Park dreams face-off against developments in South Vancouver

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On a foggy Sunday morning, Don Larson made his way up the Canada Line’s foot and bike bridge, which spans the Fraser River.

Although the land below on the Vancouver side was hardly visible in the mist, the Marpole resident has a clear idea of what it could look like. Larson believes that it’s a good location for a waterfront park.

With condo towers rising to the north around the intersection of Cambie Street and Southwest Marine Drive, called Marine Landing in the city’s Cambie Corridor Plan, he wants Mayor Gregor Robertson to lead the creation of a new green space.

“He’s Mr. Environmental Leadership in the city, and how can you be putting 3,000 or 4,000 people down here and not providing a proper park for them?” Larson asked. “How can they do that?”

When he met with the Georgia Straight at the site, south of West Kent Avenue South between Cambie Street and Heather streets, on January 26, it was after city council had unanimously approved another development at Marine Landing.

On January 21, council okayed the application by Wesgroup Properties to rezone the northwest corner of the area. The developer plans to build two 31- and 12-storey condo towers. Sitting on a two-storey podium of commercial space, the high-rises will have 368 strata units.

To the east across Cambie Street, cranes are up at the Intracorp S.W. Marine Limited Partnership development. Called MC2, the project involves two condo towers of 31 and 25 storeys on top of podiums of seven and five storeys of commercial and office space. A total of 441 strata units and 110 market rental units will be built there.

East of MC2, Concord Pacific has filed an application for two 21- and 27-storey condo towers at 445 Southwest Marine Drive. The developer wants to build 514 condo units and a separate 6.5-storey mid-rise with 70 rental homes.

At the southeast corner of Marine Landing, PCI Developments has begun construction of its Marine Gateway project, with two residential towers of 26 and 35 storeys and a 14-storey office building rising adjacent to the Canada Line’s Marine Drive Station and the South Vancouver Bus Loop. This one will have 418 condo units.

In the 1980s, Larson successfully lobbied for a waterfront park east of Canada Place by Burrard Inlet. It’s now known as CRAB Park at Portside.

“We need real, actual parks, and there’s very few opportunities to get a park in Vancouver because of real estate,” Larson noted.

He estimates that the properties south of West Kent Avenue South between Cambie and Heather total 6.5 hectares. A 2.5-hectare park, according to Larson, may be good enough.

Larson related that he has written Robertson and members of council about his suggestion for a waterfront park. A draft of a public-realm plan for the Cambie Corridor does not include a park on the bank of the north arm of the Fraser River.

City hall would not make staff available for an interview with the Straight.

Larson has found an ally in conservationist and Fraser River expert Terry Slack. The two have teamed up to ask the city to look at how it can acquire a portion of the properties near the river by using fees paid by developers.

“We think that we can combine the park with habitat restoration for juvenile salmon and sturgeon and oolichan,” Slack told the Straight in a phone interview.

According to Slack, there used to be a marsh there until it was destroyed by industrial activity.

“People could come from the high-rises instead of going downtown to go to Stanley Park,” Slack said.

On January 28, Larson and Slack were scheduled to take Green councillor Adriane Carr, Non-Partisan Association councillor George Affleck, and NPA park commissioner John Coupar on a morning tour of the site.

Comments (9) Add New Comment
Mark
This is Vision Vancouver for you! Density, density, density, yet housing prices are only climbing due to foreign ownership, most of which leaves the units unoccupied.

Pretty soon the Cambie corridor will be looking a lot like downtown Vancouver. High rises everywhere, heavy congestion and not much sight of the beautiful area.
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p lg
Well one thing's for sure, the Visionless Party will have its election coffers full of developer money come the next local election.

Kudos to Don Larson who have been a tireless force battling once again for a piece of green space for people. I remember Larson for all his hard work in obtaining a waterfront park on the downtown eastside.
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Forest
Many thanks to Don Larson for fighting this good fight. Like the NPA, the Vision Council is all about easing the path of developers with little regard for much else. This part of the city is in dire need of a decent park and the waterfront on the North Arm is in dire need of some space for the marine life that still exists in the river. Very glad to hear that Terry Slack has joined forces with Mr. Larson. Together they should be a wise and formable force.
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Don
So unoccupied units leads to heavy congestion?

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Alan Layton
It's very simple: Grass, trees and squirrels don't fill the war chest with riches.
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MLS
After the condo development is completed, the Canada Line, which was reportedly operating at 85% utilization when opened, will be impossible to access, especially beyond Marine Drive and Cambie travelling Northbound.

I hope Moonbeam and Vision Vancouver will be remembered for this too.
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Nelson100
Marpole should have a park. It is possible. The density mantra from city hall can be stopped. But citizens of this city have to rise up and vote Vision out of office (and the NPA while we are it). We have to stop buying the green spin from this arrogant pack of development greenwashers. There's nothing green about Vision, they won't even consider building a park by a river. They even want to convert Langara green space into condos for god's sake.

There is only one solution. It is a political one and the opportunity is coming in November. Vote. Get your neighbors to vote. Get your friends to vote. Let's send a message that won't be forgotten.
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Bill McCreery
Keep up the good work Don! You and I talked about this good idea on your Coop Radio show before the 2011 election. Vision hasn't listened since then, and don't hold your breath this time (although they have already started running out the taxpayer funded pre-election goodie train - they may trundle this park out before the election just to try to mollify disaffected Marpole voters). The other sad aspect of the important point Don is making is that there is not one acre of new park space being created as a part of the Cambie Corridor Plan, which is meant to add another 15,000 people to the area. So, is this Vision Vancouver's idea of the greenest City by 2020?
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Mike
It's sad but the Vancouver you all love is dead. It died years ago. Our once great city has been sold off and it's time to just accept it. I don't even see anything worth saving anymore. Probably better to just let it happen. You just can't win against developer money.
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