Historic South Vancouver Punjabi Market transformation begins

As tens of thousands of people descend on Vancouver's Punjabi Market for the annual Vaisakhi parade next weekend, this year, there will be a noticeable difference on the iconic corner of Main street and 49th Avenue.

What has long been the home of All India Sweets and Restaurant, is now an empty lot — soon to be a new rental housing complex.

"Right now, it's a flat lot with fencing around it," said Orr Development's public relations consultant Bhupinder Hundal.

But by the fall of 2018, Orr Development expects to complete a 75-unit rental housing complex, with retail space at street level. 

"There's a special connection that many generations have with that three blocks," said Hundal.

"It really does sadden them when the Punjabi market isn't doing well. I think this is going to reignite and re-excite them again."

In the last decade, many Punjabi businesses have left Main Street in favour of a growing South Asian community and lower rents in Surrey.

Heritage art installation 

 As part of the new housing development, the Orr family — which has owned the land for more than 50 years — is commissioning a permanent art display in the building. The art will celebrate the Punjabi community's contribution and history in the neighbourhood. 

"There may be plenty of shopping options in Surrey, but there's nothing that has the emotional attachment or the historical attachment that the Punjabi market has," said Hundal.

Vancouver based artist Paneet Singh who is creating the artwork said it's an important move by the developer.

"It doesn't strip the area of its identity and its history. It sets a precedent for any other future developments."

More development on the way

The Orr Development project isn't the only housing complex transforming the Punjabi Market. 

The former Frontier Cloth House building on Main Street and 51st Avenue currently has a development application before the City of Vancouver.

Developer Rattan Bagga intends to have 29 units for rent in the next three years.

"At first, it was just a real estate development," Bagga admitted.

"But as I got to know about the area, I developed a love for it."