Vancouver city council has voted unanimously to proceed with a two-year, $2.4-million planning phase on the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.
Council voted after hearing from more than 30 speakers on the issue, most of whom spoke in support of a staff report calling for a detailed study on the future of the structures.
“We’ll certainly right a historic wrong by removing the viaducts, which as we heard, once threatened to destroy both Strathcona and Chinatown,” said Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs. “Equally importantly, it makes a commitment to the future of all these neighbourhoods in the heart of the city.”
Peter Raptis, vice-chair of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, spoke in support of further study before a final decision is made on removing the elevated roadways.
“This report calls the removal of the viaducts a bold city-building step,” said Raptis. “Although the reasons to do so are irrefutable, taking a few steps back to undertake a little more study, analysis, and consultation…is a wise course of action.”
Carol Lee, the chair of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation for Community Revitalization, said the viaducts, which she referred to as the “great wall of Chinatown,” have had a significant impact on the community.
“Personally, I’m very much in favour of removing the viaduct, and I know it will give us an immense opportunity for revitalization of the entire area,” she told council.
Peter Fry, chair of the Strathcona Residents’ Association, told council he hopes the city’s process of consulting with stakeholders on the viaducts will signal “a new style of working with the communities”.
Fry said the “shared concern” of a coalition of community groups and resident associations surrounding the viaducts is the process through which a plan for the city's Eastern Core will be reached.
“The process must be one that builds trust, it must be one with participation and engagement, which treats neighbourhoods and communities as effective participants, and not just spectators or consumers,” he said.
The city’s work over the next two years will include negotiations with landowners adjacent to the viaducts, discussions with neighbourhoods, and the development of area plans for Northeast False Creek and the Eastern Core.
Staff will report back on the issue within two years, at which point council will formally vote on whether to proceed with tearing down the viaducts and building a replacement street network.
Under the proposed timeline for the removal of the viaducts, construction work is expected to begin in 2017.