Fall of Vancouver’s Viaducts Could Aid Rise of Eastside


From The Tyee – April 11, 2011

by Christopher Pollon

The demolition and removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts could
begin in as little as five years, opening a wide swath of virgin land
to public space and development — and forming the eastern core of
Vancouver’s new 21st-century downtown.

The early results of a feasibility study
unveiled Friday, April 7 at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre
show that three “viaduct removal concepts” are currently being
considered by the City of Vancouver, ranging from removing 20 per cent
of the structures in five years to complete removal in 20 years.

The viaducts, which connect Vancouver’s
eastside to the downtown via raised concrete “bridges,” are the only
major pieces of Vancouver’s abandoned 1970s freeway design ever built —
a plan that would have destroyed much of present-day Strathcona and
Chinatown. At the time, a funding shortfall and an extremely effective
grassroots protest ensured that the rest of Vancouver’s freeway vision
never materialized.

Now almost 40 years old, the viaducts have
created an unusual opportunity, one which has city planners and
developers collectively salivating: land equivalent to about five city
blocks underlies the structures, which would reappear as if by magic if
the viaducts disappear.

“Let’s make a bold decision to get rid of
the viaducts,” said Vancouver’s visionary former co-director of
planning, Larry Beasley, one of five speakers at the capacity-filled event
presented by SFU’s City Program. “Then, convene a great international
urban design competition to design the eastern part of the core. Let’s
decide to design our city.”

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About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.