Total Redesign Planned From Bute to Burrard

One possible “look” for a redesigned Alberni Street between Bute and Burrard.

The City of Vancouver recently issued a request for proposals for a design team to undertake one of the largest public realm improvement projects cited in the 2013 West End Community Plan — a complete remake of the two-block stretch of Alberni from Bute to Burrard.

Planned changes to the luxury retail strip would include new public spaces for community events and street activity, mid-block pedestrian crossings, wider sidewalks, new street furniture, public art, and decorative special lighting.

The first phase of public consultation on the project is expected to take place in late June, which will then lead to the design team’s creation of three streetscape concept options by late July. A draft design will be selected in late August, with the final design to be completed in the fall.

The Alberni Street project is one of a group of West End public realm improvements to be funded by the community amenity contributions generated from the developments now reshaping the West End landscape. These include Jim Deva Plaza in the Davie Village, which was completed in 2016,, and the public plaza on Bute at Robson which was opened in 2017.

Stay tuned!



Residents of the eight-story, 30-suite Villa Contessa at 1433 Burnaby have launched a petition to save their community garden, started four years ago by several tenants and maintained over the years as a collaboration among several devoted gardeners.

The building had been privately owned for many years by a couple who sold it last October to the MetCap Living group headquartered in Toronto, which manages numerous properties across Canada.

MetCap informed tenants on Monday, March 25 that they needed to remove the garden to make way for future landscaping on the property. They were directed to remove all plants and fixtures by April 2 and advised that after that date residents would no longer be allowed access to the area on the west side of the building.

“This community garden has become an icon of Burnaby Street” reads the petition, adding “The garden is highly valued by its residents and neighbours”. The garden serves as a communal project and a meeting spot for many tenants to socialize outdoors, furthering the sense of community.

The plan to replace the Villa’s hands-on residents’ garden with generic landscaping seems in contradiction to MetCap’s statement on their website that: “Everyday, we remind ourselves that our business involves much more than bricks and mortar. It's our people - the MetCap Living family, taking care of your family everyday! Our approach to business makes us more than different. It makes us better!”

The West End Journal spoke to tenant and petition organizer Pascal Pillon on Sunday, March 31 and learned that since the petition was initiated MetCap have advised the tenants that plans are now on-hold, at least for the moment. Further discussions will take place in the coming week or two.

In the meantime, the petition continues to gather signatures, and West Enders who would like to support their neighbours in this effort can do so here.

Tanja Dixon-Warren and Anna Hagan. (Ellie O’Day Photo)

Anna Hagan Hands Artistic Reins To Tanja Dixon-Warren

here’s much excitement this month at the West End’s popular black-box live entertainment venue, PAL Studio Theatre on Cardero as Western Gold Theatre, PAL’s resident company, artistic director Anna Hagan announces her retirement.

Twenty-five years ago Joy Coghill founded Western Gold, serving as its first artistic director. Anna has helmed the company for its last eight years, and is now handing over the reins to veteran actor and director Tanja Dixon-Warren.

Western Gold Theatre Society is a professional non-profit theatre company, founded in response to the dearth of roles for professional senior (55+) actors in the Vancouver area. Today Western Gold includes younger colleagues in cast and crew, creating opportunities for mentorship.

Western Gold’s slogan – “Creativity has no expiry date” – drew Tanja first to serve on its board of directors. “In high school theatre you ‘age-up’”, she notes, “so there’s no reason we can’t do the reverse!! Theatre is not a ‘career’ in the sense that you begin and end your career at a certain date, so why should an actor – a consummate storyteller – ‘retire’? I am interested in exploring / embracing that!”

Tanja grew up in Haney, taking the bus into Vancouver to see the shows included her Vancouver Playhouse season tickets, which she saved up for by pumping gas and babysitting. She recalls seeing Western Gold regular Terence Kelly in The Crucible, as well as the company’s general manager Glenn MacDonald and Nicola Cavendish among others, and she would wait by the stage door hoping to meet them. Later she married, and discovered that her father-in-law had founded the Players Club with Joy Coghill. Because of this connection, Western Gold remained on her radar, 

Tanja and her husband Michael Fera were nothing but enterprising when they established Hoarse Raven Theatre - a small grassroots organization operating without funding - and launched Tony and Tina’s Wedding in the mid-90s, becoming the second longest running play in Canadian theatre. When it closed in 2009, she continued working on stage, serving on a number of boards, and began working at Full Circle: First Nations Performance as managing producer.

“Joy Coghill was always so generous and supportive of Michael and me” says Tanja. “I believe in legacy and passing on what one knows. Pay it forward, pay it backward!” Now she’ll work with those she admired in her youth.

As she hands over the reins, Anna adds, “It’s been a privilege to guide Western Gold Theatre through some interesting times, and I couldn’t be happier with the appointment of Tanja D as the new artistic director. She will bring expertise, inclusiveness, and a joie de théâtre that will take our company to exciting and new heights. Bravo Tanja!”

Finishing the current 26th season is a production in the fall of Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone, November 1 - 17, 2019. The play features four women in their 70s having tea in their garden after an apocalyptic event.

“I’m very collaborative,” notes Tanja, “and I’m looking forward to working with Vancouver artists! Let’s go! The more people, the better!”

West End’s Latest Italian Diner

Within days of its opening last month the West End’s latest Italian restaurant is playing to full houses. Italian Tomato, which has a location in Richmond, now has its second Metro Vancouver location in the heart of the Davie Village (1047 Davie). Most recently the site of the short-lived Priscilla’s Restaurant, the location was, as many long-time West Enders will remember, the home of Gigi’s, another Italian-themed eatery which also offered live entertainment on the weekends.

The Italian Tomato menu includes an extensive array of antipasti, pasta, and thin-crust pizza, 14 types of pasta, and 39 sauces to choose from.

No word yet as to whether there might be live entertainment! We’ll keep you posted!

Elpie Marinakis and Nathan Fong.


by Joy Metcalfe

It was quite the surprise gala gala do for one of the most popular dynamos in the food and hospitality industry last week. The exclusive party was held aboard the elegant and spacious Pacific Yacht to salute and honour Nathan Fong on his 60th birthday. Nathan, the award-winning chef, food stylist, columnist, TV personality, instigator of the Dr. Peter Aids Foundation and chair of the annual fund-raising dinner, B.C. Seafood Ambassador and founder of fongonfood. His latest business venture with his forever mate, Michel Chicoine, is producing and headlining their new International Culinary Tours.

Spotted among the crowd of family and friends were his sister Lori, husband Darin Fenton and their nine-year-old daughter, Ashley; New York City’s Stephanie Browner, curator of the Manray Collection; Chef Hiroko Sugiyama of Seattle; Portland’s Joan Cirillo and hubby Roger; Adam Borden, food marketing specialist from Washington D.C.; B.C.’s food and wine guru Tim Pawsey; Global TV anchors Chris Gailus, Sophie Lui and Coleen Christie; Stile Brands’ bubbly Dorothy Budden and her best bud, David; Andrew and Leeann Froese; PR ladies Cate Simpson and Nancy Wong; Pacific Yacht Charters’ Suzanne Girard and the stunning co-owner and Managing Director of the Wedgwood Hotel Elpie Marinakis with her handsome beau, Steve MacAuley. She was still beaming from a trio of awards that the hotel had recently received from U.S. News and World Report, The Georgia Straight and the Travel+Leisure Magazine.


Over at The Hyatt Regency, more than 500 guests enjoyed the 20th anniversary of the Healthy Chefs Competition, hosted by the Hyatt and orchestrated by the B.C.  Produce Marketing Association. It’s one of the truly unique evenings of fresh food and wine dining, a chance to nosh on appetizers, explore the showcases, cast a People’s Choice vote, and enjoy your mystery entree and dessert.  Some of those restaurants and eateries involved included The Cedar Feast House, The Wild Fig, Mosaic Grille, the Acqua Restaurant and West Coast Grill. CTV’s suave weatherman Marke Driesschen was once again the evening’s emcee. Kudos to all involved for a fun and very different night of delectable dining.

The Hyatt team presenting a cheque for $7,724.80 to the Make A Wish Foundation.

The Hyatt was also alive with the most colourful scene during the holidays with their 28th annual Gingerbread Lane, a major fund-raiser for the Make A Wish Foundation. There were 35 entries with four different categories – secondary schools, professional, amateur and corporate businesses. Secondary school winner was David Thompson High, amateur category was won by LaSalle College, the Corporate category winner was the Kiwanis Care Centre while the Professional category was won by Joel Feenstra, Sian Hurley and Carrielynn Victor.

These gingerbread creations were amazing works of art bringing a sense of beauty and peace to the Christmas season, a chance to revel in the sparkling tranquility.

Best of all, the event raised a whopping $7,724.80 for the Make A Wish cause. Kudos to Hotel G.M. Lin Schatz and the Hyatt’s longtime busy bee, Ellie Teano.


And while the sun may be shining with spring around the corner, Century Plaza Hotel’s Wendy Cocchia never wants to be late so she has just sent out notices for her annual Pacific Autism Family Network’s Christmas luncheon. It’ll be on Friday, Nov. 29th at Parq Vancouver where an enormous crowd gathered last year to raise thousands of dollars for autism research and support.

And the Absolute Spas’s Mobile Treatment units have been busier than ever with all the movies and TV series shooting around town like Riverdale and A Million Little Things which has just been renewed.


It’s Bon Voyage time for this town’s top concierge, Geoffrey Argue of The Sutton Place Hotel. Geoff has just departed for the International Les Clefs d’Or in Cannes, France, to take part in the celebrations marking the 90th anniversary of the forming of the renowned Les Clefs d’Or. Tell you all when he returns...



There are several popular hotels on the west side of Burrard Street, which qualifies them as being part of the West End community. Many locals frequent their restaurants and lounges and special events. Joy Metcalfe, former popular about-town reporter for the Vancouver Courier, The Province, and Radio CKNW, keeps West Enders up to date on the latest news from those quarters.