Park Board seeking public input on redesign of West End's beach areas

Oct 20 2021, 8:31 pm

What are the aspects, features, and considerations you value most for the design of the beach area parks of downtown Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood and the adjacent streets?

The Vancouver Park Board has kicked off the first public consultation on reimagining the iconic West End waterfront, with the goal of creating a new master plan that will guide changes.

The 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, but excluding private property.

This aligns with the city’s West End Community Plan strategy of creating long-term improvements to the area’s transportation network, parks, and public spaces to support population growth.

west end waterfront area vancouver park board

West End waterfront master plan area. (Vancouver Park Board)

Vancouver Palm Trees Sunset Beach

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

But the Park Board also asserts there are currently design deficiencies with the beach park areas, which have not seen major changes in decades. Over this period, the beach park area has seen significantly more use from both residents and tourists, and it has become the venue for some of the city’s largest public events, such as the Celebration of Light fireworks and Vancouver Pride.

Park Board staff have suggested considerations would be given to rising sea levels, a potential expansion of parks, beaches, and open spaces, new amenities, and improved connectivity with the surrounding neighbourhood.

The master plan will also consider new and expanded food and beverage spaces, and new washroom and changing facilities. The existing English Bay bathhouse and washroom facilities have an outdated design and a high operating cost.

An online survey for the public consultation is open through November 8, 2021.

Input gathered from this first round of public consultation will be used to develop concepts and ideas over the first half of 2022, which would lead to a preferred conceptual design between Summer 2022 and early 2023. Further rounds of public consultation on the developed conceptual designs would be made, before Park Board commissioners consider the final recommended master plan by Summer 2023.

The master plan could lead to major changes and improvements implemented over the long term, starting in the middle of this decade and through 2050.

spring break

English Bay Beach (Shutterstock)

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Inukshuk statue at English Bay Beach (Shutterstock)

In September 2020, commissioners approved a contract award to Vancouver-based landscape architectural firm PFS Studio and Oslo-based Snohetta to perform master planning and design work.

The contracted work costs $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.

More recently, the municipal government has made some changes to the area, such as reducing the vehicle lanes on Beach Avenue for a separated bike lane. The Park Board also turned the parking lot at Sunset Beach Park into a pop-up plaza with a colourful ground mural.

Long-term plans to demolish and replace the ageing Vancouver Aquatic Centre next to Sunset Beach Park could potentially feature a retractable roof for the new facility, opening up southern sun exposure on a seasonal basis.

sunset beach parking lot parking up plaza

Pop-up plaza configuration at the Sunset Beach Park parking lot. (Vancouver Park Board)

beach avenue bike lane

April 2021 completion of the fixed bike lane barriers and new configuration of Beach Avenue. (City of Vancouver)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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