2 min

A year in review 2016: New plaza and memorial help reclaim Vancouver’s gay village

Jim Deva Plaza and West End Sex Workers Memorial both unveiled in 2016

Jim Deva’s partner of 42 years, Bruce Smyth, says Deva would have liked the idea of a public community space in his beloved Davie Village. Credit: Angelina Cantada/Daily Xtra

The City of Vancouver kept its promise and opened Jim Deva Plaza just in time for Pride this year, changing the face of the Davie Village.

Watch our video of the plaza’s opening ceremony on July 28, 2016. (Angelina Cantada and Robin Perelle/Daily Xtra)

With its loving tribute to late community leader Jim Deva, its embedded rainbow tiles and its giant megaphone nod to free speech and truths, the plaza offers a promise of public community space. It’s already becoming a gathering point in times of Pride as well as grief (it was here that friends and community held a celebration of life for Oliver Zamarripa)

Children play inside the new giant megaphone, whose inscription is a tribute to Jim Deva and everything he cherished.
Angelina Cantada/Daily Xtra

A few blocks away, the City of Vancouver also unveiled its groundbreaking memorial to the West End’s sex workers in September, considered the first of its kind in Canada. 

The monument honours the sex workers who once were part of a flourishing community before being expelled from the gay village and pushed aside to Yaletown and other parts further east, by city bylaws and a court order.

For Jamie Lee Hamilton, who co-founded the West End Sex Workers Memorial Committee in 2008, the monument’s unveiling is like a homecoming. 

“It’s a powerful symbol of our community and the place that we had there,” she says, “and for those no longer with us, it brings some justice as well.”

The inscription at the base of the new memorial.
Rosemary Newton/Daily Xtra

The tall Victorian-style lamppost, whose summit lights up red at night, stands in front of St Paul’s Anglican Church at the corner of Jervis and Pendrell.

Together, the plaza and memorial help stem the tide of gentrification in the Davie Village — or at least stake our community’s ongoing claim to the space, and remind us of our historical connection to the neighbourhood evolving around us. 

And speaking of the gaybourhood, iconic diner Hamburger Mary’s finally reopened at Davie and Bute Streets in May after more than a year of renovations, but not without some controversy.

Hamburger Mary’s, a fixture in Vancouver’s Davie Village for decades, now sits on the corner of the new Jim Deva Plaza.
Niko Bell/Daily Xtra