The gay village is the cultural hub of the West End, according to recent findings from a city-led cultural-mapping exercise held this summer.
The findings come from information gathered at three open houses organized in July by city staff working on a new community plan for the West End. The plan will ultimately set short- and long-term goals for the area to guide its development.
During the consultation process, people who live, work and play in the West End were asked to identify areas and neighbourhood landmarks they consider culturally significant to the community.
City planner Holly Sovdi says participants pointed to local businesses, including popular gay bars and clubs, organizations such as Qmunity, and heritage landmarks.
“Really, what we were looking to do was hear from West Enders, of all ages, what is culturally important to them in the community,” Sovdi explains.
“We were looking to recognize and build on the strength of the community.”
West End Residents' Association president Christine Ackermann says gay businesses in the Davie Village, such as Little Sister's and Oasis, are "also cultural assets."
(James Loewen photo)
Participants were asked to place stickers on a map of the West End identifying buildings, locations and landmarks that they felt were culturally significant to them.
“At the end of the day, what was really clear was that the most significant cluster was located in the Davie Village,” Sovdi says.
“It’s helped identify the Davie Village as an important LGBTQ hub,” he says. “And, as part of the plan, we will recognize that and be building on those strengths.”
“It’s not surprising at all,” Christine Ackermann says of the findings.
“It’s just very good recognition of what is the very best in our community,” she says.
Ackermann, who is president of the West End Residents’ Association, says she lives in the West End in order to stay connected to her queer community and its rich culture.
“I can’t imagine the Davie Village without Little Sister’s or the Fountainhead or Oasis or PumpJack,” she says. "These are businesses, but they’re also cultural assets.”
Ackermann says the Davie Village is not only a noted queer hub for West End residents but it’s also a recognized landmark for those living outside the area.
“The Davie Village plays an important role in the community and is an important cultural resource to many West Enders,” he says.
Results from the cultural-mapping sessions will be compiled in a report and publicly presented in October. Sovdi says the findings will help identify key cultural assets in the community and contribute to shaping the West End community planning process, set to continue over the next 15 to 18 months.
City planners will continue their consultation processes with the public throughout the planning phase, but Sovdi says cultural mapping and “asset recognition” was a crucial first step.
“I think it’s important to recognize the importance of a place as the first step in planning for its future,” he says.
The West End plan is expected to be completed in 2013.