Vancouver City Council has approved the roadmap that will lead to the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, and their replacement with a new park and condo towers.
That final aspect of the Northeast False Creek (NEFC) Plan wasn’t without controversy: three of those towers have earned an exemption from height limits, allowing them to potentially block mountain views that are among 27 view corridors the city has protected since the 1980s.
According to the city plan, the taller towers would be a part of a “Georgia Gateway,” and make “significant and recognizable new benchmarks for architectural creativity and excellence, while making a significant contribution to the beauty and visual power of the city’s skyline.”
“I think it’s a small change in terms of view corridors, just from city hall here on Cambie Street. So I think it’s a minor change that does create a new kind of hub for the city at the stadiums,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson of the relaxed height restrictions.
The city estimates the new neighbourhood will accommodate about 12,000 new residents and up to 8,000 new people working in the area over the next 20 years, which is about how long the plan’s implementation is expected to take.
The plan calls for 1,800 social housing units, which it says will house about 3,250 people — a provision criticized by Green Councillor Adriane Carr.
“This plan is saying 20 per cent social housing, 80 per cent not social housing, and my fear is it’s going to all be high-end condos.”
Click to see NEFC as it currently appears and with proposed changes
Vancouver City Council initially approved the removal of the viaducts in 2015, a process that could cost as much as $200-million.
Along with the viaduct removal, the sweeping NEFC plan provides for the creation of an 11-acre addition to waterfront park in place of the currently vacant lot known for hosting Cirque du Soleil.
A park has been promised in that lot since 1990, part of an agreement between the province, City of Vancouver and developer Concord Pacific.
According to a draft plan released last summer, the finished park would include a wetlands area, water play area, outdoor covered pavilion and rebuilt skate park, and complete a continuous network of parks and seawall paths around False Creek.
A new, elevated Dunsmuir Park would provide viewpoints and serve to feed cyclists and pedestrians in and out of the downtown core from the east. The design team for this element is to be led by architect James Corner, whose firm designed New York’s popular Highline.
Click to view proposed traffic pattern changes
Under the proposal, a new major arterial along Pacific Boulevard, which will replace the viaducts in feeding car traffic in and out of downtown from the east, will cut between Andy Livingston Park and the new park. A pedestrian bridge over the re-designed Pacific Boulevard will connect the two sections of the park.
Staff have been directed to work with the Vancouver Park Board on a final park design, and report back within six months.
Street design, a temporary public waterfront space and rezoning applications are all expected to be complete by mid-year.
If you think shovels are hitting the ground immediately — that won’t be the case.
Project director Kevin McNaney says finer details need to be hashed out.
“Next is really implementation, it’s a big piece of work we still have to do,” said McNaney. “We need to continue to work with the community and some of the design issues in some of the parks and neighbourhoods and we need to develop a financial strategy and bring it back to council.”
He said it’s going to be at least two years before construction begins and traffic disruptions affect road users.
~With files from Emily Lazatin