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What Vancouver could get from viaducts land: open space, below-market housing, more?

November 27th, 2011 · 80 Comments

While everyone is distracted by the visions of being able to swim to the downtown along viaducts converted to pool lanes, courtesy of the re:CONNECT design competition, city planners and a consulting team have been working on potential real land-use plans for the area under and around the viaducts.

There’s an area about half the size of the Olympic Village, mostly owned by the city, that could be used for all kinds of interesting things.

The architecture/urban design firm of Perkins + Will plus the engineering firm Bunt & Co have been working with the city on what that could possibly be.

But it sounds like, from what I heard over the past few days from Councillor Geoff Meggs and city planner Brent Toderian, that it has to be something the public thinks is a benefit. (See details in my story.)

There’s a new thought for everyone. Until now, people have been darkly suspicious about the talk of doing something different with the viaducts.

One suspicion has been that it’s all about giving Concord Pacific, which owns a small chunk of land around the viaducts and then much more to the south in Northeast False Creek proper, some kind of windfall.

Dark Suspicion #2: It’s all part of the radical greenie plot to get rid of roads altogether in the city, starting with the viaducts and eventually continuing on to all pavement.

Few, except for a few residents in small Crosstown cluster, have seen that there could possibly be a benefit.

But the idea of using that land to create something with public value could turn the conversation. (I personally am intrigued by the idea of putting housing back in the couple of blocks where it was taken away, when the viaducts were built in the 1960s, right next to Chinatown. That’s where former councillor George Chow’s family lived when they first moved here.) Or perhaps not, in this paranoid town.

BTW: I was completely unable, in researching this story, to get any firm idea when the city’s planning work would come to fruition. Originally, Brent Toderian told me that the aim was to try to provide clear options in time to mesh with the city’s Transportation 2040 plan. Then later he said that, while the city would aim for that, it’s important to get the options right and that he wouldn’t rush the planning department into coming up with anything prematurely.



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