Well, this is kind of a unique idea.

The Associated Press

Vancouver, British Columbia – A long-derelict department store has been proposed as the site of the city’s biggest redevelopment project, encompassing drug addicts, businesses and middle-income earners.

Site preparation already has begun for the $3.5 million (US$2.9 million) redevelopment plan at the old Woodward’s store in the heart of the Downtown Eastside slum, and the low-income housing units, tony market-priced lofts and condominiums are scheduled for completion in 2009.

Already, planners are thinking about how to prepare the new neighbors for living together.

Hip condo buyers will enjoy the neighborhood more, be more sensitive and have fewer fears if they learn about the mental health issues many residents face and the effects of street drugs, said Cameron Gray, a city housing director.

“And I think we should be educating (current Downtown Eastside) residents, too, about what is appropriate behavior,” Gray said.

Many who now live in the gritty area fear the project is only the first step in a gentrification process.

“People don’t want to move into this neighborhood to learn about the people down here,” said Muggs Sigurgeirson, vice president of the Carnegie Center Association, a community center and meeting place for homeless people and drug users.

“They want a good housing deal, and then they want to protect their investment and want their property value to go up, so they fight to push homeless people out,” Sigurgeirson said.

Vancouver housing project would mix addicts and middle-income

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