BY WARREN FREY - Vancouver's mayor is setting the stage for the city's next mega-project.
Mayor Gregor Robertson highlighted the development of a rapid transit line down the city’s Broadway corridor as his top priority at an Urban Land Institute luncheon on May 6.
Robertson pointed to the Broadway corridor, which stretches from the Broadway-Commercial Drive SkyTrain station to the University of British Columbia campus, which is a hub for jobs and medical facilities.
It also experiences some of the highest traffic volume in the province.
But, the corridor is crippled by gridlock, he said, which will only continue as the Evergreen Line linking Port Coquitlam and Port Moody to the current SkyTrain system gives more transit riders easy access to the congested Broadway-Commercial Drive station.
Robertson stressed that any future SkyTrain line down Broadway will be underground.
“With modern construction techniques and tunneling, we can minimize disruption along that corridor. It’s very congested so it’s difficult to work in, but with mitigation of impacts we can see successful construction without a lot of upheaval,” he said.
Robertson added that lessons and mistakes learned while building the Canada Line in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics will allow for a smoother process while building the Broadway line.
“The city is at a juncture, and we have to make wise choices going forward,” Robertson said.
He stressed that there is a need to build along the corridors, but there are limitations.
“(Using towers as a solution is) not something you’ll see as long as I’m mayor. We’re building where people live,” he said.
Public response to building towers to densify neighbourhoods has been mixed in the past, with a large-scale development at Oak Ridge gaining the approval of the community, but a proposal for highrise towers in the Grandview-Woodlands neighbourhood met with strong community opposition.
“We are working on different kinds of buildings and different forms that people are happy with,” Robertson said.
He also provided an overview of some of the construction taking place throughout the city.
One region where tower construction has accelerated is Vancouver’s downtown core, with Telus building its mixed-use office tower and its residential Telus Garden project.
According to Robertson, more than 3.5 million square feet of new office space is being built.
He also pointed to the value of building permits in the first quarter of this year, which is up 63 per cent from last year.
Construction of rental housing has also increased but that has not been without its own challenges.
He described a “dearth” of funding at the federal level for low-income and community housing.
He said that transit has not seen much federal funding.
The mayor also discussed Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 plan to reduce greenhouse gases and increase sustainability.
“The ‘livable city’ model encourages a greater sense of belonging, community and health,” he said, adding there has been a substantial growth in both clean technology businesses and green building in Vancouver.
The ‘livable city’ concept dates back to the 1970s, he added, when citizens opposed a freeway system cutting through downtown and East Vancouver, and the plan was later struck down by Vancouver city council.
“That decision was the beginning of Vancouver as a livable city and in decades since, many other cities have decided to follow the Vancouver model,” he said.