A major component of the new public spaces set for Northeast False Creek (NEFC) has advanced to the next stage of planning.
The City of Vancouver is in the process of selecting contractors to create a conceptual design for the so-called Dunsmuir Connection (DC) — a linear public park and multi-use pathway for cyclists and pedestrians that begins as an elevated pathway at the location of westernmost end of the Dunsmuir Viaduct at Beatty Street and gently transitions to ground level near the future redesigned intersection of Quebec Street and Pacific Boulevard.
The entire DC is roughly 750 metres in length from start to finish, creating a gateway into downtown and the Creekside Park extension that echoes elevated public space pathways such as New York City’s High Line Park and the Seoul Skygarden (Seoul 7017).
The NEFC project already has a relationship with High Line Park, as the concept for the overall Creekside Park extension was created in 2017 by James Corner — the same internationally-renowned landscape architect behind the linear public park in NYC.
Three segments for the DC have been identified by city staff, according to an issued document outlining the request for proposal (RFP), which recently closed.
A wider pathway is envisioned for the area near Rogers Arena, which requires more space given the crowds that can be expected for events held inside the stadium. This larger space may also be suitable for programmable gatherings and major public event celebrations.
This ‘Downtown segment’ will be integrated with Rogers Arena, and it could include a weather-protected public pedestrian connection between the stadium and SkyTrain’s Stadium-Chinatown Station, with improvements potentially entailing a covered bridge and new station entry.
To the east, the ‘Pacific segment’ of the DC between Pat Quinn Way and the Carrall Greenway requires integration with the future residential towers that will be built in the area.
The DC narrows in width as it travels eastward towards the ‘Park segment’ — the easternmost portion of the pathway. This portion has been deemed an integral part of the Creekside Park extension and is the location of the eastern entrance into the DC.
“The underside of the Dunsmuir Connection will also be an important element of the design for the public spaces at grade which connect several areas of the City, including ‘Crosstown,’ ‘Gastown,’ ‘Chinatown,’ and the Downtown Eastside to NEFC and the waterfront,” reads the RFP.
“Landing in the Creekside Park Extension, the Dunsmuir Connection serves as a gateway to the new parks and open spaces and must be interwoven with the park design.”
Upon completion, the municipal government projects 10,000 cyclists per day will use the DC — up from the existing volumes of upwards of 7,000 cyclists per day past Science World and 4,000 cyclists per day on the Union/Adanac bike lanes.
A secondary component to the RFP is the ‘screening’ of 250 metres of the elevated SkyTrain guideway between the Carrall Greenway and Quebec Street, with two ground-level entrances into the new Creekside Park extension located at either end of this portion of the train tracks.
This section of the SkyTrain elevated guideway currently dips underneath the existing Dunsmuir and Georgia viaducts to near ground level, and there are no plans to rebuild this portion of track without the dip given the extreme construction costs and disruptions to train service that can be expected from such a project.
As the dip in track creates a physical and visual barrier between the future realigned Pacific Boulevard and the Creekside Park extension, city staff are pursuing immense aesthetic improvements along the entire stretch of this guideway.
The selected contractor is expected to produce options for conceptual designs, with final conceptual design reports for the DC and SkyTrain screening submitted in August and September of this year, respectively.
Both components are a part of the estimated $1.7-billion cost of constructing new public amenities and spaces and social housing in Northeast False Creek, including the $438-million cost of demolishing the existing viaducts and constructing a new replacement road network. It is expected a vast majority of the costs will be covered by future private developments in the precinct.
Overall, NEFC entails new homes for 12,000 residents (including 1,800 social housing units for over 3,000 low-income residents), over 30 acres of new and renewed public spaces, and the creation of a commercial waterfront to create a new events and entertainment district.
City council has already approved rezoning applications for Canadian Metropolitan Properties’ Plaza of Nations redevelopment and Pavco’s BC Place tower, but it has yet to deliberate on the larger redevelopment proposed by Concord Pacific.
Demolition work on the viaducts could begin in 2020.