According to the City of Vancouver’s Eastern Core study (Viaducts and False Creek Flats planning), the timeline to make a decision regarding the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts is soon approaching. According to the timeline (see below) a final decision is set to be made by summer of 2012. Of course the timing could be prolonged, however, if Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs comments hold any merit, the viaducts are coming down. He told a forum on the viaducts at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre campus May 17 , 2012 that, “we’re very close to a historic decision.”
It doesn’t take a genius that Vision Vancouver wants to see both viaducts gone and open up the area around False Creek North and remove the barrier between the Eastern Core and Downtown Vancouver. At the very least, the Georgia viaduct will be first to see the wrecking ball as the Dunsmuir viaduct has the bike lane and may need further street alignment evaluation time.
1. Leave Them Alone.
The main rationale to remove the viaducts seems to be the visual barrier they create resulting in a “dead zone” in the immediate area. However, the real reason the area is a dead zone right now is because there is nothing there. No shops, no parks (except the skate park), no housing, no office, there is absolutely no reason for someone to be in the North East False Creek neighbourhood. In the coming years all this will change as the area is expected to add 7,500 residents (See Concord Pacific’s plans for NEFC) and a new park space/beach is also planned for that area.
Further, right now 43,000 automobiles use the viaducts daily. Tearing them down will add to the traffic not only in the new neighbourhood but in Strathcona. The viaducts are the quickest, most efficient east-west connector and removing them may lead to many cars finding alternate routes, routes not built to handle the additional traffic. The only other street that could handle the capacity is Hastings and that isn’t even an option anymore as the speed limit has been reduced to 30km and you’re pretty much playing a game of Frogger with the residents of the DTES, homeless, drug dealers etc…
With respect to the visual barrier arguement many seem to forget about the elevated SkyTrain that will still run through the neighbourhood. Is that not a visual barrier?
According to a report by city hall the viaducts have 40+ years left in them. and will cost $10 million in upkeep over the course of their useful life. Tearing them down prematurely may be a financial nightmare. Although I presume developers will be injecting the necessary cash into city coffers to recuperate the costs.
2. Turn them into an elevated park like the High Line Park in NYC.
This seems like a great idea. That area needs more park space and imagine the block parties you could throw on them (if the city lets them happen of course). However, if tearing down the viaducts was going to create traffic problems, keeping them and making them into a pedestrian/bike only elevated urban park will create a nightmare. Just imagine the impact it will have on traffic on Expo and Pacific boulevard.
3. Build parks and recreation facilities underneath the viaducts.
Imagine a row of lacrosse/hockey boxes, basketball courts, children’s playground and extended skate park. All of these can be easily accommodated underneath the existing viaducts and won’t take away space from potential development land.
4. Create a row of bars, restaurants and shops.
When it comes to dining, drinking and shopping options that immediate area has very few. Considering that more residential is planned for the neighbourhood and that year round entertainment is right next door at BC Place and Rogers Arena, one would think that having more options to dine/drink before the game nearby would be made available. Keep the viaducts and zone them for retail. This has been done in many North American and European cities, why not Vancouver. For inspiration the city can look at how well the BIG Tower near the Granville Street bridge interacts with land underneath the bridge.
5. Create an “Arts Zone”
Artists in the city have been complaining about the lack of space. The city is looking at creative options to give them more space. Why not create dedicated studios and warehouses under the viaducts and create an “arts district”. The location is perfect as it sits between Mount Pleasant and Gastown and immediately to the west of Strathcona. This is where the majority of Vancouver artists reside. Give them the space and they will use it.
Funding this arts zone can be left solely to the developers. The city could grant additional density to Concord in exchange for construction of the artist space under the viaducts. It would be a win-win for everyone involved. The developer gets to sell more units and it costs us, the taxpayers nothing.
The study of the viaducts was necessary and the conclusion most would make is to keep them for the time being. We don’t have the additional transit or road capacity to deal with them once torn down. Furthermore, although there is a shift in biking culture in the city, removing the viaducts will not result in people miraculously giving up their cars and grabbing a bike.