Thomas Bevan is a real estate professional and urban planner who is driven by a social purpose. The root of his professional mission is to make cities more inclusive, where beauty is accessible, and to help create places we can all be proud of and responsible for. 

Over the past six years, Thomas has been working with the Vancity Community Foundation to redevelop the former Vancouver Police Headquarters @ 312 Main Street into a Centre for Social and Economic Innovation. He is currently completing the AIC real estate appraisal designation to better understand the interrelationships between value and community.

Q: Tell us about how 312 Main  has been developing over the last year.

We have been under construction and are projecting to open at the end of spring this year, so there’s been a lot of physical work on the site. The fundraising component of the project has gone well, we have secured funds from the federal government, the Canadian Heritage program, and have secured additional funds from other project sources. We have also completed certain value-add items that have been really well received by the community such as a longhouse gathering space which was asked of us from the First Nations in Vancouver, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs who are one of our anchor tenants, have moved into their space so technically we have occupancy which was a big milestone.

We have hosted a few ministers at 312 Main, including Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly who joined us for our funding announcement, as well as several of the provincial ministers in British Columbia. We have secured about 70% of the space now and we’re in discussions for the Healing & Wellness Centre in the former jail area, as well as in conversation with a major university institution to take the top floor. These negotiations are still underway for the final phases of the project, which are expected to be completed in early 2019. We’ve had community open houses which have been a lot of fun, we have been building our relationships in the Downtown Eastside and helping to provide low barrier jobs and opportunities. This includes groups such as Wish, a charity specialising in female survival sex workers who have been helping with hospitality and making the wayfinding greeting elements of our open houses and will continue to have a presence when the building is officially open. The Binners Project is another community engagement group that has been a really productive relationship, helping us with our waste and recycling sorting for events and the open houses. They will continue helping us for events that are happening during operation to help reduce our waste content as well as providing meaningful employment to folks who haven’t had the same access to opportunities as others.

We’ve been really busy, we have brought on more people onto our team including a Director of Community Engagement and Director of who have been helping further our relationships and really making this project  meaningful for the Downtown Eastside and as relevant as possible.

Q: Once you have secured full occupancy and full funding, what are your next steps?

Well for me personally, I’m starting to look at opportunities for other projects in the Greater Vancouver area, seeing how we can learn from this success and build it further. The federal government has particular interest in the development of cultural hubs such as this, and are considering how we can bridge the worlds of culture, economy and new opportunity for the workforce. So there are some exciting possibilities on the horizon once we get our feet under us for 312 Main.

Q: What’s your drive for continuing along the path of social enterprises?

I believe in helping to repair and restore the fabric of our urban communities. 312 Main is such a great example of an underutilised municipal asset that was costing the city a million dollars a year to keep on life support after the police left it, as it was a dilapidated building, which was re-envisioned  into a space that now financially breaks-even and is opening up opportunities for non-profits and social enterprises. That’s what I’ m really excited about: making real estate work for people. Too often it just works for the bottom line and 312 Main is an example of how it can be done differently.

Interviewers:

The ACSE Team