Park Board pushes forward with redesign planning for English Bay and Sunset beaches

Sep 14 2020, 5:36 pm

A new master plan for downtown Vancouver’s West End waterfront parks will outline possible future improvements that redesign and integrate the area’s parks and streets.

In a meeting this evening, Vancouver Park Board commissioners are expected to approve a staff recommendation to proceed with a contract award to a partnership between Vancouver-based landscape architectural firm PFS Studio and Oslo-based Snohetta, which has worked on projects around the world and brings a “fresh perspective” to the location.

The forthcoming planning work for the master plan will cover 95 acres, spanning Alexandra Park, English Bay Park, Morton Park, Sunset Beach Park, and adjacent roadways, including Beach Avenue, Pacific Street, and the foot of Davie Street.

The contracted work will cost $2.6 million — up from the original allocation of $1 million — with the increase coming from the 2019-22 capital plan. There is also an option to extend the contract for a further two three-year terms. The original capital plan called for a $9 million budget, but $5.5 million was postponed due to the Park Board’s COVID-19 fiscal crisis.

The master plan will consider five main themes and considerations, including park identity and functionality, neighbourhood connectivity, access and seawall enhancements, shoreline habitat restoration and ecological integrity, climate change, and enhancements and upgrades to park services.

The work will also inform the footprint of the future replacement of the aging Vancouver Aquatic Centre, as well as enhanced access and transportation — walking, cycling, public transit, and parking — and public realm in the surrounding streets.

Site area for the English Bay Beach Park and Sunset Beach Park master planning process. (City of Vancouver)

Site area for the English Bay Beach Park and Sunset Beach Park master planning process. (City of Vancouver)

Some specific considerations could explore new and expanded food and beverage spaces, and new washroom and changing facilities. Park Board staff have deemed the existing English Bay bathhouse and its washrooms facilities as “outdated” and “an operational burden,” and the development of a master plan for the area will consider how this building will be overhauled.

English Bay and Sunset beaches are also the locations of Vancouver’s most highly-attended annual public events, namely the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks. Infrastructure changes, such as wider entry points into the beaches and new lighting, could improve crowd control during major events.

“The Vancouver Park Board requires a comprehensive master plan for the West End parks and adjacent transportation network that anticipates growth and increased demand while preserving and enhancing the qualities of the waterfront that make it so spectacular,” reads a Park Board staff report.

“The master plan will provide a consistent planning and design approach for the next 30 years to guide the phased implementation of necessary improvements to both the parks and surrounding transportation networks of the West End waterfront.”

Vancouver Palm Trees Sunset Beach

Palm trees at Sunset Beach at English Bay in downtown Vancouver. (Shutterstock)

The master plan will build on the work established by the city’s 2013-approved West End Community Plan and from previous strategies in the neighbourhood.

Based on estimates created in 2018, fuelled by the West End Community Plan, the population of the neighbourhood is expected to grow by up to 15,000 by 2028 and 18,000 by 2041 — a 40% increase over the existing population number. By 2041, Vancouver’s city proper population will also grow to 765,000 from 650,000 today.

Editor’s note: The contract value of the planning work has been updated.

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