Developer Hungry for Property on the Bottle Depot Block

Sign at protest against Lippman's American Hotel gentrification, September 2010
Sign at protest against Lippman’s American Hotel gentrification September 2010

City Council has approved a plan by Stephen Lippman to renovate the building at 17-77 E. Hastings into 19 tiny apartments that will rent for around $700 a month. Although the building is empty the adjoining Persepolis hotel is not and, while council was anxious to approve the developer plan to upscale the block, they were not so quick to enact regulations to protect low-renting SRO hotels from gentrification.

The building is the old BC Collateral Building.  The upstairs has been empty for decades. In this case, the city is requiring that at least

5 of the units in this elevator-less building be for seniors. This qualification will not cost the developer anything because seniors may be able to afford $700 a month if they take advantage of the SAFER rent supplement program.

In 20 years the building’s owner will be able to apply to turn the apartments into condos.

Stephen Lippman owns six other gentrifying buildings in the Downtown Eastside that we know of, including: the York Hotel, Lotus Hotel, Golden Crown, the American, the Picadilly and Alexander Court.  He has also made millions speculating on commercial properties including the string of storefronts across from Woodward’s and the redevelopment of Save On Meats, which he sold to real estate giant Anthem Properties in early 2013. In the hotels he buys he usually renovates buildings slightly and raises rates so that people on welfare, disability and pensions can’t afford them.

Rev. Barry Morris speaking against Lippman's purchase of the Wonder and Palace hotels, June 2012
Rev. Barry Morris speaking against Lippman’s purchase of the Wonder and Palace hotels, June 2012

The Carnegie Community Action Project is afraid that the project will contribute to gentrification of the area, increasing property values, and rents in nearby hotels and stores. When this happens low-income people get pushed out of hotel rooms by high rents or have to stay and have very little left for food and necessities. Lippman’s housing projects also usually come with boutique restaurants at the street level, changing the feel of the street and driving up storefront rents so that low-income serving businesses can’t afford to be there anymore.

In the context of the Bottle Depot block the biggest danger is the displacement of the low-income community dominated public space on the sidewalk. It is no secret that the City hopes to break up and displace the Bottle Depot social space and vending spot. The Bottle Depot itself is scheduled to move in the next year or so, to be replaced by a new rental apartment and social housing development currently under rezoning application.

With the entire welfare cheque at $610 a month, people on welfare cannot hope to afford $700 a month for rent. The story is getting familiar. Council has once again approved a housing project in the Downtown Eastside for higher income people and the one who will really benefit is the real estate developer who has already made millions off our community.

March to BC Housing protesting Lippman's attempt to buy Wonder and Palace hotels, June 2012
March to BC Housing protesting Lippman’s attempt to buy Wonder and Palace hotels, June 2012