News / Vancouver

Hogan’s Alley advocates push for black cultural centre in place of viaducts

The viaducts could be torn down as early as 2018

Vancouver's Dunsmuir and Georgia viaducts were built in 1972.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Vancouver's Dunsmuir and Georgia viaducts were built in 1972.

City policymakers bulldozed Vancouver’s once vibrant black neighbourhood with the construction of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts but advocates say tearing down the 40-year old highway would be an opportunity to bring the area back to life.

At its peak, Hogan’s Alley was home to many immigrant communities but the Black community was 800-people strong and served as a hub for black culture in Vancouver, said advocate and urban planner Lama Mugabo.

The viaducts, constructed in 1972 to connect East Vancouver to downtown, destroyed all of that, he said.

“When Hogan’s Alley was destroyed, the black community lost its core so we don’t have a place we call home.”

Mugabo moved to Vancouver in 1975 from Rwanda, only a few years after the viaducts were built.

“It really dealt a huge psychological blow to the black community – we don’t have a place to meet, to talk, to share the culture and food.”

More on Hogan's Alley: 

Hogan's Alley was a hub for Vancouver's black community in the early 1900s until the viaducts were built on top of the area in 1972.

City of Vancouver Archives

Hogan's Alley was a hub for Vancouver's black community in the early 1900s until the viaducts were built on top of the area in 1972.

There are many cultural centres for immigrant communities in Vancouver, including the Croatian Cultural Centre, the Italian Cultural Centre, just to name a few. But there is no equivalent for the black community, said Mugabo, a member of the Hogan’s Alley working group.

The viaducts removal, which will go ahead in 2018 if council approves staff's plans, could be Vancouver’s chance to help build a new one, he said.

“We want to see a black cultural centre and programs that make that place really vibrant and hopefully also attract black businesses.”

The working group hopes the city will create social housing opportunities in the area, too, said Mugabo. The advocate, who also has a Master’s degree in urban planning from UBC, calls Vancouver a “developer-friendly” city where condos appear ubiquitous. 

“We area also mindful of the fact that most black people are not able to buy those condos. So we’re pushing for the case of 100 per cent social housing at welfare rates so that we can provide housing to folks who need it.”

More on the viaducts removal:

The city’s planning director for the Northeast False Creek Project, Kevin McNaney, told Metro council directed staff to make plans for 300 to 200 units of social housing along the stretch of Main Street currently under the viaduct’s shadow.

A cultural centre for the black community is a possibility, he added.

“Council has directed us to do some meaningful commemoration of Hogan’s Alley and to work closely with the community on what that would look like.”

He says the city holds monthly meetings with the black community, which include descendants of residents who were forced out of Hogan’s Alley in the mid 1900s.

City staff have also been conducting public consultation on development plans for the area and will present a report to council at the end of 2017, according to Naney.

UBC Learning Exchange is hosting a public conversation about the future of Hogan’s Alley Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. 

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