October 31, 2019

Vancouver Impressions: Cascadian Guest Post

In September, Michael Anderson, senior researcher with Sightline Institute (Cascadia’s sustainability think tank), and Kiel Johnson, founder and operator of Portland’s Go By Bike (North America’s largest bike valet) visited Vancouver as part of a two-family touring holiday.

Anderson and Johnson rented a van to get to Vancouver because, well, kids and stuff. Plus, it was much cheaper and faster than the train. Whatever to do about that?

Gord invited the duo to write about their trip, and they did — in dialogue form.

Says Anderson: “I think we could have gone on for pages about things we saw and thought about the city, but Kiel rightly suggested keeping it pretty narrow.”

First impressions about Vancouver? How is Portland doing for cycling? What were the disappointments?

(Canadian spellings added for clarity.)

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Following the election of a majority TEAM council in 1972, the residential highrise era came to a (temporary) end in the City of Vancouver.  In part it was a market and economic response to an explosive decade of overdevelopment, but mostly it was a blowback from citizens who feared the West End-ization of their neighbourhoods, particularly Kitsilano.
And so there were almost no highrises built in the city from the mid-70s to the late-80s, when the condominium boom began.  But that wasn’t true elsewhere in the region.
Indeed, the Metrotown urban centre was just picking up steam, particularly with the prospect of rapid-transit (finally) being built on the old BCER right-of-way.  But it was the openness of the Burnaby council to construction in their designated apartment districts that saw the construction of new towers, initially near Central Park.
Each decade since, new highrises have been built, with a notable increase of supertall towers in the last half decade.  Here’s a comparison on Patterson Avenue, where the Aldynne is rising above its neighbours.

Height is not the only distinction.  The problem with towers was typically how they treated the ground plane – in the past with parking lots and porte cocheres, like this:

Now the treatment is more Vancouver Style, with townhouses providing the building edge:

Compare this with the medium-rise apartment block down the street:

The uphappy front lawn is the last vestige of suburbia from the 1960-70s – and, given Burnaby council’s tolerance for the demolition of old rental apartment blocks, probably not long for this world.

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