Hope Grows in Gastown Revival
Gastown, in those days, had no children. There were shady clubs, vendors hawking trinkets to tourists, and shadowy figures milling about on the cobblestone walks. But as a young man on the streets of Gastown in the late 1990s, numb from using and dealing crystal methamphetamine, Mike Hildebrandt never saw children.
“It was completely dead in the late ’90s, 2000s,” said Hildebrandt, now 32. “A few stores, that’s it. To me, it was where people got drugs and did them. That’s how it was for me.”
It is a stark contrast from Gastown today and the life Hildebrandt leads now, more than one year clean, with the love of his life and a 10-month-old son. Looking down from his bright, sixth-floor unit in the Woodward’s social housing complex, Hildebrandt now notices families: kids weaving through tourists, parents pushing young children in strollers.
In many ways, Hildebrandt’s personal transformation is similar to that of his neighbourhood. Over the decades, Gastown has evolved from a failed tourist haunt to a vibrant, thriving community.
[Top Image: Mike Hildebrandt, Molly Gaeta, and their son Mikey, Glenn Baglo, PNG, Vancouver Sun]