Posted by: Scott Allan Erdman | December 16, 2010

Northeast False Creek & The Plaza of Nations – Your Input Needed

On Wednesday, December 8 the City of Vancouver, along with land-owner Canadian Metropolitan Properties (CMP), hosted a public open house for the proposed development on the former Plaza of Nations land. This piece of property will be one of the larger ‘chunks’ in the whole Northeast False Creek development, an emerging neighbourhood stretching along False Creek’s northside waterfront, from Cambie Bridge to Science World. Due to its unique size, location, and features, the design of development that is built here will have profound affects on the entire neighbourhood. Several interesting components make up this specific proposal, including:

  • substantial residential and commercial development
  • a new, large civic plaza to be built where Enterprise Hall sits now, to be designed to host festivals
  • and other community events (for up to 4000 people), and also suitable for day-to-day use
  • a privately-owned and operated community space which will have a full NHL-sized ice rink for Canucks practice and public skating outside these hours, plus daycare and other community sports/recreation space
  • restaurants and cafes
  • a continuation of the seawall
  • some greenspace, floating promenades, and marinas

Specific details for the CMP proposal, as well as all the visuals and display boards from the open house can be found on the City’s website. There is also an important opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions via a linked survey:

:: www.vancouver.ca/nefc

To better understand the importance of this property, a bit of background on the whole NEFC project is useful. In November 2009, the City of Vancouver Council approved the recommendations noted in the document “Northeast False Creek Directions for the Future” to supplement existing policy and guide future planning in NEFC. There were a number of directions given by Council that define the redevelopment of this area:

  • NEFC will see housing for over 7200 new residents upon build-out
  • Provide 1.8 million square feet of ‘job space’ – commercial development
  • Densities in NEFC will be among the highest in Vancouver with a floor space ratio (FSR) in the range of 6 to 9. As a comparison, the West End ranges from 1.5 to 4 FSR, Downtown South ranges from 3 to 6 FSR and in the Central Business District up to 9 FSR (although predominantly office use).
  • Historically, the park ratio of 2.75 acres per thousand residents has been used to develop new public open space. Direction was given to provide only 5 acres of new public open space – 1/3 of the typical amount for the NEFC area.

The Vancouver Public Space Network believes that this proposed deficiency in public open space is unacceptable. The comparable existing North False Creek neighbourhood surrounding David Lam Park has been developed to have the typical 2.75 acres of public open space for each 1000 residents. This neighbourhood is a world-renowned example for livability and urban development, and has won numerous awards for its high quality and plentiful public open spaces. It is incomprehensible that the plan for the NEFC area would propose a drastic departure from this respected urban example and reduce the amount of public space. To remain a desirable place to live, attract people, business and tourists, Vancouver must continue to retain and develop a variety of open spaces to allow for a diverse range of activities and recreational opportunities.

While CMP’s proposal for the Plaza of Nations and surrounding land is commendable with its aim to provide a vibrant, mixed-use, high-density waterfront neighbourhood, it does fall short on a few key components. The current proposal fails to meet several of the City of Vancouver’s criteria;

  • City staff have recommended that a total of 80,000 ft2 of public open space be provided on the property
  • 67,000 ft2 is proposed in CMP’s plans
  • City of Vancouver staff has recently identified an overwhelmingly high demand for public performance space in and around the downtown area
  • The current proposal provides a plaza but does not meet the criteria set in the recently-completed Demand Analysis Study for Cultural Performance / Event Spaces

The Vancouver Public Space Network understands that a large public performance space that is managed and owned by the public is critical to providing access to a public plaza that is centrally located and cherished by all. The plaza can be a venue for numerous community celebrations such as the Taiwanese Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and other cultural events. The direct access to the water is essential for this space to provide the flexibility for the largest range of events possible plus retaining visual and physical public access to False Creek.

The public benefit/amenity strategy described in the NEFC development process is limited in range and detail. This is unfortunate because it is clear that Vancouverites, particularly in the downtown peninsula, require more daycare, playground space, sports fields and programmed community activity spaces like the Roundhouse Community Centre. The success of the Roundhouse is an indication that indoor community spaces are needed for downtown residential areas. These are needs that, even in the absence of any residential development in the NEFC area, will only increase in the coming years. With thousands of new residents projected in NEFC these needs will be exacerbated.

The proposed plan has identified a privately owned and managed waterfront practice rink for the Vancouver Canucks. It is suggested that the ice rink would be accessible to the public when the Canucks are not using it. The building would also house daycare spaces as well as public community space for sports and recreation. While there is little doubt that the neighbourhood is hungry for recreational space such as this one, it is difficult to imagine that a private facility designed and built for private interests will serve the public and truly be affordable and accessible to all the residents of Vancouver.

HOW CAN YOU HELP/GET INVOLVED?

For everyone who was not able to attend the open house held this past Wednesday, there is still an opportunity to learn more about the development, and provide your own feedback. The link below will connect you with the City’s website for the NEFC development. In addition to the overall aims for the neighbourhood, all of the display boards from the Dec 8 Open House are available for viewing. There is also an attached survey. For anyone who has an interest, concern, or suggestion for this development, this is your best opportunity to provide feedback!

:: www.vancouver.ca/nefc

The survey will be available until December 20, 2010, so now is your chance to share your own ideas or concerns. The survey is directly linked to the details outlined in the display boards, so make sure you have a close look at them before filling out the online form.

For anyone interested in reading more about the recommendations for the civic plaza outlined in the City’s demand study, you can check out the final report for the Demand Analysis Study for Cultural Performance / Event Spaces at the above link under the column “Project News” on the right-hand side.

As one of the largest pieces of property to be developed along the shores of False Creek, the former Plaza of Nations land not only represents an ideal opportunity to create a waterfront community that is high in density and vibrancy, providing homes and work places for thousands, but also one that is host to a generous offering of attractive open spaces. As part of a waterfront network of open spaces and greenery, the plazas and park spaces created here will be enjoyed by residents of all of Vancouver and tourists alike, not just those living in Northeast False Creek. The City and Canadian Metropolitan Properties have the chance to create one of the most welcoming and livable neighbourhoods in Vancouver – let’s hope that they seize this opportunity, and by using lessons learned from other exemplary neighbourhoods just up the Creek, get it right the first time.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: