This is a version of a presentation that planner, urban designer and writer Lance Berelowitz made during SFU’s Lunch ‘n Learn online public event on Vancouver’s Downtown Waterfront held on 29 April, 2021.
What do we mean when we refer to Vancouver’s Downtown Waterfront or Central Waterfront? It’s worth reminding ourselves of the significant geographic extent of the site that we’re discussing.
As you can see on this aerial photo, Vancouver’s Downtown Waterfront extends all the way from Burrard Street and Canada Place in the west to Portside Park and Main Street in the east, and from Cordova and Water Streets in the south out into Burrard Inlet in the north.
There is also a significant grade difference of at least 30 feet from Cordova Street down to the Burrard Inlet shoreline.
Multiple uses occupy the area, including Canada Place and the cruise ship terminal, the SeaBus ferry terminal, the Heliport, a multi-modal public transit hub that includes SkyTrain, Canada Line and WestCoast Express stations as well as buses, the railway companies, the Port, a community park, the fishing industry, a coach parking lot, and several private properties. To the immediate south is Gastown, our city’s historic founding place and now a federally designated heritage district. Further east is Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
This is a large, complex site – to say the least – with several public and private land owners. There are multiple key stakeholders and user groups, including the Vancouver Port Authority, TransLink, PAVCO, the railroad companies, the federal, provincial and local governments, the Heliport operators, coach companies, private land owners and, of course, the citizens of Vancouver.
You’ll note that in the middle of the area lies the existing rail yard just north of historic Gastown. This rail yard currently serves Port operations, which is a critical piece of national infrastructure. But it also effectively separates the Downtown/Gastown urban fabric from the waterfront, and constrains redevelopment of the area.
Which brings me to my second image, and my first key point – what if the rail yard could be relocated?Read more »