Letter: Vancouver development shouldn’t come at expense of neighbourhood character

Re: “‘Heart of Mount Pleasant’ tops Heritage Vancouver Society’s 2019 watch list,” June 20.

I read with interest the recent article and thought of what it would mean for the future of my neighbourhood, which will be highly influenced by the city’s Broadway Plan.

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As a resident of False Creek South and the chair of RePlan, our neighborhood planning group, I work with community members to retain the essential qualities of this very successful neighbourhood, one which many regard as a world-class example of innovative urban design, and which was referred to recently by Larry Beasely, former co-planning director for the City of Vancouver, as a gem in the crown of our beautiful city.

What struck me was how the neighbourhoods described in the article face the same challenge that we do: how do you preserve the unique qualities of a place, which draw people from around the city and world, in the midst of a hectic, costly and ever-increasing un-affordability crisis. This is a particularly pointed issue for us, as our community is primarily on city owned land, for which the leases are ending in the coming years. We are unsure how the city will treat our historic neighbourhood.

What worries us is that the city has grown accustomed to the maxim that “good” development requires the sacrifice of the neighbourhood qualities that we all love and enjoy. It all feels so inexorable.

Does it have to be?

Perhaps the article provides a clue to this dilemma: what if our character neighbourhoods, such as False Creek South, were looked at as a kind of DNA that “seeps” into and informs infill? “Patchwork” like future development that grows over time to make our neighbourhoods even better. Like a quilt that many people participate in making. Over time, many voices, much love and care.

We understand how our community achieved affordability, diversity and quality design. The methods that make us successful — participatory planning, attention to history, and building community — can be the DNA that guides future development for Vancouver.

“Remove and build anew” does not have to be the status quo. As the article showed, there is much to lose in forgetting a neighbourhood for the sake of building more.

After years of vibrancy, character, colour and life, our unique neighborhoods have somehow become purely economic objects that can only be viewed in comparison to other development.

But what is valuable? Returns to investors? Commodities that transform neighborhoods in to what has recently been characterized as deposit boxes in the sky? A money launder’s peace of mind?

I think, and believe, we can do much better. We just need extraordinary will to achieve it.

Something that my community has in spades, as it appears others do as well.

Richard Evans,
Architect AIBC, MRAIC

 

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