Broadway, for many people living in Vancouver, is mostly one of two things.
It’s either a place to work or a way to get to work at UBC, a regional destination much like Vancouver General Hospital on central Broadway, which stretches from Main Street to Burrard Street. It’s the path of the 99 B-Line, the busiest bus route in Canada, quite soon to be replaced by a Broadway subway.
A new city planning program seeks to reimagine Broadway in a grander way.
According to a city staff report to council, it should be “enhanced as a street of special significance”. It should be a “Great Street”, states the report written by city planner Kevin McNaney. As a street of such significance, Broadway has to feature a “series of unique and vibrant places to live, work, visit and play”.
“Street design, new development, public spaces, and businesses should contribute to a delightful experience for everyone and lively gathering places, and help create distinct character areas along Broadway that also serve the local neighbourhoods,” McNaney writes.
McNaney’s report lays out this Great Street vision as one of the guiding principles that will steer the preparation of a plan integrating city objectives with the arrival of the Broadway subway.
The future Broadway Plan covers the area between Clark Drive to the east, Vine Street to the west, 1st Avenue to the north, and 16th Avenue to the south.
It is a sizable area that includes four neighbourhoods: Fairview (but not False Creek South), Mount Pleasant, and portions of Kitsilano and False Creek Flats.
According to McNaney, there are more than 78,000 people living in the area and more than 84,400 jobs.
Construction is expected to start in 2020 for the six-kilometre Broadway subway that will extend the Millennium Line SkyTrain from VCC–Clark Station in the east to Arbutus Street in the west.
In addition to the vision of making Broadway into a “Great Street”, another principle to guide the future Broadway Plan is the creation and enhancement of parks and public places.
“Diverse places for public life should be integrated along key shopping streets and throughout neighbourhoods to foster walkability and human health, and create opportunities for social connection, cultural expression (e.g. public art), recreation and play, and access to nature,” McNaney’s report says.
A “Great Street” and “diverse” public places should be for everyone, and another guiding principle is that the plan should support “affordable, diverse, equitable and inclusive complete neighbourhoods”.
“Leveraging the investment in the Broadway Subway, new housing opportunities (particularly purpose built market and below-market rental and social and supportive housing) close to transit should be expanded for a diversity of household types and backgrounds, while retaining and reinvesting in existing older rental housing, where possible, and minimizing displacement of existing residents,” McNaney writes in his report.
McNaney explains that the vacancy rate for purpose-built and privately owned apartment units in many parts of the area has always been at or below one percent since 2010.
According to the city planner, a vacancy rate of three to five percent is “generally considered a balanced market”.
“There is also significant supply of older, ageing, existing market rental housing in the area, which due to the age of the buildings and longer tenancies, often have lower rental rates than newer builds,” McNaney writes.
McNaney also states that the Broadway Plan will provide an opportunity to “test and implement new and enhanced tools for Vancouver to avoid tenant displacement, protect rental affordability for tenants, and grow the supply of rental housing close to rapid transit”.
City planners are anticipated to present a draft of the Broadway Plan for approval by council in December 2020.