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Who’s pushing to develop along the Canada Line?

September 29th, 2009 · 12 Comments

While debates rage about Vancouver’s budget shortfall elsewhere, we pause for a station break here to look at something completely different. Here’s a story I wrote for the Globe’s business section on how different municipalities handled planning for development along the Canada Line and how.

In Vancouver, as I mention in the story and as readers of this blog know, the city is just getting started on its planning process for the Cambie corridor, aka Canada Line. It will be interesting to see what plans they come up with in comparison with what Richmond did already as it strategized about what it wants around its transit stations.

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  • Sungsu

    To be fair, the City has completed the Oakridge Centre Policy Planning, even though it was initiated by the owners of the mall.

  • observer

    Yes, and completely redeveloped Cambie and Broadway area with lots of high density commercial and some residential at Crossroads. Not to mention the downtown stations!

  • mezzanine

    Nice article on the G+M. I’ve always admired how in metro vancouver there is and emphasis on TOD rather than building park & rides.

  • Joe Just Joe

    It’s a bit harder for Vancouver to rezone as the areas along the line are already residential for the most part. In Richmond they were dealing with warehouse, strip malls, vacant land etc. Not much opposition in rezoning those.
    Ideally what would’ve happened is that the large tracts along the line in Vancouver would’ve been redeveloped already thus allowing the future rezonings to be easier to swallow.
    If St Vincents, Oakridge Mall, RCMP hq, Oakridge bus depot, Langara Gardens, had been redeveloped by now then upzoning the rest of the corridor would be easier then it will be now. I think the city was wise on holding off in this case, but only because the city was in such a boom that even if they had prezoned the area the developers were already running fullbore elsewhere. In this case taking some extra time will be of benefit to the city. It’s not often I agree with Brent but I stand behind him on this one as well as being against the PCI development. It’s the right project but in the wrong location.

  • Peter L.

    What baffles me is why no one is talking about development along the Expo and Millennium Lines. The Expo line has been there since 1986, but Broadway and Commercial, probably the busiest transit node in the region, still has low-rise development around it.

    OK, so you could argue that Broadway/Commercial is already at the limits of its transit capacity– that could change when the Millennium Line is pushed west at least to Cambie– but what about all the other stops, 23 years later?

    What are Burnaby and New West doing re development around their stations? Why isn’t anyone talking about this?

    The site with the greatest economic development potential is False Creek Flats (close to downtown, tech industry interest…) if it could get a Millennium Line connection to the Olympic Station. It already has pretty good access to Main St. Station on the Expo line.

    Will the city’s new preoccupation with its newly-discovered stations on Cambie further delay development plans for False Creek Flats?

  • Joe Just Joe

    The flats are already zoned for pretty good density, the problem is the demand hasn’t been there. The city is in the process of expanding what type of businesses are permitted in the Flats area, when that is complete we might see some new construction. That area has also been waiting for years to see what happens with the St Pauls relocation as well as the vision for the Great Northern Way Campus. I imagine we won’t hear much about either in the current climate.
    Again to compare Vancouver to Bby/New West/Sry along the E/M lines isn’t too fair for the same reason as with the Canada Line. The trains runs along existing residential areas in Vancouver and hence it’s not as simple of upzoning the corridor. Where you’ve seen the burbs upzone was on brownfield sites or light industrial. If you look to Renfrew and Rupert station the closet to match those descriptions they are progressing quite nicely. Stadium was empty at the time and look at it now. While Broadway might look undense it’s acutally one of the densest parts of the city if you look at people per hectare. Looks can be very deceiving.

  • Propertyshopper

    I just read this, and am wondering if anyone can give me some context on it:

    “past statistics show that properties located within two blocks of a new skytrain station tend to have their value drop, while those located within three t0 ten blocks away see their property values rise up to 20%.”

    I just looked at a place right around the corner from the Landsdown station, and have never heard this before. In fact, the seller jacked up the price as soon as the line opened, my agent tells me.

    Any input people?

  • Bill Lee

    Peter L. said: “The Expo line has been there since 1986, but Broadway and Commercial, probably the busiest transit node in the region, still has low-rise development around it”

    Oh thanks for blasting towers into the East Side. We’ll do the same for 25th and Granville and Nanton and Granville when the tram run up there. Super towers at Alma and damn the views blocked.

    The real damage to Broadway and Commercial is the fact of three banks on the corners, those streetface killing machines that occupy 20 to 50 metres of no-shop-windows front on each side.
    As for density they have height, and density apartments, but building construction has only now approved the idea of 6 storey wood frame. There are several 3 storey office buildings and a 10 floor medical dental, and a new 4 floor public health building being built on Broadway on top of the funeral home site.

    It is an interchange, the Skytrain/Bus passage to north, south, east and especially west. It is not a business corner (other than the usual fencing, drugs and so on) . People are there for only a few minutes, so MacDonalds, Dollar Pizza and so on. There used to be real stores there including Freedman shoes, fish shops and so on before Skytrain came. Now there is less of a community, even the Portuguese have moved away.

    Development at the Renfrew Millennium is coming along. Arts Institute moved there sewing school there and rent out their parking lot for $5 a day. (The “Renfrew” Expo station is at Slocan and part of the avaricious Norquay redevelopment much talked about on the Bula-at-The-Sun blog.)

    These skytrains routes really don’t have the density, overfull cars and customers that were on the ‘normal’ heavy cars routes of the TTC.

    And find early pictures of Sears from the 1950s and the neighbouring warehouses (Ford, Kelly Douglas etc.) that have been replaced as part of the Metrotown stations.
    And I see that we had the first shooting on the Canada Line at Cambie and 19th last night. This wouldn’t have happened if they had more stations with the Transit Police at 19th, 16th 12th etc. 😉

  • Darcy McGee

    > Broadway and Commercial, probably the
    > busiest transit node in the region, still has
    > low-rise development around it

    Nobody wants to live on the same street corner as the busiest transit hub in the city.

    Now…one or two blocks away and we’ve got something.

  • An excellent article.

    However, I see little value in continuing the debate as to when Vancouver should have started planning for more intensive development around the stations. What we should now be debating is what should be the new form of development around the stations. More specifically, how much ‘respect’ has to be given to the existing single family character of many of the station areas. And before you answer, remember these neighbourhoods were carved out of the woods 50 years ago, when SkyTrains were only found in comic books.

    Some have said we should up-zone to allow townhouses, since they will relate to the existing character. I say we should completely rethink the character of the blocks surrounding each of these stations, and the future stations such as 57th and Cambie.

    Those of us who have used the Canada Line, and other rapid transit lines in the region realize they are a legitimate alternative to the private automobile. Transit use can significantly reduce carbon and greenhouse gases. We should therefore maximize the benefit from the significant public expenditure in this new line by allowing tens of thousands more people to be able to live close to these stations.

    I realize this will not be a popular concept, especially since my proposal to build three more rental towers at Langara Gardens was rejected by Gordon Campbell and his Council in the 90’s in large part due to neighbourhood opposition.

    Well to those Cambie residents who opposed more development at Langara Gardens, you succeeded then, and you also managed to save the landscaped boulevard up the street. But now you must accept that there need to be significant changes around the new stations. This time, it will not just be in the landowners’ interest, it will be in the broader public interest.

  • Sorry to this folks – but locomotives and light rail, even buses for that matter, are obsolete. Make way for the tested and proven Personal Rapid Transit system (PRT). This is the only transit system that has the ability to get people out of their cars. Its near taxi capability ensures its success. And it’s FAR cheaper to build and maintain than the 18th Century technology now employed. In fact, almost no European city is even considering SkyTrain heavy rail systems to improve their cities.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    A post one-month too late, while looking around for Canada Line Stats. We’ll let 80,0000/day do for now.

    TODs are University of Washington in the early 1990’s jargon for human-scale development that creates places that are walkable, because they are fun (and safe) to walk in.

    That leave’s Michael Geller’s “3-more towers” off the list. And, I’m afraid it sets the bar too high for any of the initial planning that I saw for Richmond. It does explain why Skytrain creates a “zone-of- blight” around its stations for a distance of 2 blocks.

    The problem with SkyTrain is the disconnection with the ground that it necessarily brings to your neighborhood generates”underfensible space”.

    We designed the Broadway & Commercial station in architecture school back in ’84 as a class exercise. I had a “village square” smack dab on the opposite side of the station from the Safeway… “large enough to grow on oak tree” I used to say (and I hadn’t yet see the Abbey Square in Bath yet).

    Go there now, I dare you. Small parking lot for the MacDonalds, garbage bins, and as soon as it is dark, a place to avoid.

    TOD is deferent from that. In TOD every square foot of public open space counts. Nothing is left to chance.

    Metrotown, thus, is not TOD. If you want to get a real feel for what a towers-in-the-suburbs Station Area Plan is like, Metrotown is the Poster Boy. Never mind that the towers are more than 5 minutes from transit (it aligns on the “wrong side” of the mall), to get there means crossing Kingsway and walking along the parking lots of one of our region’s largest, and ugliest, super mega malls.

    So much opportunity, so little return.

    Ah, but we have yet to go to Cambie Street. That would not be the same municipality that is crying the “Olympic Village Gonna Cost Too Much Blues” that built it? The ones that ran a subway under single family residential housing (for goodness sakes!).

    Well, Cambie has been “rebuilt” now, and it could not be a more botched up job for anything except vehicular carrying capacity.

    You have to know where to look. In the Lower Mainland, if you want to see “streetscape” work that does not meet the standard of a “Great Street”, my pet peeve is to look for park benches along the sidewalks.

    Yep! They’re there. Cost a fair bit too, I bet. Have that extra arm rest down the middle so you can’t have nap on one like I remember doing one spring in the Paris Left Bank.

    I think one important aspect of the question we can pick up in the strings above:

    Peter L. said: “The Expo line has been there since 1986, but Broadway and Commercial, probably the busiest transit node in the region, still has low-rise development around it”

    Bill Lee Replies: Oh thanks for blasting towers into the East Side.

    High density does not mean high towers. We can achieve high density with 3 to 4 storey buildings. And, from a transit perspective, we can spread that density more evenly along the corridor.

    The second important point is that we have to design the street spaces, yes including the black top, the parking lanes, the trees, and a park nearby to park all the park benches engineers seem to want to write purchase orders for.

    When we do that, when we think about the building type, and we think about the spaces the buildings are going to shape, then we can start to talk about the resulting urban quality.

    The resulting urban quality, I think, is what all the previous posts were trying to talk about.