Tucked away to the south of East Hastings Street in Vancouver is a lovely, historic neighbourhood called Strathcona that I had never explored until just over a year ago when I took one of my friend James Johnstone’s historical walking tours of Vancouver’s East End.
I was impressed by the walkability of the neighbourhood, the corner shops, schools, and community centre, the plethora of heritage homes, and the interesting stories about the people who lived in that neighbourhood in years gone by (including Nora Hendrix, grandmother of Jimi). Everyone seemed to know everyone, calling out greetings to each other from across the street the way it used to be but sadly rarely is any more in a big city.
While on the tour a particular housing development caught my eye, a charming mix of concrete blocks, bright yellow siding, and industrial-looking windows, and I photographed it. When I got home I looked up the address on the internet and discovered that the row of houses is called Koo’s Corner, named after a garage that used to exist on the site.
Converting and expanding on an existing building allowed the architects to retain an historical part of the neighbourhood, to construct a building in a more sustainable way than demolition and reconstruction would allow for, and to promote the environmentally-friendly concept of density without upsetting the balance and flavour of the neighbourhood. In addition to using reclaimed materials, the building makes use of solar energy and greywater heat recovery.
The units are on the small side at just over 1,100 square feet, but this is the sort of development we should see more of in Vancouver if people are to be able to afford homes in this over-priced real estate market, and if Vancouver truly wants to become the greenest city in the world.