Rapid transit reshaping Vancouver’s non-core development

Rapid transit will continue to be a dominant trigger in shaping future developments in Vancouver’s non-core areas as the city pushes to get people out of vehicles, says Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Robertson made the comments at a recent series of Urban Land Institute breakfast meetings to examine how Vancouver will shape itself in 2050.

“Today, cars are down to 56 per cent and our 2020 goal is getting below 50 per cent. Our 2040 target is cars at 33 per cent,” he said. Public and rapid transit and cycling or walking will account for most travel.

Increased density in developed areas

Robertson said the city would focus on increased density development along key transit arteries.
“But in a way that fits with neighborhood character,” he said, explaining this would entail new forms of housing that “every other city has embraced but us.” These include modern low and mid-sized townhouses, row houses and apartments.

“We will fill the gaps between the glass towers and the Vancouver specials,” he said. He envisioned a scenario where multi-level residential development would step or tier down into single-family neighbourhoods.

Underground rapid transit being considered

He said the city is now pushing for an underground rapid transit system along a 12-kilometre stretch of the Broadway corridor extending from the Commercial and Broadway rapid transit station to the University of British Columbia.

The corridor funnels 100,000 riders each day, has the commercial mass of five of Burnaby’s Metrotown retail areas, and is the transit route feeding the province’s largest hospital and university campus.

Congestion on the corridor, now serviced by trolley and express buses, is expected to increase by 25 per cent in 2016, when transit authority TransLink completes the Evergreen Line rapid transit project connecting outlying communities Coquitlam and Port Moody to the Broadway rapid transit station.

Corridor the focus of two years of planning

Planning involving the city, the provincial government and the transit authority has been ongoing for the past two years looking at Broadway corridor alternatives and costs, which could rise up to $3 billion for the possible underground rapid transit solution.

Robertson said Metro area mayors are determined to have the province bring forward a funding formula for rapid transit by the end of the provincial Legislative session in February, or they will make it an “election issue” in the upcoming May 2013 vote. He said he is also pushing the federal government for further infrastructure funding.

Construction depends on funding source

Until funding is in place, there remains no date set for the Broadway corridor development. However, Robertson said the type of development that transit is spawning is seen in the Cambie corridor where the Canada Line was built during the 2010 Winter Olympics. It runs from downtown Vancouver, along Cambie corridor, crossing the Fraser into Richmond and into the Vancouver International Airport.

“Our plan for the Cambie corridor has sparked renewed interest in Marpole and Oakridge,” the mayor said, pointing to two areas along the Cambie street.

Marpole’s Marine Gateway development, where excavation has now started, is next door to the Canada Line by southwest Marine Drive and Cambie Street. Real estate developer PCI Group is assembling a mixed-use development.

Rapid Transit connections to downtown

It will offer rapid transit connections to downtown Vancouver, the airport and Richmond via Canada Line. Two twin towers will mark the development.

The North Tower will have 38 storeys and 234 suites when it is completed in November 2014, while the South Tower with 29 levels and 180 suites will be ready in January 2015. Amenities include a T&T grocery store, coffee shops, banks plus an 11-screen movie theatre complex. In total, the development will offer 820,000 square feet of residential condos and rental housing, as well as offices, retail and public space.

Chrysler heritage site transformed

Only blocks away, Canadian Tire Real Estate Ltd. has completed a major $30-million transformation of the former Chrysler heritage site, turning it into a block-wide, two-level retail development featuring a two-storey Canadian Tire store, Best Buy, Mark’s, SportCheck and other retail outlets.

At the mid-point of the corridor, the Oakridge Centre and surrounding area (in the southwest corner of Cambie Street and 41st Ave.), is also slated for development. One of Vancouver’s first shopping areas catering to vehicle traffic; it is now a complex of commercial, office, community and residential space.

Projects among largest in city's history

Ivanhoe Cambridge ,the owner of Oakridge Centre, and developer Westbank Corp. have put forward a rezoning application that would one of the large projects undertaken in the city.

Ivanhoe Cambridge and Westbank are proposing to revamp the shopping centre to include 13 residential towers. The tallest residential tower will have 45 storeys, with other towers ranging from 30-42 levels.

There will be some terrace-like structures of six to 12 storeys that will be built along a new street. An estimated 2,800 units will add about 4,500 residents to the area. Oakridge Centre was originally approved by the city for a smaller makeover, but the global downturn in late 2009 stymied the development.

Businesses favour transit line development

Such development along rapid transit lines in Vancouver is finding favour with businesses, according to research by Jones Lang LaSalle, which released its Rapid Transit Office Index research report for Vancouver in the second quarter of 2012.

The report’s “in-depth analysis of rapid transit oriented office vacancy, absorption and occupancy cost trends, reaffirms that tenants outside of Downtown Vancouver are continuing to gravitate towards office building near rapid transit stations.”

Overall building occupancy rates for structures within 500 metres of rapid transit stations was from one third to half the vacancy rates of those buildings outside the half-kilometre radius.

The report also found that buildings near the stations were able to command a rent premium over those further from rapid transit.

Other report findings were:

*Buildings, within 500 metres, near the Canada Line had the lowest vacancy rate of 3.2 per cent, followed by the Expo Line (5.8 per cent) and Millennium Line (10.7 per cent).

*The largest drop in vacancy rates (4.1 per cent), during the past two quarters, came in New Westminster (where new towers have been constructed around the stations for the past few years).

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