Project Description

In 2019, Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) engaged Hessey to manage the Activate Downtown Eastside (DTES) & The Flats community economic development project.  The primary goal of this research and pilot project was to support the tenure of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Vancouver’s DTES and the False Creek Flats industrial area.  Access to industrial space continues to be a significant priority in Vancouver in order to provide a diversity of employment opportunities, cultivate inclusive economic development, strengthen overall economic resilience, supply a range of employment opportunities, and support the circular economy.  The scope of this project was to provide affordable space supports for the SMEs that keep Vancouver functional and liveable. 

About the Vancouver Economic Commission 

The Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) is an agency of the City of Vancouver with the mission of building the city’s economic development and growth. The VEC works to foster a thriving, low carbon, and resilient local economy in Vancouver by providing programs, supporting local companies, attracting high-level talent and investment, and more. 

Project Goal: Support the access and tenure of SMEs in Vancouver’s DTES and False Creek Flats neighbourhoods through the activation of vacant industrial space.  There was a significant emphasis on the research and proposal of a spectrum of shared-space models in order to promote solutions to Vancouver’s space affordability challenges. 

Activate DTES & The Flats was a partnership between VEC and the City of Vancouver, with project management services delivered by Hessey. The project was envisioned in multiple phases.  The initial phase included market research and pilot project development.  

Hessey conducted a space needs inventory through 80+ interviews with organizations that were either looking for space or had space to offer in the DTES and False Creek Flats. The engagement process identified more than 55 organizations seeking spaces in these areas, including artist collectives, start-ups, social enterprises, small manufacturers, and other small businesses. This research also revealed key details such as demographics of participating SMEs in these areas, and better defined the opportunity for Activate.  

Hessey identified and built out five highly developed affordable space project concepts, each with a different space type and scenario. Each conceptual business plan was developed around real sites, tenants, and leadership, with appropriate identification of financial, programmatic, and policy support necessary to launch them.  

Insights gained from this project have been carried forward to the Activate DTES project.  


Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC)
Stephen Tufts (Consultant) 
City of Vancouver (CoV) 


Completed 2019  

Project Type 

Research + Proposal
Project Management