In the recent history of Vancouver, it’s unusual when the built-out parts of the city – places where people happily live and work – suddenly change scale and character, when a new urban form, usually larger and different in use, replaces the local urban landscape.

Sudden change was the way we used to do it: when a single rezoning swept away the architecture (and many of the people) in early streetcar neighbourhoods, and converted them into the concrete highrise versions. (See Kerrisdale Village, Ambleside, the West End).  It can also happen where obsolete uses and rising land values come together, when industrial lands convert to residential megaprojects.  (See Collingwood Village).

Or where new transportation infrastructure aligns with new land use. See the impact of the Canada Line on Cambie Street.

Here’s the northwest corner of Cambie and King Edward in May, 2015 – a half decade after the Canada Line opened:

And in September, 2019:

Along the Cambie boulevard, the shift in scale is dramatic.

… compared to what was there just five years before:

 

It won’t take too long to get comfortable with this scale of change.  In fact, the spectacularly treed boulevard will be so much more appreciated now with gallery walls of apartment buildings, all about the same height and setback.  The parkway becomes more an elongated arboretum, less a well-treed highway median.  The entire landscape shifts with your viewpoint on the elegant curves that so gently rise and descend over Queen Elizabeth Park.  On the Cambie Boulevard, the tradition of  Olmstedian landscape architecture lives on.

When Oakridge was laid out, this was the best of Motordom in the City Beautiful, designed for the aesthetic and practical experience of moving by car.   Now, underneath, real change has come but out of sight.

The consequences of planning done after the Canada Line corridor have accelerated; the transformation is apparent, and a little jarring.  But because what was best about the boulevard looks like its being respected, what could have been traumatic change looks like it will be just fine.

When you’re hoping that Vancouverites will come to accept more sudden change in scale and character of the city and its neighbourhoods, it’s helpful to have something done well to show them.

Comments

  1. Gord, I think you got this one wrong. The first photo is of the southeast corner, the second is of the northwest corner.

  2. The Cambie heritage boulevard looks like a tunnel now that the new buildings begin at the sidewalks. Worse, they are mostly white which makes them pop; darker colours would have helped the new massing to recede.

  3. “The entire landscape shifts with your viewpoint on the elegant curves that so gently rise and descend over Queen Elizabeth Park. On the Cambie Boulevard, the tradition of Olmstedian landscape architecture lives on.”

    “When Oakridge was laid out, this was the best of Motordom in the City Beautiful, designed for the aesthetic and practical experience of moving by car. Now, underneath, real change has come but out of sight. ”

    Meanwhile the largest masses – by far – passing through this corridor every day experience nothing of it and are relegated to a dark, screechy, smelly hole. They neither get to experience the green corridor nor contribute new vitality. They are unaware of the commercial strip above their heads. The economy of the nicest stretch of Cambie Village is unchanged even as tens of thousands more potential customers zoom by. All those merchants suffered for almost half a decade and don’t even get a reward at the end. Instead that economic growth will all be shoe-horned into Oakridge – a mall!

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