Residents were supposed to learn in the fall whether city council wants the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts demolished and replaced with a new road network.
That obviously never happened.
Now the city’s engineering and planning staff are expected to deliver a report in February or March that will likely lead to a council vote.
The fate of the 1960s-era hulking structures is one of the major issues facing council as it embarks on its last full calendar year before the fall 2014 civic election.
The future of the Vancouver Art Gallery and whether it will be relocated, renovated or see satellite galleries pop up downtown is, so far, the other biggest city-shaping issue to go before council this spring.
Combined, the two issues are expected to draw a healthy crowd of supporters and detractors over what are Vancouver landmarks.
Back in July, when senior staff last updated council on the viaducts, Mayor Gregor Robertson said he wasn’t prepared to say whether he favoured demolition of the structures that link Chinatown and Strathcona to downtown.
The viaducts currently carry approximately 43,000 vehicles per day — a fact not lost on Robertson, who requested staff update council on how traffic will be affected on Prior Street, the possibility of building a Malkin Street connector to First Avenue and Clark and an explanation on how a clear flow of commercial goods will continue without the viaducts.
The staff report in July suggested with the viaducts gone the area would open up to allow more park space, greenways, more room for housing and offices and a new roadway linking Georgia Street to Pacific Boulevard.
The board of trustees at the Vancouver Art Gallery, meanwhile, continues its campaign to have a new gallery built at 150 Dunsmuir St., the former bus depot site adjacent to Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The gallery in the former courthouse building on Robson Square opened 29 years ago. It was the gallery’s third expansion in its history and the board says it has outgrown its space.
The estimated cost of a new gallery is $300 million. The provincial government kicked in $50 million and private donations are being collected. Michael Audain, who was chairperson of the gallery’s relocation committee in 2010, told the Courier the board believes the federal government should help fund the project.
City council has given the gallery until next month to prove its case that a move to the Dunsmuir Street property, which is owned by the city, is financially viable.
Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie, head of council’s finance committee, has made it clear the city has to sort out a previous complex business deal where the city hoped to recoup at least $50 million on the Dunsmuir site.
A council decision made several years ago to finance renovations of the city-owned Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Orpheum was based on the assumption the Dunsmuir site would one day be developed and return a significant value to the city.
Competing with the gallery’s relocation plan is realtor Bob Rennie and his recommendation for smaller satellite galleries to built around the city, while keeping the Robson Square building for the historical art of such masters as Emily Carr and the Group of Seven and conceptual photography
City council has not taken a position on Rennie’s proposal, which is expected to come in at half the cost of the gallery’s $300 million plan.