W I L L T H E D R I V E SURV I V E? One of the last vestibules of bohemian culture in the lower mainland is at risk of becoming another strip mall and chain restaurant laden neighbourhood. As rents increase, Commercial Drive business owners struggle to find a way to sustain themselves in the ever climbing real estate situation in Vancouver. Commercial Drive is a vibrant Vancouver neighbourhood is synonymis with many things. A rich Italian community, wonderful restaurants and boutique style shopping are just some of the things that attract Vancouverites to the area. Many a lazy Saturday afternoon has been spent meandering down The Drive with a cappucino from one of the many independently owned coffee shops. Whether it’s Cafe Calabria, Continental Coffee or Turks you know that it will not be an over-branded brew. Wandering down the road to Victoria Park and going in and out of shops like Sophie’s Pet Palace or Ten Thousand Villages takes everyone back to a time where you knew your shop keepers and supported the area in which you lived. Many things threaten this idyllic pocket of Vancouver. The main problem being rent increasesthat only corporations like Tim Hortons or Startbucks can afford. Il Mercato Mall used to house an exceptional cobbler for thirty years. He was unable to sustain himself with enough businessto pay the rent so he closed his doors for good. WaaZubeeCafe was on The Drive for eighteen years. It was a staple Commercial Drive restaurant experience that was driven out by an enormous rent increase. My Sister’s Closet was a popular thrift store run by non-profit organization The Battered Women’s Support Services that is now out of businessdue to rent hikes and lost revenues. The other problem lies with Commercial Drivers’ who are neglecting to contribute to the local economy and taking their dollars outside of the area.
Many people use the word “sustainability” and the catch phrase “eating local”, but cannot compute that this requires them to consume within the area in which they live. This lack of connection between action and word is what may be one of the many factors outside of the rent issue that may be chasing small businessoff of The Drive. No matter what the casemay be, it will certainly be a sad day in Vancouver when the store fronts of Commercial Drive look exactly like they do everywhere else. It will be a loss not only to those of us who hold our relationships dear to dry cleaners and pet store owners; but to those who come in for a weekend stay-cations to get away from the everyday that is the rest of Vancouver.