elsa wong - communication design

Celebrating the Diversity of Vancouver's Railtown District

Railyard Lab under Dossier Creative mentorship
communication & campaign messaging // art direction & visual design
Team members: Jessica Beketa, Dan Nanasi, Robert Queton


Vancouver’s Railtown has come to be known as one of the city’s trendiest neighbourhoods. Fashion, interior, and media design agencies line one side of Alexander Street. On the other side, some of Canada’s poorest residents call it home. Social housing makes up a large portion of Railtown.

Run by Portland Hotel Society (PHS) Community Services, the newest social housing addition, The Alexander Street Community, was set to open its doors to Vancouver’s “hardest to house” individuals in September 2014.

There can be a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty in a neighbourhood whose makeup is as diverse as Railtown. At Dossier Creative, we saw this diversity as a reason to celebrate, not falter. Thus, Dossier and the Railyard Lab team dedicated the last half of the summer to building the start of a positive relationship between the local businesses and the newest residents of the neighbourhood.


Dossier and Railyard held internal brainstorm sessions, imagining the all the possible ways to bring the street together. Some ideas were prioritized, and others were parked for future engagement.

The Railyard team spent a great deal of time learning about what the Alexander Street Community was going to look like. We were moved by the care that was going to be provided to these individuals. With this information, we strategized the best way to communicate what we knew to the rest of Railtown.

Social housing can be a sensitive topic. Gathering support meant gaining trust from both our new neighbours and old ones. We took on multiple points of view to consider language, visuals, and style of execution. We had many conversations with local social entrepreneurs around the best way to receive the new residents and our learnings informed our choice of actions.


In our short timeline, the Railyard Lab team was able to put together a welcome tote bag full of thoughtful gifts such as JJBean coffee, toques, sandwich tokens from local restaurant Save-On-Meats, and even an information guide on social resources in the community, all kindly donated by the businesses of Railtown.

We were encouraged and overwhelmed by the amount of support we received. However, more significantly, we saw a shift in the mindset of individuals whose initial concerns have since been largely smoothed over with proper communication.

Due to construction and safety precautions, the timeline for this project has been pushed back to ensure the smoothest transition for the residents of the Alexander Street Community. When the housing is completed, Dossier will be inviting Railtown individuals to personally hand-deliver each welcome package and to say “hello, neighbour!”

This is an ongoing initiative by Dossier Creative and the yearly Railyard Lab cohort. Visit our Hello, Neighbour page for more information and Railyard Lab for more of our work.

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