Tuesday, February 13, 2007
In Vancouver, a 20-year urban success story may yet have a sad ending. The city’s downtown population has doubled to 80,000 in the last 20 years thanks to Vancouver’s “Living First” policy – a planning strategy that favors residential development over commercial. And planners are expecting the population to reach more than 120,000 by 2030. But while downtown booms with people, business is busting. The International Herald Tribune reports that the city’s recently-released jobs and land-use study is estimating that downtown Vancouver may run out of commercial and office space within 5 years.
The ‘Vancouver problem’ is one that many cities in the United States could only hope to have. On the contrary, much effort has been put into bringing residential life back into the city centres. In Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, and Washington, D.C. there has been a condominium boom in recent years, but these cities are far from the situation Vancouver faces now.
To counter the trend in Vancouver, planners are proposing changes to the city’s zoning regulations, including the passage of more lenient building height restrictions. But because residential developments are so much more profitable than commercial and office space, some public officials are proposing offering better incentives to the developers willing to build commercial. Another option is to expand the moratorium that was placed on new housing development in the central business district two years ago.
Translink is currently involved in a major expansion of the 49.5 km (30.8 mi) Skytrain system centred on downtown Vancouver. Construction of the Canada and Evergreen lines is underway. The former will be complete in 2009, and the latter in 2011.