There is no doubt that the heaving change in retail malls and major store closings will leave structural buildings demanding reuse. And this has all happened before-as reported in Citylab Sears built several “plants” across the country ninety years ago that were subsequently transformed into multi-use buildings and offices. Even the main headquarters for Seattle-based Starbucks is a former Sears warehouse. The locations of these former plant buildings were close to rail lines on the edges of cities, with lots of parking. These plants were huge, often a million square feet, and were local landmarks. Some sported towers, but these were really to provide water storage for the plant to provide water pressure for bathroom use during workers’ break times.
As Sears lost the need for rail transportation and chose trucking for deliveries plants near railway lines were no longer necessary and became opportunities to attract jobs and commerce. In Minneapolis the mayor and City morphed the old plant into the Midtown Exchange building with a corporate headquarters and 178 units of affordable housing and a food and crafts hall. This food market also used the existing railway bed beside the building as a new “Midtown Greenway” to bring customers to the hall by walking and by bicycle.
This pattern of reuse was also experienced at other Sears plants, where period architecture detail became a feature of the building reuse, and former rail access provided a green walkway and bikeway to the structure. Contrast this with shuttered suburban mall stores which are not near rail lines, but are industrial shell islands in huge tarred parking lots with no linear park greenway access and not near downtowns. Think of Amazon’s large warehouses. Can you see mixed use development occurring in those?
Where the previous Sears plants from nearly a century ago left industrial architecture and locations that were accessible by foot and valued, the shell structures from abandoned malls will be more difficult to readapt. Will these locations become sad decaying testaments to 20th century consumerism, or can these more remotely located malls be completely rehauled to new uses? As Ellen Denham-Jones states “the growing number of empty and under-performing retail sits throughout suburbia gives an opportunity to take the least-sustainable landscapes and convert them into more sustainable places. This allows us to redirect growth back into existing communities that could use a boost, and have the infrastructure in place, instead of continuing to tear down trees and to tear up the green space out at the edges”.
In the “everything bigger is better” category, the president of Port Vancouver has announced new plans to deal with the growing trend of longer, heftier cruise ships that won’t be able to get under the Lions Gate Bridge and would have taken up the lion’s share of ship parking at the Canada Place cruise ship terminal downtown. The Port’s answer? Propose building new bigger and better mega boat terminals in Richmond or Delta to accommodate those gargantuan large cruise ships.
There is already a proposal for a two billion dollar container terminal expansion at the existing terminal at Roberts Bank in Delta. This is planned despite the environmental impact on “hundreds of thousands” of western sandpipers that are migrating to spring Arctic breeding grounds. These migratory birds feed solely on an algae found only on the Roberts Bank mudflats, nowhere else. And it appear that this algae cannot be moved or replaced, which would mean that this bird migration could become extinct if port expansion proceeds. Delta is also proudly talking about their new parking facility for Port destined container hauling trucks located along Highway 17, also taking out even more of the Agricultural Land Reserve, which also happens to be the most arable soil in Canada.
But back to the Port. Port President and CEO Robin Silvester states in the Richmond News “We’re very early in the process. Cruise ships are getting bigger. When Canada Place was being built, it used to handle five cruise ships, but now it can’t even handle three of the bigger ones that come in at the same time. In fact, if you look at the size of Canada Place, if you were building a cruise terminal from scratch you’d build it the size of Canada Place just to handle one vessel… so it’s a challenge and we’re very good at dealing with challenges.”
In the Caribbean several ports have paid over $100 million to expand their port terminals to accommodate the new cruise mega ships. Building the facilities creates jobs, with jobs also continuing to serve mega port passengers. They are also labour intensive, with heavy demands on transportation and supply networks while the ships are in port. Unfortunately these megaships also cause urban air pollution although they are “smartly marketed as green ships”. They have “emission peaks” and burn massive amounts of fuel oil even when docked. But as the Port Cities Newsletter observes “Cities should not be powerless victims: they could actively shape the future of global maritime trade. Mayors of the major port-cities should discuss if their interests are served with ever larger ships. If the conclusion is negative, they could collectively decide to stop accommodating them.”
The Ministry of Transport has released this gem of a 1966 car trip from Horseshoe Bay to New Westminster. Already garnering over 19,000 views, it is one of a series of YouTube videos the Ministry has released of “drives” around the province undertaken a half century ago.
In 1966 there were 410,000 people in Vancouver. Gasoline was 32 cents a gallon. If you look closely you can see the toll booth at the entrance of the Lions Gate Bridge, and watch the vehicle cross the bridge at a breathless rate. You can marvel at the low scale buildings in the downtown, with a few pedestrians on sidewalks. There are some familiar landmarks like The Bay on Georgia, and a surprising plethora of large format automobile oriented advertising for car related products, gasoline and of course tobacco.
Take a look at the video and post your personal finds in the comments section below.
The Toronto Region has released their reply to the famous Amazon HQ2 RFP. The Vancouver Economic Commission says no to this for Metro Vancouver’s submission.
Update: Amazon says that it has received 238 proposals, from the US, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The Toronto submission is a 97-page PDF. But the overriding thrust of their pitch is clear from the cover letter: People, People, People. Did we mention People?? Oh yeah, for sure. People.
Plus we’re really good on the other stuff too, it says elsewhere. And look, people on bikes.
Toronto Region Amazon RFP Submission
Excerpt from cover letter.
Amazon is a knowledge company. Your lifeblood is skilled and creative people. Your RFP is not simply a request for real estate opportunities; it is a call out for a partner who can ensure your most vital and greatest asset of all: talent.
The diﬀerence between the Toronto Region and everywhere else is that we have the unparalleled ability to grow, attract, and retain talent — a massive, futureproofed pipeline of highly-educated and diverse talent that Amazon requires to fulfill its strategic objectives.
This submission makes an extensive business case for the advantages our Region oﬀers to meet and exceed your ambitions. In this letter, we present the case for why we can supply Amazon with the quantity and quality of talent you require, at a cost that gives you a competitive edge.
We grow talent. We have the most educated workforce in the OECD and are home to some of its best schools. Ontario is making North America’s biggest investments in first-class education. We are already one of the leading jurisdictions in STEM talent, and we are doubling down. The Ontario Government has taken accelerated steps to make a firm commitment to Amazon and all other businesses in the province: It will increase the number of post-secondary students graduating in STEM disciplines by 25% over the next five years, from 40,000 to 50,000 graduates, and the number of Master’s students graduating in applied artificial intelligence disciplines to 1,000 within five years. We are building the workforce of the future.
We attract talent. Our growth has been built on immigration. Thirty-nine percent of the Toronto Region — and 51% of Toronto proper—are born outside of Canada. We welcome more new immigrants each year than New York, LA, and Chicago combined. We speak over 180 languages and dialects. Toronto is heralded as the most multicultural city in the world, and our labour force and economy benefit directly from our diversity and inclusivity. We build doors, not walls. And those doors open to highly-skilled economic immigrants and international students who can easily become permanent residents and citizens.
We retain talent. The Toronto Region leads North America on almost every important quality of life metric, including safety, crime, healthcare, education, housing, culture, and entertainment. Millennials are settling here at the same rate as in San Francisco. We are progressive and exciting, which is why our Region’s companies retain talent. People want to live here.
The VEC does not plan to release its Metro proposal for public viewing, unlike several other proponents. But their recent press release (according to Mr. Chan), has some useful info.
No new giveaways for Metro Vancouver:
Unlike other proponents (hello, New Jersey), the Metro bid doesn’t offer new money-related inducements, like land, cash or tax breaks, preferring the focus to be elsewhere. Smart thinking, it seems to me.
“Rather than engaging in a ‘race to the bottom’ with cash incentives, the Project Execution Team presented a cohesive, comprehensive and compelling narrative that focuses on the built-in incentives of operating in and around the Vancouver region,” reads the release.
“This value proposition includes a highly competitive business environment featuring significant cost savings related to office real estate, health care, tax rates and labour.”
The bid is regional:
Suitable sites for such a development in Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond, and Surrey – in addition to the primary Vancouver options – were included in the bid.
…. Other stakeholders in the bid include the City of Richmond, City of New Westminster, District of North Vancouver, City of Port Moody, BCIT, SFU, UBC, UVIC, Research Universities Council of BC, TransLink, BC HYDRO, BC Tech Association, Air Canada, Vancouver International Airport, Harbour Air, TELUS, and Shaw Communications.
The focus is on people:
Likely this is a major focus behind Amazon’s proposal in the first place — put HQ2 where the people are. After all, an HQ is people, and good ones are hard to find. Whether the quantity of suitable senior managers and hi-tech people will be available for both Amazon and Metro’s growing tech sector is quite another question, as highlighted by the BCTech Association in THIS 2016 report.
The bid emphasizes that Metro Vancouver’s post-secondary institutions are “world class in their capacity to deliver graduates required by our technology sector.”
…. “Vancouver’s robust talent pool is further bolstered by the highest rate of Provincial in-migration of any province in Canada. We further benefit from a progressive federal immigration framework, which includes the Global Skills Strategy, to assist top talent in making their move here,” the release adds.
You can learn a lot about the previous Provincial government’s Massey Bridge process by looking at how other observers view it. This article from the Windsor Star compares the Gordie Howe International Bridge project connecting the Windsor and Detroit regions to the halted George Massey bridge project in Metro Vancouver. That six lane international bridge is estimated to cost two billion dollars and is a public-private partnership, with a suggested opening for 2022.
A community advisory group member of the Gordie Howe Bridge project noted that the “scuttling” of that bridge could occur without sound financial backing, drawing a comparison to the George Massey bridge which ” was scrapped on the eve of construction despite years of planning, plus $66 million spent on site clearing and other preparatory work.”
While the Windsor article describes the Massey Bridge ten lane crossing as being built to ease metro Vancouver commuter traffic, it also describes the intent as replacing “a crumbling, four-lane tunnel feared to be at risk of collapse in the event of an earthquake”, that had a poor planning process and a lack of support from impacted communities. The article also states that local mayors were critical of the Massey Bridge which would increase congestion by throttling traffic into a four lane road.
Local Member of Parliament Peter Julian (NDP — New Westminster-Burnaby), weighs in calling the Massey Bridge plan “as “back of the napkin” thinking despite the large amount of money spent and preparation work completed.“Maybe it was a large, expensive napkin, but you had 10 lanes going into four lanes,” Julian said Friday. “There was no out (for traffic). It was absurd. It wasn’t well thought out and you had municipalities rejecting the idea.”
Ontario Member of Parliament Brian Masse (NDP — Windsor-West) for the Windsor and Detroit bridge said the two bridge projects appear eerily similar “on the surface,” but in reality are not. “One is an international bridge, the other was a provincial initiative that posed problems for a lot of municipalities which opposed the idea to begin with,” he said. “There seemed to be a lack of consultation, while we had full community consultation as part of a long public process.”
The Massey Tunnel/Bridge Crossing will be re-examined by the Provincial Government, with an expected study completed by late 2018.
As reported in the Vancouver Courier the Musqueam First Nation is going ahead with the development of 21 acres of land they own close to the University of British Columbia. This comprehensive community will house 2,500 residents within four 18 storey highrises, townhouses and mid-rise buildings and will be called “Lelem”~”home” in the Musqueam language. Properties will be lease-hold with 99 year-long leases.A community centre, child care centre, grocery stores, restaurants, public areas and a park will be designed within this new community. The property is bounded by University Boulevard, Acadia Road, Toronto Road and Ortona Avenue and was given to the Musqueam First Nation in 2008 as part of a reconciliation, settlement and benefits agreement with the Province of British Columbia.
The Musqueam First Nation chose a developer for the first phase that has had a lot of experience in Vancouver, Polygon. Polygon is locally owned and operated for nearly 40 years, and the choice of Polygon was because of “leadership in design and development across all of their projects,” said Chief Wayne Sparrow in a news release.” The history of the Musqueam First Nation and their art will be a signature interpreted in this development. The development is expected to take ten years to build out and will create 1,900 jobs.
The Musqueam Capital Corporation will oversee the development of this land and has the former Mayor Michael Harcourt and Gordon Harris who is President and CEO of the Simon Fraser University Community Trust on their board. The chair of Polygon is Michael Audain who founded and developed the Audain Art Gallery in Whistler and supported the commissioning of the reconciliation pole at the University of British Columbia which was carved by Haida master carver James Hart and raised on the university’s main mall. This project is historically important as it is the first mixed use multi-family development undertaken by a First Nations in Metro Vancouver. Fittingly the principles espoused by the Musqueam for this new area focus upon community and belonging ““with a focus on global oneness and value for people and the environment.”
Daily Hive Images
It’s not every day that three well-respected urbanists meet to discuss what is happening in the Vancouver housing market, but that is exactly what happened at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention which is currently being held in Vancouver. As reported in the Vancouver Sun by Matt Robinson , University of British Columbia’s David Ley, Simon Fraser University’s Andy Lam and Josh Gordon from Simon Fraser University’s public policy program laid it out succinctly and painfully.
Andy Yan illustrated that the so-called ‘million dollar and more‘ detached houses are concentrated around the City of Vancouver. However if transportation costs are factored in as paid by households over a 25 year period to commute to work, those ‘million dollar’ housing units are located right across the lower mainland. Noting that you can’t use sprawl to provide housing affordability, Andy pointed out the disparity between incomes and housing values. “Where does Vancouver sit? Its (housing) values are between Honolulu and San Francisco at Halifax incomes.” In the Fraser Valley Andy pointed out that housing prices are seven times what median income is, showing that even there local people are not able to buy in this market.
Dr. Ley backed up Andy Yan’s points by showing that 2017 data from the Demographia consultants illustratesthat Vancouver’s detached homes cost over 11 times median incomes. As a guide, affordable housing is classified as three times median income.
And with locals taking on large debt to finance a house there are implications if interest rates change or if there is a recession. But most importantly workers will not be able to live in Vancouver. “By 2020, workers in 82 of 88 in-demand jobs will be unable to afford a single-family home in Metro, Ley said, citing a 2015 study from Vancity. And in just 10 years, most people will forgo career opportunities in the region and simply relocate elsewhere.”
That is huge~if workers cannot live in the city, they won’t have any incentive to stay here and raise families. Calling Vancouver “a honey pot for global investors” Dr. Ley noted that you can’t build your way to affordability, and that increased supply through redevelopment feeds land assemblies at higher prices, driving up land costs which are reflected in higher valued units. “Housing has become a valued asset in an investment portfolio. Capital flows to select desirable locations, resort locations and gateway cities.”
So how to mitigate the affordability of housing? Josh Gordon from SFU’s School of Public Policy, bluntly described the challenge of one of foreign money stating “You have to understand supply claims are largely about distracting us from doing stuff on the demand side,” said Gordon, who added that developers simply want to be able to build endlessly for the world’s rich.”
Calling the foreign-buyers tax and the marginal increase in property purchase transfer tax “insufficient and modest” Gordon observed that what is needed is “a progressive property surtax that is offset by income taxes paid. “What that would do … if you wanted to own property on the basis of foreign income and wealth, you’d have to pay your fair share of taxes.” Local home buyers subsidize foreign buyers as local buyers use income upon which taxes are paid for social and other services. Foreign buyers do not. A property surtax would eliminate that subsidy. With housing prices over 11 times the median income, and the median housing price now skirting two million dollars, this is no longer a local market. What happens if workers simply decide to live somewhere else other than the Metro Vancouver region? What shifts can be made by municipalities and the Province to ensure that people in this area can purchase their own housing? Is it all too late?
One more reason for the Mayor of the Corporation of Delta supporting the Massey Bridge, despite all the other Mayors in Metro Vancouver nixing the project-Delta is getting a new casino! Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about the casino debacle in Delta . This new addition will be located directly east of the Massey Tunnel on the Delta Town and Country Inn site. The British Columbia Licensing Commission (the BCLC) apparently made the decision “after listening to the community and the clear feedback from the Corporation of Delta that the only suitable site on which it would consider a gambling and entertainment facility at this time is the Delta Town and Country Inn.”
The commission hired a third-party consultant that “undertook a detailed analysis of this location utilizing existing player data. This analysis shows that the Delta Town and Country Inn site will capture incremental revenue, with minimal impacts to adjacent gambling facilities in Richmond, Surrey and New Westminster.”
So why is this detrimental? As the Atlantic magazine notes, a Canadian study found that the 75 per cent of casino customers who gamble casually only provide 4 per cent of revenues. “A range of studies reviewed…estimated that between 40 to 60 per cent of casino revenues are earned from problem gamblers…drawn from the ranks of the vulnerable elderly.Half of casino visitors are over age 50, but casinos market themselves to the over 70 and even over 80 market, to whom gambling offers an escape from boredom and loneliness into a hypnotic zone of rapid-fire electronic stimuli.” With more than 15 per cent of the population in Delta over 65 years of age, the new casino will have a captive market driving to the casino’s motordom location.
Meanwhile the Richmond News reports about a theatre group that performs theatrical plays for seniors in Richmond with only one theme-the deleterious impact of gambling. Supported by the “community engagement provider” of the B.C. Responsible and Problem Gambling Program, the plays aim to warn vulnerable and lonely seniors about the danger of gambling.
“We came up with the idea five years ago to deliver meaningful messages to the public, especially seniors, through drama. We found that seniors often have a shorter attention span, so traditional methods like lectures are not very effective on them…Things that happen to older adults might make them a vulnerable group, like retirement from work and bereavement. Also, they have access to pensions and savings, and gambling might be an attractive source of recreation for them.”
The Licensing Commission continues with the party line. “BCLC respects the authority of local governments to choose whether they want a gambling facility in their community. Throughout this process, BCLC is committed to engaging with stakeholders and the public to incorporate their feedback into these plans.”
Delta gets another industry that is not 21st century focused, and certainly not sustainable in any way other than the 10 per cent revenues the Corporation will receive, which will be in the 1.5 to 3 million dollar range. All of this for a business that is all-consuming and only spits out their customers once they have no money.
Somehow we have leapfrogged from talking about active transportation and transit, but we’ve not really included the most important active transportation piece of all-in this piece from The Torontoist by Tricia Wood,she identifies the “last mile”of sidewalks as the missing link.
“The “last mile” problem refers to the gap between transit riders’ residences and their transit stations. The GO Train system is a perfect example. Train stations are surrounded by vast moats of parking because riders commonly have few (or no) good options for getting to the station except to drive. More people will take transit if they have better access to it. It’s not merely a question of distance. Studies have shown commuters will walk as much as a mile, but what that route looks like can make all the difference.”
Surprisingly one-quarter of all Toronto streets are without sidewalks. And Ms. Wood gets it right when she refers to “plain old walking as “among the most useful and cost-effective first and last mile strategies”. Take away the parking lots at rail stations, make the stations more accessible, and reuse that land for a higher purpose. Make it so people can access the trains by foot, securely and comfortably. “Solutions such as shuttle buses and cycling get a lot of attention” but it is the access to transit and the journey by foot to get to transit that needs to be paramount. “Walking and sidewalks are part of the public transit system.”
Reducing the need to drive to train stations will also free up lots of valuable land around stations for a more useful purpose, and make the stations more accessible. While solutions such as shuttle buses and cycling get a lot of attention, experts say that plain old walking is “among the most useful and cost-effective first and last mile strategies.” Walking and sidewalks are part of the public transit system. And sidewalks should not be a subject to debate about their usefulness-city direction should ensure they be installed across the city for the comfort and security of all walkers.
As Ms. Wood observes “Sidewalks are part of solving the last mile problem for Toronto transit. It’s not just a local issue. It’s about access to the whole city for everyone.”
In truly one of the most bizarre events south of the Fraser River, the Mayor of the Corporation of Delta was invited to speak to the Surrey Board of Trade as part of their 2017 Surrey Environment and Business Awards. Subject? Why the business community must force the Provincial government build a ten lane overbuilt multi-billion dollar bridge which will industrialize the banks of the Fraser River. No mention that most of Delta’s economy is based upon trucking and transshipment, with no diversity into more 21st century businesses. Delta needs the bridge to continue their industrial economic base which is all about motordom.
As quoted in the Delta Optimist “The impacts are not just felt in Delta, but in Surrey, White Rock, Langley, even out in the valley. The replacement of the tunnel with a new bridge will relieve on of the worst traffic highway bottlenecks in Canada and save businesses and commuters millions of dollars lost as a result of congestion, accidents and travel delays” the Mayor said.
To the Surrey business community that might not know that you cannot build a ten lane bridge to solve congestion, the Mayor had an enthusiastic audience. The Mayor also trotted out the Angus Reid survey that showed that the business community and residents supported the bridge. Without comprehensive road widening and new bridges at Oak Street, congestion at the bridge will simply transfer to other areas of Highway 99.
The clearest statement comes from the new Provincial Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena who stated We have talked to mayors who were very concerned that their vision for the Lower Mainland was not being recognized. As minister I think this is a responsible way to be acting when you are talking what will be, no matter what we do, whether it is a bridge, whether it is twinning the tunnel or tunnel and bridge combination, who knows what will come of this, but we are responsible with public money. We want to get this right.”
In Metro Vancouver no one gets as excited as Simon Fraser University’s Andy Yan, Director of the City Program when Statistics Canada releases information. Urbanist Andy immediately summed up the surprising gap between median income in Metro Vancouver and housing prices. With median household income at $72,662, Metro Vancouver lags way behind other urban areas, ranking 15th in Canada. And that surprisingly low median income points out what everyone in this region knows-there is a radical disconnect between household income and the price of housing. People working in Metro Vancouver can’t afford to buy a house here.
As reported in the Vancouver Sun by Sam Cooper, Andy surmised this huge gap as “surprising to me that we have the 15th highest incomes in Metro Vancouver, even coming behind Toronto. What we learned today is in Vancouver you are living in paradise, but your wages are in purgatory.” While noting that there was globalization everywhere, Andy observed that “The issue that urgently needs solving is to reconnect local incomes to local housing. But the difficulty is, you will need different policy for different cities.”
Nowhere is that more acute than in the City of Vancouver where average house prices are now $1.4 million dollars. Compare that with a median total household income (2015) of $65,327. Andy also observed that in some areas like Coal Harbour and northwest Richmond wages were even lower than city-wide averages, even though housing prices in those areas were higher. And this has huge ramifications not just on accessibility to the housing market for locals, but for job retention. As Andy notes “If Metro Vancouver doesn’t tackle housing affordability, the growing risk is that talented workers won’t come to the city, and families will start to leave, I think this speaks to why we had a change in provincial government, and I think this could be a factor in upcoming city elections,” Yan said. “You can live here, but you can’t earn your wages here.”
Below are the average housing prices for several other cities in the Province from the first quarter of 2017, with the total household median income below. With comparable median incomes, housing in all of these cities is less than half the cost of housing in Vancouver.
Housing cost -Source: Landcor
Vancouver Island, $567,269
Total household median income, Statistics Canada 2016 Census
Victoria — $70,283
Kelowna — $71,127
Cranbrook — $72,320
Kamloops — $73,336
Percentage Change in Median Incomes by City 2005-2015 Source: Metro News, Andy Yan
You can feel the desperation of the Liberal party in this latest incident-someone in the defeated Liberal provincial party came up with a crumpled document that they are sure is from the NDP camp before the Provincial election. Even though it is not on letterhead, or has any identifying signatures or references, the opposition party has pounced on it to try to make a news story. Their story? That the NDP planned to implement the Transportation Plan as approved by the Mayors’ Council which does not include the Massey Bridge.
This of course gives the rookie Delta MLA (who has also not given up his Councillor job in Delta) the chance to rail on about congestion in the tunnel and all those folks inconvenienced by using the tunnel, which of course is all the fault of a new government. The multi billion dollar cost of this proposed bridge is more than the cost of NASA’s Cassini project, which is now sending its last photos from space.
And as the Delta Optimist observed, “The document does not appear to be official, nor confirmed party policy. However, that didn’t stop the Liberals from accusing the government of quietly planning to kill the $3.5 billion project right off the bat despite assurances from Transportation Minister Claire Trevena”.
And the rookie MLA doing the dual job as Delta councillor continues the same rant against any reasonable evaluation of the bridge, and has not demonstrated any ability to work towards the mutual interests of the region, as expressed by the Transportation Plan approved by the metro Mayors’ Council. If anything instead of getting a reasoned rationale approach to working towards mutual interests, this MLA is distancing Delta from the rest of the region in his dual roles.
Expect to see more of this posturing, so reminiscent of the way the last Provincial government treated Metro Vancouver. Here’s to a more rationale, interest based approach that would be helpful to explore the issues and ensure that transportation concerns for the Delta part of the region are addressed.
As Metro Vancouver residents, we all have an interest in the way our region grows. Recently released results from the 2016 Census provide a benchmark for measuring and interpreting how growth is shaping our region. Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy, in collaboration with municipal Official Community Plans, is an agreement among member municipalities that anticipates growth and establishes goals and strategies for another one million residents over the next 25 years.
Are we on track?
- Terry Hoff, Acting Division Manager of Growth Management & Transportation, Metro Vancouver
- Chris Robertson, Acting Assistant Director of City-Wide & Regional Planning, City of Vancouver
- Michael Ferreira, Managing Principal, Urban Analytics
- Heather McNell, Director of Regional Planning & Electoral Area Services, Metro Vancouver
- Andrew Merrill, Manager of Community Planning, City of Coquitlam
- Terry Hoff, Acting Division Manager of Growth Management & Transportation, Metro Vancouver
- Don Luymes, Director of Strategic Initiatives, City of Surrey
- TBC, Township of Langley
Back to the south of the Fraser River where the Massey Bridge is getting a serious rethink by the Province, who are evaluating whether a nearly 4 Billion dollar bridge located on the sensitive river delta in the wrong place for regional growth is the right thing to do. As Graeme Wood in the Richmond News reports the Mayor of Richmond Malcolm Brodie expressed gratitude for the pause, saying “The current government appears to be listening to our concerns that we’ve been expressing over and over for the last four to five years.”
Mr. Brodie is hoping that the Province will consider a twinned tunnel to achieve eight driving lanes. Costs for a twinned tunnel or a bridge are similar, but the tunnel will preclude the port from having large ships navigate upriver. A tunnel would also get rid of the huge highway interchange planned for Steveston Highway.
The Minister of Transportation says that there “was not a thorough business case, a thorough look at all the options.” The proposed review will involve the Metro Vancouver mayors and “focus on what level of improvement is needed in the context of regional and provincial planning, growth and vision, as well as which option would be best for the corridor, be it the proposed 10-lane bridge, a smaller bridge or tunnel.”
Meanwhile in Delta the Mayor and Council headed up the “We Need A Bridge” campaign counter to the expressed vote of every other mayor in the region. But residents are starting to notice that their new rookie MLA Ian Paton is serving two roles-he has not given up his position as councillor for the corporation of Delta, and attended the last council meeting via Skype. The next civic election will not happen until October 2018. While Mr Paton continues in his dual roles he is also lashing out at the work stoppage on the bridge, repeating the earthquake in the tunnel safety scenario and reiterating the fact that the tunnel gets congestion. No mention that the congestion, like water, will just plug up closer to Vancouver with a ten lane bridge. You just can’t build your way out of congestion. It doesn’t work like that.
Mr Paton’s refusal to give up his councillor position despite being an MLA brought out a strong reaction from a resident who stated in the local paper “As a taxpayer, it is money well spent to have a by-election and it is unacceptable that Paton continues to draw a salary as councillor at the same time drawing a salary as MLA. Paton quite simply cannot function objectively in the two roles at the same time.”
The practice of dual mandate or as the British call it double jobbing is against the law in many places, but not in British Columbia-or Belgium. You can’t serve as a member of parliament and be a member of the provincial legislature. But you can be a member of the provincial legislature and a municipal councillor. The Province of B.C. did try to enact dual office prohibition legislation but it did not pass a second reading. There is one precedent from twenty years ago when MLA Jenny Kwan also served as a city councillor for a very limited time. But for an emerging municipality like Delta which needs critical thinking about diversifying the economy and energizing new industries, it just makes sense-two heads at two different levels of government are always better than one.
At the start of a longish process, Vancouver is in the game to be one of the host cities in the United 2026 FIFA World Cup bid.
“The host cities that are selected from the list announced today will define the United Bid,” commented Peter Montopoli, Canada Soccer General Secretary and Canada Bid Director for the United Bid. “We are pleased that six Canadian cities have completed the Request for Information and we look forward to working closely with these potential host cities in the next steps of preparing a world class bid to secure the 2026 FIFA World Cup for the United Bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States.” . . .
The 2026 FIFA World Cup™ will be the first tournament with the expanded 48-team format and will require world-class facilities and infrastructure. Canada, Mexico and the United States are uniquely suited to accommodate FIFA’s high-level standards for hosting a FIFA World Cup™.
More on United 2026 HERE.
Get a little bit of rain and everyone gets back to business in Vancouver where the The CBC reports on the optimism arising from Greg Moore, the chair of Metro Vancouver and the other cities that comprise this region. Everyone knows that housing affordability and transportation are the two most important factors in every conversation about this region. The relationship with the new NDP government and the Metro Cities has been encouraging so far, in a refreshing type of way.
After dealing with the transportation referendum debacle for Metro Vancouver (which was part of the former premier’s election promises in 2013) the Mayors want to advance the Ten Year Mayors’ Vision they had all agreed upon (except for the Mayor of Delta) . That plan includes increasing rapid transit in the region and replacing the aging Patullo bridge. And that time is now.
With the new Provincial government actually talking to the Mayors and with the multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge (which was unsupported in the region except by the Mayor of Delta) on hold, there are now active talks on working together between the region and the Province to fund the agreed upon transportation initiatives. Instead of the Mayors finding out about the Province’s transportation priorities in the newspaper, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is following up on her pledge to work directly with the regional municipalities on advancing their agreed upon plan. It was Mayor Mussatto of the City of North Vancouver that said it best-“The (previous) provincial government didn’t really value our input. We didn’t feel like we were playing as equals at the table.”
That appears to have changed, with more open lines of communication and a renewed interest in moving forward with the important task of making this region accessible to everyone. As the Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore observed about working with the new Provincial government “We have disagreements on different things, but we work through them together. If you’re sitting at the table and working together, although you might have even major disagreements on one topic, you can still work together on other topics.”
It’s a simple and direct approach for these two levels of government to advance transportation and accessibility across the region.
The action is unmistakable. Cities touting themselves, and pundits speculating on potential winners. And others comparing the process to bidding for the Olympics, but with a very short deadline (October 19).
HERE’s Conor Sen at Bloomberg View on potential winners:
This is the Olympics of corporate relocations. The winning city will be able to offer a large metro area, a deep and educated talent pool with a strong local university system, a robust international airport, sufficient highway and transit infrastructure, a reasonable cost of living, a welcoming culture, a business-friendly environment, likely eye-popping tax incentives, and a local business and political community able to work together to make a convincing pitch.
By my tally, the options are: Toronto, Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas or Denver.
The New York Times breezily whittles down the candidate cities, one criterion at a time, to pick a single winner. Canadian cites don’t make the starting line, due to relevant data not being in the right sets, or something. With thanks to EMILY BADGER, QUOCTRUNG BUI and CLAIRE CAIN MILLER. The answer is: Denver.
So Denver it is. The city’s lifestyle and affordability, coupled with the supply of tech talent from nearby universities, has already helped build a thriving start-up scene in Denver and Boulder, 40 minutes away. Big tech companies, including Google, Twitter, Oracle and I.B.M., have offices in the two cities. Denver has been attracting college graduates at an even faster rate than the largest cities. The region has the benefits of places like San Francisco and Seattle — outdoor recreation, microbreweries, diversity and a culture of inclusion (specifically cited as a criterion by Amazon) — but the cost of living is still low enough to make it affordable, and lots of big-city refugees have been moving there for this reason. Amazon would be smart to follow them.
HERE’s Joseph Parilla in Brookings:
For what it’s worth, I think Amazon will ultimately make this decision based on where they can get a quality technical workforce at scale, especially one that has a concentration in a key area of expansion for the firm. Regions with research universities with good business schools and computer science departments will be a logical fit, and they will likely want a site with some baseline density and vitality.
New York and the Bay Area offer very large technical labor pools but also a very high cost of living, which will likely exclude them. The draw of Boston’s labor and university base is strong, as evidenced by General Electric’s recent arrival based on those factors. Atlanta is intriguing: its sprawling physical development may be disqualifying, but the city provides a combination of a deep white-collar labor pool, supply chain technology capabilities, Georgia Tech, and a relatively low cost of living. Toronto is Canada’s strongest contender. Going abroad would be politically controversial but Toronto would offer a diverse, cosmopolitan and educated labor force, the University of Toronto’s globally relevant computer science and business school, and a hedge against U.S. political risk.
CityLab’s Aaron Renn speculates on the Bay Area, Boston, L.A., New York, Dallas, Philadelphia and Atlanta. He gives his personal nod to Chicago.
At Slate, Henry Grabar reviews the criteria rather broadly. And gives his nod to Baltimore, Chicago, Denver and Philadelphia. He bookends the analysis with these fascinating thoughts, and some inkling about Amazon’s culture:
It is a one-of-a-kind, six-week sweepstakes, with a $5 billion HQ up for grabs. Nothing like this has ever happened before. At 8.1 million square feet, constituting nearly 20 percent of Seattle’s Class A office space, Amazon’s Seattle campus simply has no parallels in U.S. cities . . . .
The differences between those cities is fodder for endless debate. But what may ultimately be more consequential is where Amazon decides to locate its headquarters within those cities. For all the talk about millennials abandoning car ownership, the biggest determinant of transportation choice is job location. In Seattle, Amazon has established an urban corporate paradigm that serves as a desperately needed counterpoint to the suburban campuses of Apple, Facebook, and Google in Silicon Valley. Amazon reports that 55 percent of Seattle employees walk, bike or use mass transit to get to work.
With its new headquarters, the company has the opportunity to tip the balance of an entire region toward or away from mass transit. The deck is stacked against infill development. But with cities scrambling to put together the pieces for Amazon, expect at least some of the proposals to double as downtown revitalization efforts. Entire cities have been built on less.
At the end of August Angus Reid conducted a survey of Metro Vancouver residents about their preferences for a new Massey Bridge at the Massey Tunnel crossing on the Fraser River. Remember that this survey was paid for by the Association of Consulting Engineers of B.C. and the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association. Both of these organizations would have a lot of people quickly employed if the multi-billion dollar ten lane bridge was to be built. Indeed, that was solidly in the Liberals’ Provincial election platform-build the Massey Bridge, employ 6,000 British Columbians. Don’t ask whether the bridge is in the right place, is sustainable, overbuilt, or a threat to the estuary. It’s about jobs.
Respondents throughout the region were asked the following survey question: “As you may be aware, the provincial government has developed a plan that would see the four-lane Massey Tunnel replaced with a new, higher-capacity bridge over the Fraser River. What are your views on replacing the tunnel with a bridge?”
Now that question has a little bias-it is assuming the replacement of the existing tunnel with a new, shinier, higher performance huge bridge. Respondents were not given any other alternative. The way it was written and said will of course make folks go for the unseen shiny penny, not the existing plodding tunnel which has been so slandered by the Corporation of Delta as antiquated, congested, and dangerous. Never mind the fact that it has performed like a solid workhorse for nearly 60 years and has 80,000 daily vehicles, and that similar designs to this tunnel are still in daily use in Europe. Let’s not consider that the tunnel technology could be part of a hybrid solution of either twinning with a new tunnel or working in concert with a smaller new bridge.
Local press including The Vancouver Sun’s Stephanie Ip reported the survey results, which (of course) suggested that 75 per cent of regional respondents “said they would like to see a higher-capacity bridge built to replace the aging tunnel.” Those results were even collected by political party, showing that ” those who voted for the B.C. Liberals in the spring election were most likely to support the Liberal-launched bridge project, with 90 per cent voicing support. However, 64 per cent of those who voted NDP also support the project.”
And there’s some interesting stuff-only 37 per cent of respondents in Richmond/Delta, the people most impacted by tunnel “congestion” favoured the new bridge. Which gets us back to why this survey was even conducted in the first place-if you are asking folks farther out in the region what they want for an efficient driving experience, of course a new bridge sounds perfect. But for Richmond and Delta drivers, the loss of Class 1 arable farmland, the degradation of the banks of the Fraser River for industrial businesses, and the honking huge size of this multi-billion dollar bridge brings up more questions about the most efficient way to support regional transportation. An overbuilt bridge in the wrong place doesn’t solve congestion. It merely moves it.
Kudos to the current Provincial government for reviewing the billion dollar Massey bridge and working with Metro Vancouver and the Mayors’ Council to figure out what the transportation needs are on a regional basis. Let’s start planning our transit and transportation to ensure that all residents have mobility and accessibility. Let’s ensure the plan at the Massey crossing is truly the best fit, and considers all the options, not just an “either/or” on an overbuilt expensive 20th century bridge.