Much of the seawall and public waterfront spaces that now wrap most of the downtown Vancouver peninsula did not take form until the 1990s, when major redevelopment projects began at Coal Harbour and the Expo World’s Fair lands.
For the most part, monotonous and generic green lawn parks front the newly developed waterfront areas by the seawall, and these parks become quiet and arguably underutilized spaces for over half the year when the weather turns cold and wet.
But the new park and waterfront space planned for Northeast False Creek, the last remaining major parcel of undeveloped waterfront lands on the downtown peninsula, promises to change all of that after the demolition of the Dunsmuir and Georgia viaducts.
Working with the area’s two largest landowners, Concord Pacific and Canadian Metropolitan Properties, the City of Vancouver envisions a solidification and expansion of the area’s usage as a special events district anchored by the two stadiums, BC Place and Rogers Arena.
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Rendering of what the future park, ground-level network, and Concord Pacific developments could look like.
Canadian Metropolitan Properties owns the site of Plaza of Nations, and some of its preliminary concepts for the lands consist of residential towers with several floors of retail, restaurants, and offices on the lower levels.
Vancouver’s first fully-commercialized waterfront area
Kevin McNaney, the director for the municipal government’s Northeast False Creek Project Office, told Daily Hive that City staff envision having the area lined with restaurants. This will be Vancouver’s first fully-commercialized waterfront area, distinct from the rest of the seawall.
“There won’t be one restaurant but 20 restaurants,” he said. “We want to create a commercial waterfront with a residential and park element to it as well. It won’t be an entertainment district like Granville Street, but because of the stadiums and commercial uses that’ll be in the area, it’s more about special events.”
“We will be enhancing the concepts of the special events that are held there like the Sun Run and the large events held at the stadium.”
Major stadiums and popular waterfront areas elsewhere in the world are usually surrounded by restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues. But up to this point Vancouver’s seawall and two downtown stadiums have been gradually enclosed by a sea of condominiums and parks.
Albeit needed for downtown Vancouver’s booming population of children, an elementary school set to open next year across from Rogers Arena contradicts the district’s concept. And just prior to the Olympics, the glass roof cover of the Plaza of Nations’ outdoor plaza was demolished by the landowners’ over fears of the structure’s instability. Built for Expo ’86, the covered outdoor plaza was a popular venue for concerts, performances, and special events.
The old glass roof at the Plaza of Nations, now demolished.
Promise of renewal
After years of rewinding on the entertainment district around the stadiums, there is now promise of some renewal. The $535-million Parq Vancouver project, slated for completion in the fall of 2017 on the western end of BC Place; will include five restaurants, three bars and lounges, 517 hotel rooms within two hotel properties, 62,000-square-feet of conference and exhibition space, and a new replacement casino for Edgewater Casino.
If the concept is approved by Vancouver City Council, it could be Vancouver’s answer to the restaurant district at the Nyhavn canal in Copenhagen, a waterside version of the Gaslamp restaurant district in San Diego, and Marina Bay in Singapore.
Parq Vancouver, an entertainment and casino-resort complex next to BC Place, will open in 2017.
Copenhagen’s restaurant district at the Nyhavn canal.
In addition to turning the area into a district that supports events, the size of the planned major park in the area could hold festivals and other major events – a type of large, open, and centralized space that Vancouver needs but does not currently have.
The only public spaces that come close are Jack Poole Plaza (Canada Day, New Year’s Eve, and other special events), David Lam Park (2010 Olympics Live City, TD International Jazz Festival), Stanley Park’s Brockton Oval (concerts, lululemon SeaWheeze Sunset Festival), and Sunset Beach (Gay Pride’s Sunset Beach Festival, food truck festival). But these spaces are either too small for larger events or not easily accessible.
The planned park, merged with Concord Pacific’s obligation to extend Creekside Park, would be about 13 acres in size – nearly the same footprint as PlayLand amusement park. It could be Vancouver’s equivalent to Holland Park, which hosts Surrey’s Canada Day festivities, Fusion Festival, and Blueprint Event’s two-night FVDED In The Park music festival. Events held at Holland Park use up to 14 acres of open space within the 29-acre park.
“It will be a substantial park in addition to Andy Livingstone and Creekside Park,” said McNaney. “So that’s a substantial amount of downtown waterfront park space. Although it will be neighbourhood-serving, it will also be a draw across not only the city but also the region as it is a major downtown waterfront park.”
“It will be a relaxing park for where people relax, but it will also have to help support the festivals and special events that occur the area.”
As for the recently proposed urban surfing facility in False Creek, wedged between the new park and Science World, CitySurf Vancouver says it is putting together a team to prove the technical, environmental, and business case for the project, which is still likely many years away even if its feasibility is proven.
In October 2015, City Council approved the demolition of the viaducts and the creation of a new ground-level road network to make way for more park space and 2,500 units of affordable and market housing. Staff are scheduled to return to Council at the end of 2017 with a new plan and some rezoning applications to get development underway, which could prompt the viaducts’ demolition sometime in 2018.
The public consultation phase for the project began earlier this month.