Grandview-Woodland is a neighbourhood located in the north-eastern part of Vancouver, to the East of the Downtown Eastside. The name ‘Grandview-Woodland’ comes from the grand view you have over the city, mountains and ocean (vancouver.ca, 2020). The central feature of this neighbourhood is Commercial Drive, also known as ‘The Drive’. This street runs through the heart of the neighbourhood and shows the range of diversity in the neighbourhood. There are shops and restaurants from countries all over the world, such as Scandilous, a scandinavian eatery, Tamam to Go, and serves popular Palestinian food, amongst many other local eateries. Central in Grandview-Woodland is the community centre Brittania. This community centre organizes activities for all ages and is home to a pool, ice rink and fitness centre. Right behind the community centre an elementary school and secondary school are located, along with a community garden and sports facilities. Grandview-Woodland is easily accessible by bus and is home to several Mobi-bike stations, which allow people to easily rent bikes. On the Commercial Drive and the other main streets there is quite some traffic, but the rest of the neighbourhood is relatively quiet.
Description of the greenery
While the Commercial Drive is aesthetically quite mercantile and features less greenery, outgoing streets on which residential houses are placed are often lined with trees, and the gardens are separated from each other and the sidewalks by bushes. Strips of grass between the sidewalks and streets oftentimes look like they could be taken care of a little more often.
While there are several parks offering a break from the busy street-life, the Grandview Park is the green heart of the neighbourhood. It is not only a meeting place for the various residents of Grandview-Woodland, but also provides a green oasis where it is needed the most. A large open grass area, a sports court and a playground provide space to move and play, while the maple trees offer shade for the people wanting to rest in the big park.
This neighbourhood is presently at a crossroads in its development, as gentrification threatens to overwhelm the current population (Kasman, 2014), and this is reflected in the economic situation of its residents, and subsequently in the overall character of the area. Over two-thirds of the residents here rent their accomodation, with a median household income over $10,000 less than the city average ($35,342 VS $47,299) (vancourier.com). Given the ever-increasing popularity of inner-city living, it is unsurprising that Grandview-Woodland is witnessing more and more signs of gentrification, and features which once deterred gentrification, like industry and social housing, are no longer having the same impact that they used to. This is creating issues for the predominantly-industrial base of residents who are unable to keep up with the pace of economic change, and run the risk of being forced out of the neighbourhood.
Kind of people
The neighbourhood is known for its quite diverse population. When looking for information online, the first description given is that Grandview-Woodland is a mixture of commercial and industrial, single-family as well as multi-family residential, characterized by a rich ethnic history. This adequately reflects the diverse background of the neighborhood’s inhabitants. 8% of the population in this neighborhood identify themselves as indigenous, and 23% have an Asian ethnicity. Europeans take up a total of 64% (compared to Vancouver overall: 3.1% indigenous, 42% Asian, 49% European; Statistics Canada, Census Profile 2016)). They can be found particularly in the Southern part of the Commercial Drive, which is known as ‘Little Italy’. This section of the Drive gives home to a large number of Italian shops and stores. Overall, the variety of shops clearly displays the different influences of the residents. Besides the Italian stores, there is, for instance, a Portugese cafe.
In the Grandview Park a variety of people can be observed. It is likely one will meet Asian families, indigenous homeless people, hippies, Africans and Europeans there. Several youth cultures can be observed in the neighborhood as well, making themselves seen through graffiti and slogans.
Based on our observations, tourists are rarely spotted in this neighborhood. Some homeless people usually gather in Grandview Park, and while the northern part of the Drive is usually only rarely visited by them, more can be seen the further South you go on the Drive. However, compared to some other neighborhoods in Vancouver, there are not too many homeless people living in Grandview-Woodland.
Grandview-Woodland is a lively neighbourhood around Commercial Drive, Grandview Park and the community centre, in contrast to the residential areas where it is more quiet. Grandview Park is always bursting with life with a playground, sports court, washrooms and a grass field. There are also drum circles hosted in Grandview Park. During our visit to Grandview-Woodland, the community centre organized an activity for kids in the park. The feeling of community seemed quite big in the neighbourhood. This is also reflected in the volunteer-run community bike shop that strives to make cycling more accessible. Commercial Drive is the most important in this neighbourhood. The diversity of the neighbourhood is reflected in the shops, cafes and restaurants. This gives Commercial Drive an inspiring vibe.
Grandview-Woodland has a large indigenous population, with 8% of the residents indigenous, well above the citywide average of 2.4%, and only below one neighbourhood (Strathcona). 28% of its population also belongs to some other non-white identity (predominantly Chinese). This is, however, actually quite a low number in the Vancouver context, with Grandview-Woodland ranking third from the bottom in terms of this metric. The neighbourhood also ranks last in terms of immigrant population (a still fairly high 26%) and recent immigrant population (3%). Furthermore, diversity-related numbers are dropping quite fast: between 1996 and 2016, its indigenous population went from 9.6% to 7.8%, while other visible minorities went from 36% to 28%. The neighbourhood is also notable for its small, but distinct Italian population, with parts of the Commercial Drive even described as “Little Italy”.
These characteristics can also be seen throughout the neighbourhood: although there are a wide range of community programmes geared specifically towards indigenous people, as well as people of colour, the area shows clear signs of gentrification, such as fancy cafes or expensive ice cream shops.
In conclusion, although Grandview-Woodland is still quite diverse in terms of its population, and serves as a hub for indigenous people, its reputation as a diverse neighbourhood may not be warranted in the Vancouver context anymore. As such, Grandview-Woodland is rated as a moderately diverse neighbourhood.