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Proposed False Creek Flats plan includes adding space for 22,000 jobs and 3,000 homes

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Kenneth Chan Jan 27, 2017 3:09 am 2,556

Earlier this week, the City of Vancouver provided the public with a glimpse of its draft master plan for the vast False Creek Flats industrial and rail yard area just east of Main Street near Science World.

The 450-acre site is bounded by Main Street to the west, Great Northern Way to the south, Clarke Drive to the east, and Prior and Venables streets to the north. It was a tidal flat of False Creek until it was filled in almost exactly a century ago, during World War I, to accommodate growing demand for rail operations into the city.

“This plan seeks to unlock the economic potential of the area by creating a more productive, sustainable and integrated False Creek Flats,” reads the public document. “The Flats Plan will create strong policy to ensure these critical employment lands continue to serve and enhance the City and regional economy.”

Aerial view of the False Creek Flats. (Image by: Google Maps Streetview)

Draft master plan for the False Creek Flats. Click on the image for an enlarged version of the map. (Image by: City of Vancouver)

Currently, there are 600 manufacturing and service-based businesses employing 8,000 people on the Flats, but under the proposed plan this would increase by 22,000 to 30,000 jobs, with many of these jobs expected to be generated from the new St. Paul’s Hospital campus.

Four distinct hubs and precincts clustered around SkyTrain

A large vacant 18.5-acre site on the northwest corner of the Flats next to Pacific Central Station will become a new health hub anchored by the relocation of St. Paul’s Hospital to a new state-of-the-art facility at the location.

Early preliminary artistic rendering of the new St. Paul’s Hospital campus at the False Creek Flats. (Image by: Busby Perkins + Will Architects)

On the southwest corner, a new area deemed as the Creative Campus is supported by the new Emily Carr Art + Design University campus and the future Innovation Hub on several city blocks owned by the municipal government. The new university campus will complement the recently completed Centre for Digital Media, operated by UBC, SFU, BCIT, and Emily Carr.

There is also a residential component in this Creative Campus area along Main Street and Great Northern Way.

This employment and residential area, deemed the “public face” of the Flats, is strategically located along Main Street transit routes and the future station of the underground extension of SkyTrain’s Millennium Line. A subway station is envisioned for the intersection of Thornton Street and Great Northern Way next to the Emily Carr site.

Artistic rendering of the new Emily Carr Art + Design University campus at the False Creek Flats, with a perspective from the rail yard. (Image by: Emily Carr Art + Design University)

Smaller residential sites are also planned for the northwest corner of the Flats along Main Street near the new hospital and next to Strathcona Park.

Altogether, up to 3,000 units could be built on the Flats, with the residences designed to “offer a variety of affordable housing choices and community facilities to attract and retain a vibrant workforce, including students, artists, artists with families and young workers.” This could potentially include micro suites and live-work units.

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Towards the centre of the Flats on Terminal Avenue near Cottrell Street, an area outlined as the Heritage Rail Hub is centred around the Rocky Mountaineer train station and Cross-Docks & Canada Packers building, which already host special events outside of business hours. This area would be transformed into a vibrant 24/7 activity zone that encourages gathering and public celebrations throughout the year with multi-purpose and flexible spaces for festivals and year-round markets.

A fourth hub, the Cultural Precinct, is situated on the northeast corner of the Flats and is anchored around Parker Street Studios. This area will “establish a new node of public life and celebration” by combining new development with vibrant public spaces and the retention of historic buildings and the rail yards.

Light industrial areas and City of Vancouver operational facilities on the eastern end and the northeast corner of the Flats will be retained.

The City of Vancouver named Industry City in Brooklyn, New York as an example of a mixed commercial, industrial, and residential area that the False Creek Flats could be modelled after. (Image by: City of Vancouver)

Continued rail operations and streetcar

Approximately 20% of the Flats is occupied by the rail yard, and the City intends to improve its efficiency for freight, to support the expansion of the Port of Vancouver, and passenger services including potentially high-speed rail. To overcome the barriers that the rail yard creates, a number of overpasses for pedestrians and cyclists are proposed.

One major determinant for the future road network in the Flats is the route that an enhanced east-west arterial will take. Three options are being considered, with the leading option being the Malkin Connector, but the final decision will be made in a separate process.

And there could be changes to Terminal Avenue after the a new east-west connector is built. Preliminary conceptual renderings  for Terminal Avenue seemingly show the roadway being reduced by one lane in each direction to provide space for a bike lane and widened sidewalk.

Three east-west arterial route options over the railway. (Image by: City of Vancouver)

As well, the Flats could be an important site for a streetcar network in downtown Vancouver and through South False Creek that was first proposed by the municipal government nearly two decades ago. The City says it will explore opportunities to connect a potential future streetcar system and maintenance facility into the Flats.

Maps provided in a public document outline a potential streetcar route along 1st Avenue beginning at the future SkyTrain station at the Emily Carr campus and continuing west towards the designated streetcar right-of-way built at the Olympic Village.

The False Creek Flats draft plan will be reviewed by Vancouver City Council this spring.

Early conceptual plan by the City of Vancouver for a streetcar network. (Image: City of Vancouver)

From island neighbourhoods to an Olympic Park

Over the past few decades, there have been a number of conceptual usage ideas, both official and unofficial, for the Flats. A City-approved plan in the 1990s to turn the area into a tech hub failed following the dot-com bubble crash.

Various visions were also designed as part of the municipal government’s reCONNECT Vancouver competition in 2011. The People’s Choice Award was won by Chris Doary Studio’s design of reintroducing water in the False Creek Flats and creating a new island neighbourhood.

And just last year, architectural students from Kansas State University envisioned what False Creek Flats would look like as an Olympic Park for a Summer Olympic Games held in Vancouver. This plan was complete with an Olympic Stadium, Athletes Village, media facilities, sports venues, public spaces, and canals as an extension of the False Creek waterway.

The False Creek Flats draft plan will be reviewed by Vancouver City Council this spring.

False Creek Flats as an Olympic Park for the Summer Olympic Games. (Image by: Architectural Design Studio 7 / Kansas State University)

False Creek Flats as an Olympic Park for the Summer Olympic Games. (Image by: Architectural Design Studio 7 / Kansas State University)

False Creek Flats redeveloped as an extension of the False Creek waterway with a new island neighbourhood. (Image by: Chris Doray Studio)


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Kenneth Chan
National Features Editor at Daily Hive, the evolution of Vancity Buzz. He covers local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation and infrastructure, and the travel industry. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]dailyhive.com

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