Urban Re-use and Incremental Redevelopment

The plan above shows the full extent of industrial build out in the Historic Quartiers fueled by the 1920’s vision of sea ports, new railways (CPR 1886; CN 1915), and the opening of the Panama Canal (1914):

[F]irst and foremost Vancouver is a great seaport and… practically the sole ocean port of half a continent, inhabited by a progressive and increasing population, has on its outskirts a river valley with great agricultural possibilities, with a hinterland rich in minerals, lumber and raw materials for manufacture, and adjoining at the moderate distance of five hundred miles the greatest granary of the world. (Bartholomew 1929 : p. 29)


The 1929 plan shows Industrial uses in dark hatching. In the old planning paradigm the shoreline habitat, the most ecologically diverse part of the environment, is the site for the interface between production and transportation:

…deep sea and industrial development on the North Shore, and also along the margins of the fresh water harbour which will be created by a dam at the Second Narrows. We will also expect to see the banks of the Fraser River and Lulu Island lined with heavy industrial plants adequately served by railway trackage, and we see False Creek devoted to the many lighter industries which require railway and water communication… [T]he central business district will accommodate the most important retail shops, offices and financial houses, hotels and theatres. The construction of the Distributor Street [similar location to today’s Pacific Boulevard] and the absence of skyscrapers will spread business evenly over the area and prevent undue traffic congestion. (Bartholomew 1929 : p. 29)

The Charrette identifies the urban characteristics of the Historic Quartiers as strategically significant. With the globalization of manufacturing the regional capitals are now home to a skilled labour force looking for urban villages or quartiers offering a range of job opportunities, entrepreneurial ventures, and business start-ups within walking distance of family, community and cultural centres.

The lands ringing the urban centre are no longer needed for warehousing and light industry. Realizing the full potential of existing urban land through incremental intensification compresses the urban footprint, and checks sprawl. The re-use of 19th century industrial lands—developing later on the west coast—can combine sustainable urbanism, and environmental reclamation. The Charrette found housing for 35,000 in just the first five quartiers. Human-scale, high-density quartiers offering opportunities for home ownership, a developing cultural milieu, multiple transportation choices in a walkable urban environment represent the most sustainable use for these critical locations.

Lewis N. Villegas, Vancouver, January 2012.

2 thoughts on “Urban Re-use and Incremental Redevelopment

  1. The economy has picked up and there’s more interest in people buying and selling these days. This seems to be the trend in Calgary. Like this site. Looking for ideas for my website to improve it myself.

  2. Dave, an interesting difference is that outside of B.C., the rest of Canada can build fee-simple row-houses as an alternative to apartments and condo towers. But, I don’t know of any districts in Calgary.

    The other aspect of our urban design methodology that might impact real estate marketing is understanding the “quartier” as the area that is within easy walking distance of the front door.

    When we deal with a neighbourhood plan, we centre the pedestrian shed in an important destination, typically an urban room. But, this is planning and urban design from the point of view of “public use”.

    From the perspective of every resident, the ped shed is centred on their front door. When I am looking at a possible future home, if you take our approach, one of the things that I am looking for is how many places I can get to just by walking. Hope this helps.

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