Vancouver Viaducts Study
City of Vancouver
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Square Area: 74 acres
Built in downtown Vancouver in the 1970s, the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts formed the first phase of an urban freeway system that was later abandoned due to community opposition. Today, the aging Viaducts are costly to maintain and create a gap in the urban fabric, acting as a barrier between historic neighbourhoods. Connected to an urban street network, they operate at less than half of their designed capacity, while the valuable land located beside and beneath them is underutilized.
In October 2011, we were commissioned by the City of Vancouver to explore reconfiguration options for the Viaducts, within the context of long-term land use and transportation plans, as well as other initiatives like Greenest City 2020. In conjunction with City-led community outreach and an international ideas competition, we led a team of experts—transportation analysts, landscape architects, structural engineers, development economists—in the analysis of several options that ranged from full retention to complete removal of the Viaducts, with our urban designers developing five concepts for the area.
Chosen unanimously as the preferred option and currently undergoing a public consultation process, the resulting plan is based on a reconfigured street network, which accelerates the timeline for removal of both Viaducts, and creates a ‘Great Street’ with space for a future streetcar. Inspired by New York City’s High Line, a remnant of the Dunsmuir Viaduct is retained as an elevated public plaza. A 25-acre waterfront park includes richly programmed park spaces to reflect the city’s diverse population. In addition to a ‘bike bridge’ that improves downtown cycling connections, a major pedestrian/cycling spine connects historic neighborhoods to the water. The inclusion of commercial frontage along Main Street restores the previously damaged urban fabric, while providing 861,000 sf of development potential and affordable housing opportunities.