A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang, president of the Korea Transport Institute. He was in the Vancouver area to talk about the success of the Cheonggyecheon stream restoration project. For those who are not familiar with the Cheonggyecheon project, in 2003 the City of Seoul removed an elevated highway located in the center of its city and restored a 5.8 km section of the Cheonggycheon River that had been buried for decades. What struck me the most out of this meeting was that it took less than three years to complete this project from start to finish (including planning).

korea-seoul-cheonggyecheon-2008-011

Here in Metro Vancouver things move a little slower (which is not necessarily a bad thing). Two projects in Metro Vancouver that have been inching towards reality are the demolition of the Front Street Parkade in New Westminster and the removal of Downtown Vancouver’s Viaducts.  Both of these structures are remnants of an auto dominated vision that never really became a reality in these two cities. In Vancouver, the Viaducts were the first phase of a massive highway project that never came to be.

vancouver_proposed_downtown_highway

In New Westminster, the Front Street Parkade was built in a failed attempt to lure mall shoppers and their vehicles back to its struggling downtown. Today these two structures are largely underutilized and are taking up valuable geography in urban

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p1020013-gv2

So the race is on, which of these two structures will be the first to go. Vegas oddsmakers have yet to handicap this race, but it should be interesting to see what happens with both of these projects over the next year or two. The removal of both of these structures provides an interesting and unique opportunity in city building.

park_project_a

vision-2

They also symbolically represent a larger race that is happening between Vancouver and New Westminster. Both cities are #1 and #2 respectively in sustainable mode share (transit, walking, & cycling) in Metro Vancouver and both are eager to be the first to hit the 50% sustainable mode share target. Vancouver likely has the advantage in the mode share race, but if New Westminster can manage to tear down its motordum relic first, who knows who might get there first.

2011 Translink Trip Mode Share

City Transit Walk Bike Sustainable Mode Share
Vancouver 22 18 4.4 44.4
New Westminster 21 12 0.4 33.4
Burnaby 21 8 0.8 29.8
City of North Vancouver 14 13 1 28
Richmond 13 8 1.2 22.2
North Vancouver District 10 9 0.9 19.9
White Rock 6 12 1.7 19.7
Port Moody 11 8 0.5 19.5
Port Coquitlam 10 8 1.2 19.2
Delta 9 9 1 19
Coquitlam 11 6 0.7 17.7
Surrey 10 7 0.6 17.6
West Vancouver 10 6 1.2 17.2
Pitt Meadows 8 8 0.3 16.3
Maple Ridge 6 6 0.5 12.5
Langley City 4 6 0.9 10.9
Langley Township 3 7 0.5 10.5
  1. Looks like Seoul Korea has now also figured out the value of repurposing elevated structures in its City. See link below.

    http://www.fastcodesign.com/3046255/mvrdvs-seoul-skygarden-is-like-the-high-line-on-steroids

    Perhaps if the Front Street parkade was hiding a stream that could be opened up that would be great. But actually what it covers and shields us from is a busy vehicle and truck route that is going to be with us for a long while. The top deck of this open colonnaded parkade could easily be converted to a park-like riverview walkway over the endless traffic below while still providing one deck of open air parkade with views of the river. Front street businesses want to keep the parkade and the rapidly densifying downtown has a critical shortage of quiet public space. So why is New West determined to tear down this needed valuable quiet oasis when other cities are re-purposing them? see http://savetheparkade.shawwebspace.ca/

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