Good-bye, No. 3 Road.

No muncipality is converting more quickly from strip suburban to transit-oriented urban than Richmond – particularly that part of No. 3 Road adjacent to the Canada Line.  (For previous posts on the “AOL Triangle,” start here.)  

With an expected population equivalent to Vancouver’s Downtown Peninsula within walking distance of five rapid-transit stations (left), Richmond’s core will have the density.  As importantly, it will have the urban character and amenities.  Though constrained by the height limits because of flight paths to the airport (and on a flood plain, surrounded by dikes), the irresistible effect of YVR has trumped seismic concerns that previously kept this area from being designated a regional town centre. 

Also given Richmond’s appeal to Asian immigrants, the question was not whether dramatic growth would occur but how it would be shaped.

You can already get a good feel of the scale and character of this new city centre in blocks near Aberdeen Mall:

In the Alderbridge & Westminster Highway area north of City Hall:

And of course, in the area around the Olympic Oval, where River Green has already been well promoted.  But Brian Jackson, Richmond’s Director of Development, says this is just the beginning:

The area that you’re speaking of (the AOL Triangle)  is actually part of three “villages” as set out in our new City Centre Area Plan (CCAP) adopted September 14, 2009. 

Two of the three villages are centred on two transit stations (Aberdeen and Lansdowne); and the other is centred on the Oval.  …  we are looking for the intensification and urbanization of this area with mixed use, including residential, redevelopment with the highest densities focused at the stations or closest to the oval. 

We have several major development applications going through now that will help to realize that vision.  Amongst the ones we have in are Wing Leung’s Quintet development at Number 3 Road and Firbridge (rendering below) that includes a new community centre of 33,000 sq. ft. and university (for Trinity Western) and ASPAC’s development, both east and west of the Oval that will accommodate over 2,500 residential units, a commercial village core east of the Oval, together with new parks and waterfront trail.  In addition, we have two hotel applications near the Lansdowne Station, another high rise residential project from Onni, as well as several other developers poised to make other applications to intensify this area.


So, from a policy perspective, we’ve got everything in place for developers to move forward, when market conditions are right, to implement the vision set out in the plan.

Additionally, Richmond has also tried to address the loss of jobs-rich industrial lands that will be redeveloped to the west of No. 3 Road.  Says Brian:

The CCAP addresses this issue by creating “industrial reserves” in other parts of the City Centre which used to be single family neighbourhoods that cannot be residential anymore because of the flight path/noise issues.  In addition, as part of the OCP review, now underway, the policy section is doing an industrial analysis for all of Richmond to examine that very issue.


  1. I have to say that walking around the nicer downtown areas of Richmond at night is a much more pleasant experience than walking around most of Downtown Vancouver in most cases.

    The block around the BMO on No. 3 Road with the lights in the trees and broad sidewalks under the rail line is a great example of urban design and for me evocative of parts of Japan where I used to live.

    I am excited to see how the area continues to develop.

  2. Can we expect the City of Vancouver to start to play catch up? It would seem that the neighbourhoods with Canada Line and Expo Line stations outside the downtown pen (save Main St and Joyce-Collingwood) could do with some long range plans to increase density.

    1. I agree Rick, it would be nice. But will existing residents in those areas agree to higher density? Will they fight any proposed changes to their neighbourhoods? Will Vancouver City Hall have the courage to insist on appropriate change the way Richmond has? (And then it still takes time for private land owners to decide to sell or develop their properties with the higher density). We’ve been waiting since 1986 along the Skytrain line. Don’t hold your breath.

    2. While I do agree that further strides should be made to increase the density around stations within the City of Vancouver, please remember however, that the land around stations such as 29th Ave, Nanaimo, and Commercial-Broadway on the Expo line still consist of higher densities than pretty much anywhere outside the City of Vancouver (approximately 13,000 people per square mile). That’s as dense as just about any neighbourhood in Canada (in fact, North America).

      The City of Vancouver could be much faster in their implementation, but there are plans moving forward or already in place for most of the stations in the City.

      On the Expo Line: Waterfront, Burrard, Granville, Stadium, Main St-Science World, and Joyce-Collingwood all have many towers in and around the station. Main St Station is also affected by the SEFC Community Plan. Broadway Station has no nearby plans that I’m aware of, but I don’t think that station can handle anymore capacity in the near-term. Nanaimo and 29th Ave are very close to Norquay Village, which itself has a plan (

      Along the Millenium Line: Rupert and Renfrew stations will be engulfed in office buildings similar to what is being built at the Broadway Tech Centre (Renfrew). If/when the Millenium Line is extended towards UBC, the stations will all be located in very high-density areas which are also rapidly densifying.

      Canada Line: The entire Cambie Corridor, from 16th Ave south to the Fraser River is part of the yet another plan moving forward (

  3. It’s not necessarily fair to expect the entire city of Vancouver to support density to the same xtent that only the central (‘downtown’) part of Richmond has done. That being said, it would be good if they did so.

    Now I love what’s happening to Richmond but do shy away from hyperbole. Is it realy reasonable to expect the population around the five Richmond stations to equal Vancouver’s downtown peninsula? Really? How can that be? Depending on where you look, downtown Van has anywhere from 75000 to 90000 residents. The total population of Ricmond is .. what? …. about 160-180,000? Will there really be THAT many people living in central Richmond?

    Another issue is walkability. River Green and the idea of boardwalks and parks along the Fraser is great, but connecting them seamlessly so that people can stroll back and forth to the riverfront from No 3 Road and and Canada Line stations is more imprtant.

    Even during the Olympics, people complained that getting from the Canada Line stations to the Oval was not the easiest endeavour. And that was with expanded buses and shuttle service.

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