A New Era for Transit-Oriented Development

by Ryan Bragg
Marine Gateway Overview

Diverse transit options, convenient shopping and amenities, a welcoming pedestrian street and public plazas – all only steps away from places to live and work.

Transit-oriented development is a growing trend in city building, where compact, walkable, mixed-use communities are centred around transit systems. Marine Gateway raises the bar by creating a community that is not only centred around transit, but integrates transit into the development, offering the ultimate of convenience and access.

The first of its scale in North America, Marine Gateway sets a precedent for building mixed-use livable communities integrated with transit. The development integrates two residential towers, 25 retailers, office tower, two neighbourhood plazas, and an 11-screen cinema seamlessly with a metro rapid transit station and bus exchange.

The Creation of a Community

Projects like Marine Gateway have the ability to dramatically change a community in the very short term. The development sits in a formerly underutilized industrial site in south Vancouver. Rezoned to include residential uses, the mixed-use development has transformed that site into a vibrant attractive place for the community.

The design of the public realm was one of the most important aspects to the project’s success. The concept of a public ‘high street’ was introduced by the need to bring people into the commercial area and to maximize retail access. The high street provides convenience for all the people that are living and working at Marine Gateway, but at the same time it brings people into the pedestrian environment and into the retail spaces.

Since the developer wanted to give the impression that the high street had been developed over time, our design was inspired by typical streets within Vancouver that had developed over the last one hundred years. These streets had a diverse character with a variety of different signage, colours, and materials. In the high street we incorporated that diversification within a very contemporary form with contemporary materials, wood, brick and stone, and various colours. To contain that diversification in the storefronts, we incorporated two large steel frames that also double as a reflection of the site’s industrial past. This combination of containment and diversity allows the development to be fairly homogenous and modern while still having a real interest and a character to all of the retail spaces.

The design of the high street, the type of materials used, and the level of detail of the architecture is what will give Marine Gateway a lasting impression on the community for generations.

Sustainable Development

Environmental responsibility is our passion at Perkins+Will, and in this project we leveraged the fact that we have a mix of uses to reduce energy use. The development is designed to capture the waste heat produced from commercial uses and transfer that heat into the residences in the winter or the domestic hot water in the summer. We also have a geoexchange ground source heating system and cooling system below Marine Gateway that allows heat and cooling to be attained from the ground at different times of the year. This allows the development to meet base loads without the need to burn fossil fuels.

Choice of Mobility

Marine Gateway is unique in that it provides the opportunity to use vehicles in very different ways. There is opportunity to own a vehicle or make use of the number of co-op cars available on site which are parked in the shared parking area.

Cycling is also accommodated with bike facilities for residents, workers, and anyone who brings their bike to the development.

In Marine Gateway, we designed a bike mobility centre where a commuter can park their bike, store it over the day, take a shower, and do minor bike repair. They can take the train to downtown or go to other locations within the city through public transit. There is also the opportunity of bike sharing through the bike rental program that was rolled out throughout the city. So, as a result, Marine Gateway offers very diverse ways that one can use a vehicle that are beyond the traditional forms.

From a cultural perspective transit-oriented design is starting to speak to the Millennial generation and Millennials are changing the way our cities are going to work. We are at the precipice of the way transit is changing mobility as well as access to the city and how the city is being defined.

Our cities have been oriented around automobiles with freeways and parking garages. With transit-oriented design this is starting to change as our culture focuses around the convergence of technology. That may seem like an odd combination but what we are finding is that the importance of the car is being replaced by the importance of the mobile phone.

The mobile phone has become the way people communicate and facilitate the way people live. Not too long ago the car gave freedom, but now that car has become a hindrance to many, and the mobile phone provides freedom through ease of connection. If you have to drive a car you are in fact being kept from that tool that keeps you in touch with all the people around you.

The mobile phone also gives you access to alternate means of transportation that do not require vehicle ownership. You can pick up a co-op car and you can drop it off at a completely different location all done by the mobile phone. So that ability for technology to change the way we think about the city has to be reflected in the architecture and in the community that we are building.

Project Success

In many cases a project like Marine Gateway could have been a rather uninspiring very commercial development. But its success has shown that if you are very strategic about where you spend budgets, how you leverage the opportunities around transit, as well as involve the community and incorporate really high design, the project can be very successful for all. That is what we hope to inspire – that you can create beauty in a very sustainable way and in a budget that works commercially.

There is an incredible gratification in seeing a project like Marine Gateway come to fruition. I would like to see this project become a precedent for future growth and development for other architects. It is an example of taking an uninspiring and underused area of a city into an attractive sustainable destination for the community.