At the top of the must-check-out list for any Vancouver urbanist is the waterfront community of Puerto Madero – a development that started in 1989, almost exactly the same time as the Concord Pacific megaproject on False Creek.
In this tourism video, beginning at 0.14 secs, there are aerial shots of the project, as well as images throughout the next four minutes.
Like False Creek, PM was originally an industrial site – in this case, the first constructed port to serve a city that was otherwise dependent on the shallow Rio de la Plata. Indeed, construction on the docks of PM started in 1887, the same year the CPR arrived in Vancouver and turned the north shore of False Creek into its freightyards.
Local businessman Eduardo Madero completed the project in 1897, having designed a sequence of basins with narrow necks, the better to control taxation, only to find that with the arrival of larger ships, the port was obsolete within a decade. Operations moved upriver to Puerto Nuevo, and PM began a half-century-long decay – right next to seat of government and downtown Buenos Aries.
After a sequence of failed proposals, an urbanization plan was realized under President Carlos Menem. In 1989 a private corporation split between the federal government and the city of Buenos Aires was created to fund the project, which was then parceled out to private developers. It’s now the wealthiest and fastest-growing neighbourhood in the city.
Though it is about twice the size (170 ha for Puerto Madero, 90 ha for Concord Pacific), both are early examples of the megaproject-style development that became models for many other cities: a mix of uses but primarily residential towers, incorporating significant public amenity in the way of open space and waterfront walkways.
PM, though, has a continuity of sleek medium-rise office and residential blocks along the waterfront on the north side of the docks, with heritage warehouses repurposed for tech industries, restaurants and shops along the south side.
These walkways continue a long tradition of riverfront promenades going back to the Costanera Sur, which started construction in 1918 and can still be found beyond the Puerto Madero towers to the north.
Once open to the river, it was wildly popular among the working-class porteños, until it went into decline in the 1950s. The City then used the river as a dumping ground for the fill being extracted for the construction of urban motorways, until they had over 300 ha of polder – which then naturally began to diversify with grasslands, plants, birds and animals. In 1986, it officially and ironically became the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve, soon overlooked by the towers of PM.