

Lineups were common, especially after Sunday mass at St. Mary's Parish down the street. In these pandemic times, it's become a bubble of community.

"A lot of Filipinos are front line-health care workers, essential workers.  This is a place of refuge, this is a place for them to pick up some soul food, after long days of work."

Collingwood neighbourood organizer R.J. Aquino is fighting to save a corner of Filipino culture and community from a proposed Joyce St. condo development. (Margaret Gallagher / CBC)

Now, many fear a new proposed condo development will destroy the community and cultural connection.

"I grew up eating at this restaurant in the neighbourhood, only for it to be taken away by another condo," Aquino says.

"Please save our culture." 

The City of Vancouver has received a rezoning application for a 32-storey, 293-unit, mixed-use building, to replace the row of old two-storey shops. 

The site sold in 2017 for $38 million.

The application is being considered under the city's Joyce-Collingwood Station Precinct Plan, which has spurred development around the Joyce Street SkyTrain station.

The city has posted notice of rezoning, is holding a virtual open house from Feb. 22 to March 28, but is still working on translating materials into the Filipino language, Tagalog.

While the neighbourhood gentrifies, business owners say they're being kept in the dark about details of the project.

Bennet Meimban-Ganata, owner of Plato Filipino cafe, fears the City of Vancouver is abandoning decades-old cultural communities in rush to gentrify and develop neighbourhoods. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

"We haven't heard much of the development," said Bennet Meimban-Ganata, owner of Plato Filipino cafe.

"Definitely there's a fear of us being displaced. There's a fear in us that the city government will forget the small businesses like us ... who have been here for decades."

In a statement, the City of Vancouver says they recognize these important cultural food assets would be a significant loss to the community. After hearing the community feedback, staff will be working with the project applicant on ways to address displacement and assist businesses displaced by this redevelopment if approved.

R.J. Aquino isn't waiting for the city to act. 

As a board member of the nearby Collingwood Neighbourhood House, he's now organizing an awareness campaign and petition drive to save this corner of Filipino culture.

"Taking this away is going to be tragic." 

With files from Margaret Gallagher


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