Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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Skytrain Rambler: Stadium-Chinatown

Favourite places to go and eat by Skytrain


Banana cream pie from VCC's Seiffert Market

Banana cream pie was Gilligan’s favourite and is one of the best deals from VCC’s Seiffert Market. Photos by Julie Cheng

“Banana cream pie!” My husband’s eyes lit up. “That was Gilligan’s favourite. Mary Ann always made it for him.”

“Did you like Mary Ann or Ginger?” I asked. Mary Ann and Ginger are two very different but hot castaways from the iconic TV series Gilligan’s Island.

Pause. “I liked Mrs. Howell; she had lots of money,” he said.

The banana cream pie was just one of the deals I picked up from Seiffert Market at Vancouver Community College, located downtown at Pender and Cambie. That day I was lucky to get my hands on fresh-baked muffins (still warm, six for $2.50), whole-wheat buns (12 for $1.50), shepherd’s pie ($4.00) and chicken dinner ($2.50, reduced from $4.50). But the fresh pies are really the best deal in town: $3.50.

Sieffert Market is just one of my favourite places I’ll talk about in a new series: the Skytrain Rambler.

Why Skytrain Rambler?
I love the Skytrain. With two lines (Expo and Millennium) running through it, Renfrew-Collingwood has more Skytrain stops than any other community. The Skytrain can take you downtown and on to the North Shore, east to Burnaby, Coquitlam or Surrey, and south to Richmond.

The Skytrain saved me years ago when I was searching for places to go with my two preschool kids. I’d take them to the Central Branch library, Metrotown, Central Park, Seabus and North Vancouver. When they started to fuss with hunger we’d always find a good meal just around the corner.

Today the Skytrain gives my teenage kids the freedom to go to these very same places and discover their own favourite eating spot. It’s a fast, efficient and environmentally friendly option for mass transportation. You save on parking and gas and you’ll enjoy amazing views.

Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station map

Go up the stairs or escalator and stop outside the Stadium Smoke Shoppe. Under the Plan Your Trip Here sign you’ll find a map showing where you can walk to within five minutes from the station.

So hop on and take a ride!

Skytrain stop: Stadium-Chinatown
Zone 1; 10-15 minutes from Renfrew-Collingwood stations

From Joyce-Collingwood, 29th Avenue or Nanaimo stations, take the Expo line or Millennium line, heading to Waterfront station.

From Rupert or Renfrew stations take the Millennium line to VCC Clark then transfer to Expo or Millennium line heading to Waterfront station.

Get off at the Stadium-Chinatown stop. Head up the stairs or escalator, past the Blenz and up another flight of stairs. Exit at Beatty and Dunsmuir.

Seiffert Market. One block west along Dunsmuir, you’ll hit the back entrance of Vancouver Community College (main entrance is 250 West Pender Street; walking time from station is 5 minutes). Upstairs, Seiffert Market sells fresh muffins, pies, cakes, lunch entrees and more made by VCC baking and culinary arts students.

Hedley has worked at Vancouver Community College for 25 years

While at Seiffert Market, be sure to say hello to the smiling guy behind the counter, Hedley, who has worked at VCC for 25 years.

On any given day you can get treats and staples for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, from delicious croissants and cakes to ready-made soups and salads to uncooked racks of lamb and salmon filets.

The lunchtime scene reminds me of Woodward’s $1.49 Day sales as customers scramble for the best deals that day. Watch the elbows! Also check out the student-run cafeteria or JJ’s restaurant. Downstairs in the salon, you can get your hair cut for $7.50.

Exit VCC at Hamilton and Dunsmuir. Walk south up Hamilton Street, past the Canada Post office to Georgia Street (3 minutes).

Central Branch, Vancouver Public Library (350 West Georgia Street). It was always a treat to take my kids to the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library. Under the soaring lobby outside the branch you can enjoy a coffee/hot chocolate and muffin with your kids before going to one of the children’s storytime and checking out the terrific collection of books.

Head west down Robson Street to Howe Street (10 minutes).

Seafood tacos from one of the food carts at Robson Square

At Robson Square you can enjoy amazing food like this perfectly seared scallop with mango salsa taco from Feastro the Rolling Bistro food cart. Photo by Puspa Affandi

Robson Square. Here’s another great place to people watch. Take your pick of delicious multi-ethinic food from the food carts surrounding the square. The Vancouver Art Gallery is also right there, housed in a beautiful former provincial courthouse. Admission for children under 5 is free and is by donation on Tuesdays 5:00 to 9:00 pm.

Across from the Vancouver Art Gallery, on Georgia Street, the Hong Kong Bank building features a stunning piece of art hanging from its lobby: a 90-foot (27.5 metre) aluminum pendulum by sculptor Alan Storey.

Chinatown. Head north til you hit Dunsmuir Street again and walk east til you’re back at the Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station. Walking this will take you at least 25 minutes so think about hopping onto the Skytrain at Granville station (Dunsmuir entrance is before Seymour Street) and making your way back to Stadium-Chinatown. Once there, exit to the right of the transit Lost Property office, through the concourse level down the stairs to Keefer Place and past T&T supermarket.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver's Chinatown

Opened in 1986, the Sun Yat-Sen garden is an urban oasis set amidst new high rises.

Head down Keefer until you hit the back side of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (578 Carrall Street between Keefer and Pender). There is a free section of the garden that is run by the Vancouver Park Board.

Chinatown has changed a lot since I enjoyed the breakfast butterhorns from BC Royal Café and the apple tarts from Hong Kong Café. Those wonderful cafes have long gone but you can still get apple tarts at the busy New Town Bakery (148 East Pender)—they’re not quite the same but still pretty good. While at New Town, take out a Dai Bao, which one friend described as a Chinese hamburger.

If the timing is right, check out the Vancouver Chinatown night market, running til September 8, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 6:00 to 11:00 pm, along Keefer Street between Main and Columbia.

That’s the end of the first Skytrain trek. Back home, the banana cream pie must have earned an A+ for its maker. Gilligan and Mary Ann would have approved.

Julie Cheng loves to ride the Skytrain. She is the editor of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright (c) 2013 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


Welcoming the Kingsway Continental to the neighbourhood

The Kingsway Continental, formerly the Ramada Inn, is scheduled to open in fall 2013. The City purchased it in November 2012 to turn into non-market housing. A coalition of local service providers is collecting donations for welcoming kits for incoming residents.


Renfrew-Collingwood is gearing up to welcome the Kingsway Continental and its new tenants moving in from the Old Continental this fall. From an open house and community meetings, the City of Vancouver worked with a group of Renfrew-Collingwood service providers, identifying needs and concerns for a smooth transition.

Once the Ramada Inn, located at 3484 Kingsway at Tyne, the building will also house local residents requiring affordable housing as well as, temporarily, residents of BC Housing buildings undergoing renovations.

The committee working with the City includes Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH), the Collingwood Community Policing Centre, the Collingwood Business Improvement Association, the Evergreen Community Health Centre and the Renfrew-Collingwood Homelessness Community.

Angela Evans, the executive director of the Collingswood BIA, said, “The tenants were notified at the same time, about seven months ago, so it is not a surprise and people have time to process.”

CNH’s executive director Jennifer Gray-Grant said, “The neighbourhood’s expectation is for the new tenants to live here, get services locally and feel comfortable enough to participate in the community.”

Local service providers, residents and youth are putting together welcome kits with shopping bags provided by the Collingwood BIA.

Gray-Grant asks the public to donate everyday necessities such as socks, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors and shaving cream. These could be dropped off at Collingwood Neighbourhood House (5288 Joyce Street) or the Collingwood Community Policing Centre (5160 Joyce Street).

“The welcome packages will include information on local services and businesses. There will be coupons, socks, toques and toiletries, for example,” she said.

According to the City’s Kingsway Continental Q-and-A sheet, most of the tenants of the Old Continental (a City-operated non-market housing building in downtown Vancouver that will close) are men over the age of 45, primarily on welfare or receiving a pension. “Many tenants at the Old Continental are living with mental health or addition issues or other medical conditions.”

“The Evergreen clinic has said it has the capacity to work with the new residents,” notes Gray-Grant. “And here at CNH we provide breakfast for those who are homeless or tentatively housed every Saturday with our Morning Star breakfast-and-shower program. They are welcome to join us.”

Gray-Grant also said there are other adult and seniors programs and initiatives available at CNH.

Evans said, “It has been a positive process. To see everyone come together as a community–the businesses, people, associations, volunteers–everyone on every level is committed and on the same page. They’re welcoming, not barring anyone. “

She said members of the BIA were asked to contribute next month.

Jennifer Standeven, the City of Vancouver spokesperson for this project, said that, based on the open house event held at the neighbourhood house, she found residents warm and welcoming. Some of them mentioned the possibility of moving to the Kingsway Continental when they get older and want a smaller or more affordable place.

“They see it as a community resource,” Standeven said.

Gray-Grant said, “We have the highest number of seniors of any Vancouver neighbourhood. As well as the highest number of youth and second highest number of children.”

Having this building available nearby means residents on limited incomes will have one more option for staying within their community of friends and neighbours.

One of the priorities set out by the Metro Vancouver Affordable Housing Strategy is to “increase the supply of modest cost housing.” The Kingsway Continental Q-and-A says the hotel has 123 rooms.

“The first priority is housing the tenants from the Old Continental,” said Standeven. “The second priority is to support BC Housing while they renovate their old buildings. People will be able to stay temporarily at the Kingsway Continental.”

Standeven estimates these members would stay from 12 to 18 months at a time while renovations happen.

“And the third priority is two-fold: to acquire or build social housing across Vancouver and to build community partnerships to support affordable housing across the city. We want neighbourhoods to feel good about this.

“Collingwood has been fabulous because they want to see more social housing in the neighbourhood,” she said.

According to the Metro Vancouver Housing Data Book, BC Housing collects data on households that have applied for social housing in Metro Vancouver and there is a wait list. While the waiting list indicates a need for affordable housing, it is not necessarily an accurate measure of the demand.

The book notes, “the number of households in Metro Vancouver waiting for social housing has increased by 35%, from 6,630 in 2009 to 8,955 in 2012.”

The City of Vancouver is the municipality with the greatest number of households waiting for social housing at 3,632 households. It is followed by Surrey (1, 305), Burnaby (1,182) and Richmond (599).

There is a possibility of the Collingwood Legion leasing the former pub space on the ground floor; they are currently in the middle of negotiations and nothing is confirmed.

Standeven said, “Once the tenants are settled in, the community will be invited for a welcome, possibly in October.”

For information about the welcome kits, please contact CNH at 604-435-0323.

For more information about the Kingsway Continental project, go to

Deanna Cheng is a journalism student at Langara College.

Copyright (c) 2013 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Zumba fever hits Renfrew-Collingwood

Symptoms include getting fit, making new friends, releasing stress and smiling



Janet Abatayo flings her pony tail in the air as she performs an energetic dance move during a Zumba class at Collingwood Neighbourhood House. Photo by Patrick Painter

If you’ve noticed a friend, relative or co-worker smiling more lately, that person might be one of the many Renfrew-Collingwood residents who are loving life because they’re doing Zumba – an intercultural dance-fitness program that brings people from different cultures together for a fitness workout that feels more like a dance party.

Why do people love Zumba so much?
There are many reasons. “Zumba takes my stress out,” said Maya Nand, who does Zumba as much as possible. Menchie Pabiloma also sees Zumba as a stress-reliever: “When I get stressed out at work, coming to Zumba at Collingwood Neighbourhood House is a way of letting go.”

Connecting with people is another benefit. “Through Zumba, you can meet a lot of new friends,” said Pabiloma, a sentiment echoed by instructor Josie Nicks: “If you’re a shy person, doing Zumba at CNH gives you a comfortable space to express yourself. It’s a great way to meet people.”

Zumba also offers an enjoyable way to keep fit: “I stay fit, active and healthy by enjoying myself through dancing,” said Arianne Copada. Susan Borean agreed: “It’s about having fun and keeping fit, and it’s for both young and old.”

The music, which is mostly based on Latin rhythms, is another attraction: “I’m from Brazil,” said Ivani, “and I can’t stop dancing to the music.” Nelly Yep also digs the grooves. “It’s the music I love most. I was born in South America and I love Latin music.”

“It makes me feel sexy!” Laura Montes declared; the music makes her feel “like an exotic fruit.” Janet Abatayo noted the music’s spirtitual power: “When I do Zumba, I feel like I’m in heaven.”

But it takes more than great music to create the joy you’ll experience at a Zumba class. It takes a fantastic instructor and a welcoming space. Thanks to Collingwood Neighbourhood House and Renfrew Park Community Centre, as well as the talented instructors they’ve attracted, Renfrew-Collingwood residents have all their Zumba needs covered.

A total of 12 one-hour classes are offered each week and no matter which class or venue you choose, you’ll feel welcomed, just as instructor Alicia Meek felt when she first entered Collingwood Neighbourhood House. “The people here at CNH are incredibly welcoming,” Meek said. “After only through months, I felt I was a part of the community. It feels great to hear people say hello to me by name when I walk down the street.”

Zumba participants had only good things to say about the instructors. “Alicia is awesome!” Kitty Fong exclaimed. “She is so patient. She shows us all the steps, and always with a smile.” Alicia also teaches Zumba at Renfrew Park Community Centre. About instructor Josie Nicks, who teaches at CNH, Alison Ku said: “Josie always smiles and she puts her heart into every class.” Jasmine Meger listed some of the virtues of another CNH instructor, Adriana Contreras, saying: “Adriana is so inspiring. She’s always smiling and she is so genuine. Her dancing is so artful!”

Is Zumba difficult?
“Not at all,” Josie Nicks assures us. “Anybody at any level can do Zumba. There are just a few basic moves. It’s the music that adds the variety and keeps things interesting.” Nicks says that for most people, it takes only three or four classes to get the hang of the steps.

So should you give Zumba a try? Zumba enthusiast Elaine Boschman thinks so because “after doing Zumba, you’ll feel like you can take on the world!”

Collingwood Neigbourhood House and Renfrew Park Community Centre offer basic Zumba classes as well as specialized Zumba classes for children and seniors and for body toning. To find out more about local Zumba classes, please visit or Low-income earners should contact CNH (604) 435-0323 or RPCC at 604-257-8388 to inquire about discounts.

Patrick Painter is a member of Renfrew-Collingwood’s Interculturalism, Health and Physical Activity Initiative. Interculturalism is about embracing diversity, fostering awareness and connecting people. “Create something new with someone who’s not like you.”

Copyright (c) 2013 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News