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Midnight in the Garden of Vancouver Condos

I prowled at night to capture the changing city on film. It grows up so fast.

Christopher Cheung 12 Aug 2021TheTyee.ca

Christopher Cheung reports on urban issues for The Tyee. Follow him on Instagram at @bychrischeung.

Can it really be 2021 already? The pandemic has thrown my sense of time into limbo, but one steady anchor throughout has been the growth of a shiny Vancouver tower, the new one by super developer Westbank beside the Joyce-Collingwood SkyTrain station.

As the months flew by, the dark, hulking pillar stretched ever higher over the city’s east side. And now the lights are coming on in each home, and a coffee shop on the street level is getting ready to caffeinate citizens.

The cranes and diggers did not stop during the pandemic. And as we slowly return to our routines, many of the urban places we frequented before will be unrecognizable due to the new construction.

Broadway, for example, is dotted with passive piles of rubble, waiting to be cleared for new subway stations.

Burnaby’s Brentwood has had a dramatic facelift; gardens of new towers have sprung up overnight amongst its warehouses, and the tired old mall has been renovated to include a fancy arcade, food hall and adults-only theatre — post-vaccination amusement for suburbanites in the sky.

I sought to document these COVID growth spurts, this kind of urban puberty, especially in places where the new is awkwardly trying to fit in with the old. Neighbourhood preservationists will look at these pictures and weep over the change. YIMBYs will blast the uneven zoning policy.

To give this documentary exercise a boost of the artsy-fartsy, I did it on 35mm film, using a Canon I picked up on Craigslist.

These pictures were all captured at night, so I could avoid others and enjoy some maskless air.

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Developer Westbank’s Joyce condo tower has landed in Vancouver, on what was once a salon, Mr. Pan Pizza and a halal meat shop. Photo by Christopher Cheung, 2020.
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The towers around the Marine Drive Canada Line station loom over the houses of Cambie Street. Photo by Christopher Cheung, 2020.
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Also off Cambie, the new Yukon Residences, described in marketing as ‘a collection of 1-4 bedroom Victorian-Inspired homes serenely perched at the top of Winona Park’s lush green spaces.’ Photo by Christopher Cheung, 2021.
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Old homes around Oakridge are still hot real estate after the rezoning of the Cambie Corridor over a decade ago, inviting savvy realtors to bundle up single-family lots and sell them to developers as packages. Photo by Christopher Cheung, 2021.
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From the office parks south of Marine Drive, a view of Metrotown, Burnaby’s growing downtown. Photo by Christopher Cheung, 2021.
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Burnaby’s growth strategy is to channel density around its four town centres, leaving single-family neighbourhoods virtually untouched. It means those homeowners won’t be pissed off, but industrial land and cheap rental apartments are lost in the process. Photo by Christopher Cheung, 2020.
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It’s a completely different world on the quiet streets above the boastful Amazing Brentwood development. Photo by Christopher Cheung, 2021.
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The Fulton House condo tower looks a bit like Star Wars lightsabres as it rises behind Han Kook Meats, popular for hot pot and barbecues, on Burnaby’s industrial lands. Photo by Christopher Cheung, 2020.
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It’s been five years since SkyTrain came to Coquitlam, and density is still flooding into the Burquitlam area. This massive but humble retail plaza — home to businesses like Dollarama, North Gate Cafe and Shiraz Farm Market — is valuable real estate, and its days are numbered. Photo by Christopher Cheung, 2020.
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