A Secondary Street Network

Vancouver has a city wide system of streets that is largely hidden that is hundreds of kilometres long. These streets are already being used, in a few places, to place new housing astride. Thats right, we are talking about the city's system of laneways. If all of these laneways could be used for housing we would double the frontage capacity of the city and create a unique and distinctive setting for neighborhood interaction
This perspective view gives a sense of what the next phase of laneway development might look like. Small setbacks provide space for elevated sitting porches and greenery, making what was once a merely functional space a new setting for neighborhood interaction.

A Secondary Street Network

Above is the designed city-wide map split into six quadrants. Click on each of the quadrant images to enlarge.
The map above represents a plausible image of what Vancouver could look like by the year 2060. Assuming the current trend growth stays constant at about 1 percent a year, the city’s population will double to about 1.4 million residents in 50 years, with a commensurate doubling of jobs and amenities as well. All this looked at through a lens of insuring that housing is affordable for city wage earners.
The development of this detailed urban design for the entire city (excluding the downtown) started by looking at the city of Vancouver in its entirety, where all the black and white areas shown in the illustration are meant to represent those areas that largely remain untouched, while those areas saturated with color are where students imagined infill development might occur. The bright white lines represent the network of frequent transit around the city and connote either streetcar lines or major bus corridors (with fifteen minute service or less during the day). The bright green areas, indicate new or existing green spaces. Linking these green spaces are green lines that indicate “green streets”: car free streets for walking and biking that provide ecological and recreational services for all residents.
Each of six teams of urban designers was given a 25 square kilometre quadrant of the city to work within, with population and job targets to be achieved for each. The objective of it was to demonstrate how the city could double in population without destroying the existing character of its neighborhoods, and provide affordable housing at the same time. The teams worked together to establish base strategies that would guide their work in the categories of equity, ecology, morphology and livability. The result of this research is illustrated in the previous section. More detailed expressions of these visions can be found on the following pages.

North-Western Quadrant

Above is the North-Western part of Vancouver shown in greater detail. Hover your cursor over the image to zoom in.
The northwest side of Vancouver is known for its amenity rich lifestyle and its many character homes and is set to become an extension of the city’s downtown. Using the city’s streetcar based transit network to ensure that all facilities like schools, retail and civic uses can be evenly distributed, the proposal is to extend the frequent transit network routes on the major arterial roads, on 16th Ave and on Alma all the way to the quadrant’s end. It is also supported by a parallel network of ‘green streets’ connecting the existing preserved forests and parks; favoring peds and bikes; and mimicking the lost streams network. Within this streetcar grid  the recurring block size thus gives the ability to form prototypes steering away from the conventional method of concentrating on the arterial for all substantial development. 48% of all prospective development can be done within the fabric of the residential blocks by supplementing the existing housing stock, most of which are single-family detached houses on big lots either by renting out basement units or creating additional laneway units and infills, a method termed ‘invisible density’.

Northern Quadrant

Above is the Northern part of Vancouver shown in greater detail. Hover your cursor over the image to zoom in.
The proposed Sky Train extension along the Broadway corridor has propelled the city toward  urban intensification plans with more residential and work opportunities necessary to capitalize on new multi billion dollar infrastructure (the Broadway subway). In our plan, the existing pattern that finds major office buildings at main intersections such as Cambie and Granville has been extended to the rest other main intersections including Arbutus, Main, Fraser, and Kingsway streets and has been limited to modest office buildings which accommodate service jobs. The major North - South arterials already contain 1-2 storey commercial structures and have the capacity to take up extra moderate density on the upper floors for residential uses. Mt. Pleasant has been proposed to be the high tech hub for start-ups and working-from-home entrepreneurs. This industry requires low budget rental and small offices so laneway homes are proposed as the new workspace sitting on the formerly single dwelling unit parcel. On the Northeastern stretch of the sector, the fabric is more coarse due to its light industrial zoning so work-live typologies of more artisanal  nature, which require more space and fit the zoning, are a logical choice. The proposal has focused on utilizing and capitalizing on the existing blue and green networks: bike lanes, green streets, parklets, rain gardens, all identified and connected together to form a complete experience.

North-Eastern Quadrant

Above is the North-Eastern part of Vancouver shown in greater detail. Hover your cursor over the image to zoom in.
The overarching strategy for the north-eastern quadrant proposal is even distribution. Each 40 Acre section is made up of four blocks on the edges, and four blocks in the center, each of which have an area of approximately five acres. The edge blocks are treated to absorb 4 story apartment multifamily housing units at a density of 35du/acre. The center blocks are treated to introduce invisible density through turning the single detached dwelling units into multifamily housing at a density of 15 du/acre. This increase in density is accomplished through adding laneway houses and or more numerous secondary rental suites within the principal residence. Finally the four corners of each 40 acre group of 8 blocks provide locations for new mixed use buildings; two stories of which are commercial in use and the upper two floors residential apartments. The area is proposed to have an increase in density that is absorbed at a rate of 62% through "invisible density" in the "fabric" areas (not on arterials), while the remaining 38% will be absorbed by the proposed 4 story apartment units on the edges. The issue of affordability is tackled through the previously mentioned methods which offer a variety of unit types, sizes, and thus lower rental or ownership costs. Having more people “share” the cost of living, making use of wood structures at lower heights, and even the strategy of not tearing down and rebuilding most of the existing buildings enhances affordability.

South-Western Quadrant

Above is the South-Western part of Vancouver shown in greater detail. Hover your cursor over the image to zoom in.
This quadrant has a higher than average number of elderly people who,  to the  large extent, live in single detached homes, thus leaving partially empty houses with underused spaces in them. Along with that there are three huge golf courses, one city owned and two owned privately, the use of which is declining in line with the reduced popularity of golf generally. In our opinion,  this part of the city will experience a huge demographic shift in the next 50 years with younger families, singles and students coming here as aging inevitably takes its toll. ,  The introduction of more housing units through "gentle density" infills can help make this existing housing stock more suited to the new demographic. In addition, we recommend developing 50% of the golf course lands for housing and 50% supplied for park space. Together this will help provide a large fraction of the new area housing need. One of the golf courses being city owned, would be an ideal location for the construction of ground-oriented buildings, as well as for the 1/3rd low, middle and market housing model. The introduction of luxury townhouses would help subsidize the low-income housing in the neighborhood development zones. In addition to the above we also believe that this scheme would help mitigate the sea level rise expected on the southwestern edge of Vancouver.

Southern Quadrant

Above is the Southern part of Vancouver shown in greater detail. Hover your cursor over the image to zoom in.
The redevelopment of many sites in this quadrant, such as the industrial lands along the Fraser River, the Langara Golf Course, and the Oakridge Centre have already been approved.  However, this zone also contains a large number of single-detached housing which in turn results in lower population density than one might expect. The concept of integrating additional dwelling units into single-detached parcels will contribute towards creating more affordable housing opportunities. Through this approach, we are able to, not only diversify the types of housing available, but also contribute towards introducing more commercial, service, and employment opportunities in close proximity to housing. We suggest new mixed use options along these highly-active arterial corridors. In terms of integrating additional employment, we are able to attain 60% (or the target) through our mixed-use developments and 40% through pure employment hubs; with considerations for potential home occupation that would be molded into the neighbourhood fabric. The placement of the employment spaces (visualized as 3-storey complexes with retail/commercial/office space) is strategized primarily around rejuvenating the underutilized industrial lands, specifically at key junctures along frequent transit corridors and where our proposed green networks intersect. The recommissioning of the interurban line that would run through the industrial sector westbound into the Arbutus Greenway is proposed.  We capitalize on this new transport infrastructure by locating  some employment hubs along this line as well. This approach would serve to diversify the employment types available in this region while realistically enabling select industrial activity to continue. Additionally, our proposed green network will funnel through the industrial area as well, forming a linked system to the natural edge along the Fraser River. This is highlighted in our diagrams.

South-Eastern Quadrant

Above is the South-Eastern part of Vancouver shown in greater detail. Hover your cursor over the image to zoom in.
Southeast Vancouver is projected to have a 94% increase in population.  To provide housing for new residents,  we have determined three potential communities: one located between Kingsway and the Skytrain Expo Line, a second within the existing Fairview Golf Course, and the third at the existing industrial area above Fraser River. We have also accounted for the projected population of East Fraser Lands, a future neighborhood in the area. Although these potential communities will hold a large portion of new development, many new homes will be located along frequent transit corridors, such as Knight and Victoria Street. This utilizes the interconnected grid network established by the former streetcar lines. The grid network provides residents with easy access to commercial services, jobs, transit stops, and community resources. The prevalence of laneways throughout Southeast Vancouver is an opportunity to repurpose many adjacent buildings. In particular, rearload garages may be adapted to serve as laneway houses, providing additional density within the urban fabric. Jobs will be distributed in the same way, with the exception of the Fraser River industrial area and the job centred around Kingsway and the Expo Line. Using the location of Vancouver’s historic streams, our North-South green networks utilizes the natural topography of the South-East. Running along established streets linking schools and recreational spaces, offering a safe off road walking and cycling route. These green systems not only act as a transit connection but serve as a storm-water treatment system and provide ecological corridors for fauna. Some green streets will be closed to vehicles, utilizing the double entry quality of the typical Vancouver laneway block. Our largest intervention for affordable housing will be in the Fraserview golf course development, being City owned land there is the opportunity to provide co-op housing typologies on lease-hold land. Reducing the costs associated with home ownership by removing the exorbitant cost of land.