False Creek Flats plan coming together

Louise Schwarz considers False Creek Flats a vibrant and exciting region of the city.

Covering 450 acres and bounded by Main Street to the west, Prior and Venables streets to the north, Clark Drive to the east, and Great Northern Way to the south, it serves various functions including being home to the National Works Yard and the Vancouver Fire and Rescue training centre, as well as being the location of about 600 businesses representing sectors ranging from food, art and culture to technology, manufacturing and light industrial.

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Schwarz’s business, Recycling Alternative on Industrial Avenue, which launched more than 20 years ago, is among them.

“[False Creek Flats is] such a different area for Vancouver and it’s wonderful. Every city should have this,” she said. “It’s wonderful for the public to be able to see something that’s demonstrating the bowels and the metabolism of the city.”

What the area will look like in the future is now the subject of debate and discussion. The City of Vancouver launched a planning process last May and staff are unveiling emerging directions for the plan at an open house Feb. 4.

flats
Photo Dan Toulgoet

Schwarz is a member of an advisory committee that’s been heavily involved in the process and she’s pleased with consultation so far.

“From our perspective, as Recycling Alternative, we see some great potential for emerging light industrial, green jobs,” she said.

Sarb Mund, who owns Commissary Connect in the flats, which is the largest commercial kitchen in Vancouver, is also optimistic about the future of the flats. He said the city is splitting up the flats into various areas such as a health, creative and industry hubs.

“They’ve kind of carved up the False Creek Flats into separate areas. They understand that the flats isn’t just one area. Granted it’s an industrial section of the city, but there are different parts to that industrial section,” he said. “Commissary Connect is part of the food hub, so for us really pushing forward and understanding what happens to some of the food assets in the area, it was key — understanding the food culture, whether that be the food trucks or the food vendors in our kitchen. The whole perspective of this is kind of understanding what each of the businesses is and how to really help them be better at what they do in that sector.”

Supporting industry and economic growth is a key to the plan, according to Jane Pickering, the city’s acting general manager of planning and development services.

Pickering said the city is working to support the job base by ensuring that it’s doing the “right things moving forward,” especially with the kinds of green and high-tech jobs it’s trying to attract to Vancouver.

More than 8,000 people currently work within the area’s boundaries and the city expects that number to double in coming years.

Just over a month before public consultation began last year, Providence Health Care announced its intention to move St. Paul’s Hospital to the flats. The proposed $1-billion “state-of-the-art” hospital and health care campus will sit on an 18.5-acre site adjacent to the train station at Main and Terminal. The southern edge of the flats is also the location of the new Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus.

Topics discussed at city workshops about the flats in recent months included how to improve traffic circulation, how to improve walking, cycling and transit connections, how to recognize the area’s history and how to make various business sectors, the sustainable food system and cultural district flourish.

Pickering said there are a lot of “moving parts” to an area like the flats, including the existence of the rail yards.

flats
Photo Dan Toulgoet

“They have a real presence down there and tend to divide the land mass, so circulation in the area is an issue,” she said. “And I think keeping people focused on the fact that this is job space is very important… we’ve also got a process that will be starting up to deal with [St. Paul’s] too, so things are clearly evolving down there. It’s a very interesting area for the city and for the people who work there. We are continuing to give the message about no residential units — it is industrial and mixed employment land in the regional growth strategy and we are going to respect that.”

The open house runs from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the National Works Yard, 701 National Ave., Feb. 4.

A report on False Creek Flats is expected to go before city council in late summer or early fall.

noconnor@vancourier.com

@naoibh

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