Former planners and urban-design experts tell mayor and city council what's needed on the waterfront

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      Late last month, the Georgia Straight published Daniel Wood's feature article on the future of the downtown waterfront. It highlighted the concerns of retired Vancouver planners and urban-design experts about the future of the downtown waterfront and a proposed office tower by Cadillac Fairview.

      They've created a Downtown Waterfront Working Group to advance their arguments. Below, you can see a recent letter that the group sent to the mayor and council following a public meeting concerning the tower planned for 555 West Cordova Street.

      (The letter has been edited ever so slightly to conform to the Georgia Straight's style.)

      December 4, 2015

      Dear Mayor and Council of the City of Vancouver,

      Re: 555 West Cordova Street and the Future of our Downtown Waterfront

      On the evening of December 3rd, 2015, Cadillac Fairview shared with the public for the first time its evolving design solutions for 555 West Cordova Street. The event was very well attended. City staff provided important contextual information on the Central Waterfront Hub Framework, approved by Council in 2009. Cadillac Fairview and their team explained the many design challenges for their small lot beside Waterfront Station.

      As ideas starting flowing, it became very clear that strong city leadership was needed to take the hub framework to a workable implementation plan.
      That implementation plan needs to include:

      • The extension of Granville Street north to the waterfront.

      • Creation of a grand transit galleria on the north side of Waterfront Station, that maximizes accessibility and connectivity to the regional train, bus, ferry, taxi, bike, cruise ship terminal and other transportation services.

      • Creation of a comprehensive public realm plan which preserves and enhances important public views and spaces and creates a large multifunctional public plaza.

      • A transit circulation plan and a workable road system that provides required vehicular access but minimizes conflicts with pedestrians and cyclists.

      • Pedestrian and bicycle access to the waterfront and points east and west.

      • Protection and enhancement of heritage buildings and vistas.

      • Floor space allocation and determination of land uses for the entire Hub area before any approval of individual buildings to ensure that density, and amenity benefits are most fairly and effectively allocated.

      • Comprehensive costing of all infrastructure and an equitable distribution of costs.

      We feel that a city-led process with all the major stakeholders working together—Cadillac Fairview, Carrera Holdings, Port Metro Vancouver, TransLink, the province, and the federal government—will produce exciting, sustainable, and innovative results and will create enduring value for all of the landowners. This is, after all, a highly sought-after premiere location for jobs at the doorstep of the regional transit hub and, of course, a key location for the public enjoyment of the waterfront.

      There appears to be interest from the major landowners to have a higher level of certainty about the future of their properties. They require a clear and time-sensitive process to move forward to partner on the implementation of the hub framework. It is also very clear that little collaboration has happened to date.

      Further discussion on the appropriate process to produce results is needed.

      However, whatever the formula, a City-led process with effective leadership at the helm is essential. We look forward to assisting in discussions on process as well as
      steps toward refining the Central Waterfront implementation plan.

      Michael Alexander
      Christina DeMarco
      Frank Ducote
      Michael Kluckner
      Tom Phipps
      Gord Price
      Ray Spaxman
      Steering Group of the Downtown Waterfront Working Group