Book Tells Story of Daring Downtown Project

January 11, 2010 - News Release

One of the most complex and daring urban redevelopments in Canada - the Woodward's project in Vancouver - is set to open this week. And a University of Guelph professor will be there to witness the historic occasion and launch a new book he edited about the project.

Robert Enright, a University research professor in art criticism, was invited to attend the official opening of the Woodward's project. On Friday, he’'ll moderate a public roundtable discussion about the project and a book launch of Body Heat, which tells the story of the project.

Enright wrote the introduction and conducted more than 25 interviews with key participants for the book, including community activists, developers, architects, historians, business people, city planners and artists. It also includes essays by well-known academics on the project’s ties to social justice, architecture and art, as well as photographs, memorabilia and architectural drawings.

“The interviews really provide insight into the diversity of issues confronted by the project,” said Enright, adding that his subjects ranged from street people living in the Downtown Eastside, which is Canada’s poorest postal code, to Vancouver’s richest and most powerful developers.

The $500-million Woodward’s project involved the transformation of once-bustling Woodward’s Department Store in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Its closure in 1993 is said to have contributed to the decline in that part of the city, which over the years became notorious for drug pushers, homelessness and poverty.

The project takes up an entire city block and is intended to provide living, working and commercial space for people from all walks of life. Two tall towers mix high-end and moderately priced condos with subsidized social housing. Other multi-use buildings house restaurants, boutiques, and office, educational and cultural space.

Woodward’s will also be home to city and government offices, including the National Film Board and Health Canada, and Simon Fraser University’s new Centre for the Performing Arts, which features numerous cinema and performance spaces.

Woodward’s residents include more than 1,000 condominium owners and some 400 low-income tenants, including some who suffer from mental illness and drug addiction.

”Everything about this project is a crazy mixture of hard-nosed pragmatism and utopian dreaming,” said Enright. “It has involved a lot of people taking risks.”

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or; or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or

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