The West End through the years
The West End is located in the most densely populated, intensively active portion of the Lower Mainland. It shares the peninsula with the Downtown, Central Business District and Stanley Park.
Until the turn of the century, the West End was only sparsely settled, due to its distance from the old Granville Townsite (Gastown). Through the 1890s, the forest was logged and gradually replaced with grand Victorian homes for upper-income families. With Canadian Pacific Railway’s development of Shaughnessy in 1910, the West End’s role as a “high-class” residential area declined and the community’s second stage of development began. Apartments were built, homes along the Robson, Denman and Davie (all of which carried streetcar lines) were redeveloped as shops, and larger homes were converted into rooming houses.
The community’s first apartments were constructed on Robson Street. The Manhattan (now a housing co-operative), designed by well-known architects John Parr and Thomas Fee, still stands at the corner of Robson and Thurlow Streets. City building regulations, which lasted until 1956, restricted these early masonry buildings to a maximum of six floors, and wood frame buildings to a maximum of three floors.
During the 1930s and 40s, the third wave of apartment development occurred. These were low-rise structures with impressive Art Deco and Tudor-inspired facades. They were designed to give the community an air of permanence and respectability.
The 1950s brought the fourth stage of redevelopment to the West End. These changes were mainly in response to zoning changes and technological advancements which allowed for cheaper and higher quality multi-storey construction. The majority of high-rise apartment development occurred between 1962 and 1975 when more than 220 highrises were built. This building boom created the skyline that we are familiar with today.
In the 1970s and 80s, residents expressed concerns about changes in their community. In response, City Council initiated local area planning programs involving West End residents, business people and City staff.
Today, the West End enjoys a rich sense of character that is defined by its unique history and heritage.
Have your say about the West End’s unique character!
This guidebook aims to gather your opinion on what places, spaces or community resources are important to maintaining, enhancing and celebrating the West End’s unique character while reflecting its vibrant history.
Reading the questions beforehand and taking a walk through the neighbourhood may be helpful before providing your answers.
1. What are the five places or spaces that most define the West End’s unique character to you (eg. English Bay beach, mini-parks, Lord Roberts school, street trees, Davie Village (LGBTQ hub), Mole Hill, Nelson Park, Alexandra Park, etc.)? Include for each, a description about why you picked it and the role it plays as part of the community.
Please feel free to add pictures or a map showing the places and spaces you choose if you like (these can be uploaded as well when you submit your guide).
2. Based on the five places and spaces you picked in the first question, identify opportunities for each to preserve, enhance, celebrate, or showcase them now and in the future.
3. What can the City do to make any of the opportunities you listed happen?
4. What can you do to help make any of the opportunities happen? Please suggest practical solutions that you would be willing to act on given the opportunity.