Neighbourhood group rejects brand name

Survey spotlights Hastings-Sunrise

Residents frustrated at the rebranding of the Hastings-Sunrise commercial district as "East Village" by the business improvement association want more say in how areas are labelled.

The Hastings Sunrise Preservation Committee plans to set up meetings with city staff and possibly politicians. "BIAs, they're influencing the community and they don't see themselves as having that influence," said committee co-founder and urban planner Aviva Savelson. "And if they're not concerned with that influence then the city should be concerned about it because it is about who the community is, and the community should have a say."

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The committee presented its preliminary results of its survey to the Hastings North Business Improvement Association May 23, but Savelson said the BIA wasn't prepared to rescind the rebranding.

Three urban planners who live in the area founded the committee. They report receiving more than 450 responses to a survey, conducted on the street and through social media, from March 29.

The committee reports 81 per cent prefer the name Hastings-Sunrise, 13 per cent prefer East Village and six per cent prefer something else.

Fifty-one per cent of the respondents hailed from Hastings-Sunrise. A member of the community voluntarily created whatsourname. about the issue.

Area residents were upset the BIA replaced the old "Hastings Sunrise" banners with "East Village" banners in March and April without input from the community. Some believed the new name sounded like a reference to New York City instead of celebrating what's indigenous to Vancouver. They argue the commercial district is the gateway to the neighbourhood.

Patricia Barnes, executive director of Hastings North BIA, noted the association spent a year and approximately $20,000 rebranding the commercial and industrial districts, which include a stretch of East Hastings between Commercial Drive and Renfrew Street, and an area bounded by Powell Street and Semlin Drive in both Grandview-Woodland and Hastings-Sunrise.

The BIA sent 600 surveys to business and commercial property owners asking whether they supported rebranding. Barnes said most of the 100 respondents were neutral about a change.

Lucia Tam, co-owner of East Village Bakery, which opened in October 2010, said she and her husband drew inspiration from the village-like atmosphere of the area, with its decades-old family-owned businesses. Tam said the BIA didn't approach her to discuss the name change. "What [it's] called is not important to me," Tam said in an email. "But I must add that the old banners were looking a little shabby."

Vision Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer knows the public likes to name public spaces, but she says self-funded BIAs have the right to rebrand their commercial areas and nothing will change on a city map.

The section between Nanaimo and Boundary was first called Hastings for the Hastings Townsite that extended to East 29th Avenue, says historian John Atkin. A new subdivision called Sunrise Ridge near First Avenue prompted the Hastings-Sunrise name in the 1940s. Atkin believes the name was adopted by the city in the 1960s.

Atkin understands why the BIA chose the new name but he said the East Village banners seemed "incongruous" when he spotted them by a chicken processing plant near Commercial and Powell. "A little bit of poking around in the historical records might have come out with other names that might have worked," he added.

Savelson says East Village doesn't reflect the area's specific geographic location in the same way as references to Davie Village or Cambie Village. Knowing the name Hastings-Sunrise was influenced by a development didn't alter her outlook.

"It's something that stuck and I think that's something that people identify with," Savelson said.

Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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