Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is known the world over as a tough neighbourhood. So when we were asked to brand a redevelopment of market homes on the border of this area, we knew it would not be easy. But with a strong developer and a surprising number of community advantages, this project has become a small but effective redevelopment success story.

Salient Group, with offices right in Gastown, has used their local knowledge and love of heritage renovation to launch some of the area’s most innovative residential redevelopments. Just a bit further east, a local property lending institution was stuck with an old stratified concrete and brick building which had sat vacant for a number of years. They called upon Salient’s expertise to reconceive, develop and market the homes.

Salient called Unicycle Creative.

Establishing the story
In the original Brand Centering session, we realized there’s more to Gastown and the Downtown Eastside than you’ll see on the evening news. It is home to some of Vancouver’s most exciting new restaurants, shops and businesses.

“Our buyers are people who know this area, and may even already live or work here,” says Robert Fung, President of the Salient Group. “They see the possibilities this neighbourhood has, and they like its creative ‘edge’. So we knew we didn’t want a traditional real estate campaign with smiling people sipping lattes.”

From a sustainability perspective, the re-use of an existing building shell, the addition of density to an ‘urban village’ neighbourhood and the focus on affordability for entry-level purchasers all reflected quite positively on the development. But a purely ‘green’ angle was secondary, we felt, to the rich story of the community itself.

21 Doors. A name that opens a lot of possibilities.
Intimate. Understated. An approachable scale of community development. A limited number of buying opportunities. These are some of the qualities communicated in this unique development identity.

“We knew an over-the-top creative name would be trying too hard,” says Unicycle Creative Director Lorne Craig. “Yet branding this building with the address alone would not say enough. We wanted people to imagine sharing time in the central courtyard with their neighbours. We also wanted to respect the fact that the Downtown Eastside is already a community, and we are part of that. 21 Doors has a close-knit quality to it that we hope will continue to inspire the people that live there.”

Celebrating a ‘Community of Independents’
The LiveAt21Doors identity was designed as a combination of art and journalism, using line drawings, gritty concrete textures and a duotone colour palette. A neighbourhood map boldly features hip new local restaurants and businesses right next to Downtown Eastside landmarks like the Carnegie Centre and Pigeon Park.

A gallery of artistic photographs by project designer Arno Apeldoorn brought a fresh eye to the Gastown area, showing off the textures and light that make this historic area such a treasure. These were also used prominently in the display centre.
The traditional glossy real estate lifestyle brochure was abandoned in favour of a simple door hanger, distributed to local businesses. This piece played off the ‘door’ theme, while showcasing the many benefits of living in the Gastown/Eastside area with a bit of fun. A print ad in the Georgia Straight drove more prospects to the website, setting the stage for opening day.

Open for success.
After the dust settled on the first weekend of sales, 19 of the 21 Doors were spoken for. The affordable price point of these homes and the intelligent courtyard design by Taylor Kurtz Architecture & Design were the real draw. But overcoming the negative perceptions of a neighbourhood in transition by putting it in full view and celebrating its diversity no doubt played a valuable part in such a successful launch.

These units were never designed to gentrify the area with million-dollar homes. They were offered as an affordable opening into one of the world’s most expensive real estate markets.

So perhaps most satisfying statistic of all is the fact that over 50% of sales went to first-time buyers. The sales team worked extra hard to make deals happen for those new home owners who love the Gastown area and want to bring their own energy to the community.

All of which makes these 21 Doors a worthy contribution to the revitalization of Vancouver’s original neighbourhood.

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