UBC Undergraduate Research

Urban Renewal and the Power of Community Advocacy in the Case of the Britannia Community Service Centre : A Portrait of the Community that was Expropriated Shepansky, Claire


Many stories of urban renewal schemes are of top-down planning — eradications of whole neighbourhoods in the name of modernism, which ultimately destroys the fabric of the communities they target; this was almost the fate of the east side of Vancouver in the 1960s if it had not been for forceful community activism. The neighbourhood of Grandview, which had been tragically neglected by City Hall, lacked essential community services, but rather than standing idle, community members took an active role in advocating for their needs. Students, neighbourhood groups and community organizations rallied together with civic staff and ultimately were able to realize their dream of an integrated community centre for Grandview, called the Britannia Community Services Centre. This case of community planning signalled a shift in city planning trends from high modernity urban-renewal plans to social planning with community involvement. This narrative seeks to shed light on those who are often overlooked in this success story — those who gave up the most for their community — the people living in the 77 homes that were expropriated. Ultimately, this story is a testament to the power of community planning and community engagement; it is an example of how a group of citizens advocating for their community can create meaningful and impactful change and positively affect the livelihood of an entire neighbourhood.

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