Vancouver green-lights tech hub in former Downtown Eastside cop shop

312/324 Main | BCBusiness
The building is at the corner of Main and Cordova in the Downtown Eastside.

The City’s proposed tech and social innovation centre will move ahead after criticism earlier this year for ignoring community input

The City of Vancouver’s lingering proposal for a technology and social innovation centre at a former police office in the Downtown Eastside will go ahead, the City announced Friday. 

The Vancity Community Foundation will act as landlord and manage the 100,000-square-foot building at 312/324 Main, which was occupied by the Vancouver Police Department until 2011. 

As part of the City’s digital strategy, the centre will house startups, social enterprises and nonprofits, providing them with office space, business services, access to financing and training.

On the second floor of the building, the foundation will lease “a hub for social innovation and inclusion,” while the ground floor will function as a community space. The foundation has earmarked $1.5-million to fund both. 

“[It’s] a unique and exciting partnership that will provide significant new support to foster innovation in our community and economy,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in a statement. 

He added that the centre will accelerate local job growth and investment in Vancouver startups and social enterprises.

Originally proposed by the now-deceased city councillor Jim Green eight years ago, the centre was proposed as a hub that serves the local community first and technology companies second. 

Then in February of this year, as the City looked to put out an RFP for the proposed centre, it came under fire from community group Citizens for Change for not consulting the local community and shifting the focus of the space to tech sector companies. 

While the City has released only preliminary details on the future of the building, it won’t include social housing, which critics of the revised proposal have called for.