How Vancouver’s Victoria Drive transformed from sleepy neighbourhood to vibrant multicultural business hub

Victoria Drive Business Improvement Association - Welcome to Victoria drive in The Canadian Business Quarterly
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In Canada, Vancouver has rapidly become the vibrant city that has been attracting global investments along with an exponentially increasing population base. Close in proximity to Asia, it has blossomed into a multicultural hub for all to experience. Along with the growing migration of people from all over the world, the social environment in Canada has increasingly become all the more multicultural. Vancouver in particular has become the Asian hub in North America. Along with the unique Asian cultural exposures, we are now blessed with the best of Asian cuisines that even surpass the quality of those in Asia. 

Victoria Drive business district, one of the 22 business improvement areas in Vancouver, extends from East 32nd Avenue to East 55th Avenue. It has been morphing into the bustling shopping street of predominantly a surprisingly big assortment of restaurants, mom and pop grocery stores, and health and beauty services that we see today. During the early 1970s, business activities along Victoria Drive were still sleepy and fragmented. Thanks to the increasing influx of immigrants that chose Vancouver as the place to settle, life began to take root as well. It has today flourished with throngs of shoppers, adding spice of life to a close-knit business and residential neighbourhood. With the pro-active support from City councillors and planners, in their refraining to implement pay parking meters along Victoria Drive, the businesses and residential community have continued to co-exist in beautiful harmony. Today, we see continuous changes with new eateries from many parts of the world popping up along Victoria Drive. It is now truly a global melting pot of cultures and experience. With the increasing number of foot traffic, it is becoming a “one stop” destination, now drawing in outside visitors that can experience the excellent cuisine and unique shops of all kinds.   

Jones Park, a long-time bucket list revitalization project, has recently been transformed into a very inviting public space with new picnic tables, a staging area, and playground additions. Just across from our neighbourhood fire hall and East 38th Avenue, it is very centrally located for the neighbourhood residents to exercise, relax and play. Jones Park is of great importance with many community events located there annually such as festivals and sports theme events. The future along Victoria Drive now looks ever so bright, exciting and welcoming for all to visit or reside.

Victoria Drive Business Improvement Association (VDBIA):  Our beginnings

With the advent of businesses springing up along Victoria Drive, a group of entrepreneurs had the foresight to see the need for a non-profit association to help organize and assist the then fragmented group of businesses. Around the beginning of this century, (2004) Victoria Drive Business Improvement Association (VDBIA) was formed. Its mandate then was simple: “just be there to assist businesses and commercial property owners with their challenges”. There had been a disconnect between the businesses and the neighbouring residences. With the “countryside” atmosphere along Victoria Drive, there was only sparse people traffic along the dusty sidewalks. This “status quo” life along Victoria Drive soon vaporized with the ever-increasing bubbling of life around this vast neighbourhood. Thankfully, the VDBIA directors and some volunteer neighbourhood enthusiasts were able to adapt to the continuing changes, and served the communities and businesses successfully.

The present

Over a span of over ten years, dedicated volunteer directors and staff have nurtured Victoria Drive business improvement association (VDBIA) into maturity. Now, VDBIA has been hosting a variety of annual social and event activities that provide identity and cohesion in this process of placemaking. VDBIA presently serves as an essential conduit between businesses and the surrounding residential neighbourhood. Today’s Victoria Drive business strip is now alive with throngs of shoppers. A positive side effect is the attraction of people looking to settle in the neighbourhood that is safe and positive for their families. That is a positive for real estate values. 

Lest we forget, there is also another quintessential component in the Victoria Drive neighbourhood that has been making valuable contributions to safeguard our residents and businesses. South Vancouver community crime prevention society (SVCCPS/SVCPC) is a vital piece in the puzzle. With the support of the VDBIA, safety and positive family ambience has been greatly achieved. The SVCCPS like the VDBIA, is also a non-profit, community, oriented society driven by volunteers and staff. Centrally located at 5435 Victoria Drive, it has been very convenient for the public to access when help is needed. Its landlord, by the way, is the City of Vancouver. In the interest of the people’s safety and welfare, we hope the City will proactively support and allow SVCCPS to remain. The approachable volunteers provide the “boots on the ground” services for the public who may seek help.

Equally important to the Victoria Drive neighbourhood, is the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, which offers extensive public services of almost every need. It is located near East 49th Avenue and has always been a safe haven, offering outreach programs for vulnerable children, youth and adults.

Now, VDBIA is also experiencing many challenges recently with the prevalent health risks during this COVID-19 pandemic. With the requirement for safe social distancing, VDBIA has adapted to alternate means of reaching out to the public. VDBIA, working with the SVCCPS, has been actively promoting healthy outlook education. The distribution of face masks to the business members was fast tracked with this goal of safe public interactions. The fruit of our efforts is positive as most people have abided by the face mask requirements as well as social distancing.

The future

The outlook can only look brighter and more exciting. VDBIA will continue to generate more life along Victoria Drive with added exciting social and cultural events and encouraging community participation. Connecting with the City councillors and planners frequently has so far prevented any missteps that will seriously hurt the harmonious relationship between the businesses and the residents. Thankfully, the South Vancouver crime community crime prevention society (SVCCPS/ SVCPC) and its dedicated volunteers have been providing the much necessary support and safeguards for our communities. 

VDBIA continues to have the active support from our Federal, Provincial and Municipal representatives. The future for businesses and residential communities will continue to look upbeat. VDBIA will carry on and always welcome new volunteer participations which will reward them with the proud satisfaction of achieving positive contributions to their community. Now, that is a marvellous and satisfying feeling! For the aspiring and energetic achievers looking to volunteer and do good for families, friends, and everyone else, VDBIA and SVCCPS welcome those seeking greater challenges with aspiration to become one of our volunteer directors. 

Final thoughts

It has been a long road since the creation of VDBIA. Pleasantly, Victoria Drive has blossomed and matured from a sleepy neighbourhood to the vibrant multicultural business hub which many visitors have come to experience. In addition, families have increasingly taken root around Victoria Drive with the comfort of feeling safer in part because of our frontline volunteers who regularly patrol the residential and business areas. So, do show appreciation with a smile, should you come across these friendly volunteers wearing jackets with yellow or blue stripes. They are volunteers representing VDBIA and SVCCPS. They also help lessen the busy workload of our Vancouver Police by being the eyes and ears on the ground. 

Come visit Victoria Drive to discover its potential. With the growing social events and the ever-changing ambience, you may miss the opportunity to be part of the wonderful experience. While here, visit VDBIA and SVCCPS should you need assistance. This place will lift-up your spirit with the personal customer service from our local shopkeepers who are very eager to help you.

Richard Lai sits on the Board of Directors and is Secretary of the Victoria Drive Business Improvement Association (VDBIA), www.victoriadrivebia.com.

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The Canadian Business Quarterly (The CBQ) provides an in-depth view of business and economic development issues taking place across the country. Featuring interviews with top executives, government policy makers and prominent industry bodies The CBQ examines the news beyond the headlines to uncover the drivers of local, provincial, and national affairs.

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