Touring Millennium Water: Vancouver's greatest feat?

Post by Mike Klassen in ,

6 comments


Thanks to Bob Rennie for the tour of Vancouver's Athlete's Village development. See slideshow.

Saying that Millennium Water on Vancouver's Southeast False Creek, aka the Olympic Athlete's Village, has been a political football to date would be an understatement. Saying that this might be one of Vancouver's greatest accomplishments of urban planning, engineering and design might also be an understatement. Time will tell.

Last month CityCaucus.com had an opportunity to take a hard hat tour of the site, guided by Vancouver's über real estate marketer Bob Rennie. 24 Hours reporter Bob Mackin also joined the tour, and his excellent account of the visit is in today's paper. Mackin and I both brought video cameras, which part way through the tour we were cautioned about by a Vancouver staffer on-site. I wanted to provide a video of the tour here on CityCaucus.com, but I was asked not to share video due to "security concerns."

More on the video controversy later...

I invite you to use the Flickr.com slideshow feature above for a more detailed view of the tour, with my notes. Simply click the image and the notes will appear.

The guided tour by Bob Rennie really opened my eyes to the scale of this project. It's heartbreaking to think that some of the real leaders on City staff like Jody Andrews and Dave Rudberg will not be there to see it all completed. The work they did, and the mountains they clearly had to move, all of Vancouver will clearly benefit from some day.

1400 workers roamed the site trying to finish this project by the October deadline. What will be left behind is a village in the truest sense. Thousands of new homes in one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in North America, served by a local transit line (Bombardier are installing a trial streetcar beside the Village). After the Games end and the athletes move on, new commercial properties such as a Mark James brew pub and a London Drugs will occupy the "town square."

The tour left me asking my own questions about the presence of the controversial "social housing" component. What I saw were very simply appointed units. No granite countertops, no fancy fixtures. The units looked like simple rental apartments with arborite counters and kitchen cabinets. Aside from the energy saving LEED features of the property, nothing about the units was particularly special apart from the location of course.

But at $600,000+ per unit, the debate will have to continue on whether engineering an integrated neighbourhood with mixed income levels is something taxpayers should shell out for.

There was an interesting legacy of Vancouver's most famous architect, the late Arthur Erickson. Erickson, a close friend of Bob Rennie, designed the so-called "deck of cards" condominium building on the shore of False Creek. The building literally looks like a deck of cards that has been slightly twisted to make floors protrude one over the other.

The work put into public space is also so amazing that books will probably be written about it in future. While I'll probably never inhabit one of the homes down here, I hope to make Southeast False Creek one of my favourite parts of the city for walking, shopping or dining out.

On the matter of the video, it is a disappointment to me that the images I shot that day cannot be revealed to our CityCaucus.com readers. The "security" excuse is clearly a ruse, and not the reason I can't show you these clips. It's all about managing the message, and while I'm quite happy to defy the city's wishes on this front, I do not want to put our gracious hosts in any kind of compromising position.

We promise to provide a video tour of the Village at the earliest convenience. We hope that perhaps in the months to come we can show the "before and after" view of the site. From construction to completion, there will continue to be a lot of interest from the public in this incredible feat of design, planning and engineering. Vancouverites should be proud.

6 Comments

You guys might also have seen this piece of hard-hitting investigative journalism: www.thechallengeseries.ca

Seems like the urban design and public space of the Olympic Village might indeed be Vancouver's greatest legacy from the games - very exciting. But the boosterism, wow. You'd think our planners and developers were the only ones on earth capable of creating a high quality, dense urban neighbourhood. Do we get to keep the streetcar when the games are done?

Interestingly, there's a spot in one of the pamphlets where Larry Beasley is actually quite modest about how Vancouver's still learning from the rest of the world and how even with this project, the big land parcels and the scale of construction of each building aren't quite comparable with the richness of more historical environments built with multiple adjacent buildings on many narrow, deep lots (which we've done here too, in parts of Gastown and Strathcona).

That said, it's certainly an impressive project and it'll be exciting to visit once the games wrap up...

Thanks, Des. Gord Price did a short piece on Price Tags, and we've been meaning to write up about www.thechallengeseries.ca as well. Thanks for the link, which we recommend everyone have a look.

As for the modest amount of boosterism in the post, having seen so many cities get it wrong in the past, it's just a joy to see someone get it right.

The streetcar line is a trial, but long range planning is underway for a streetcar route around the downtown core and False Creek Flats.

www.thechallengeseries.ca is
"hard hitting investigative journalism"??

are you kidding!!

It's spearheaded and written by Millennium Water's design manager Roger Bayley, and the 'sponsors' include all the profit motivated suppliers, developers and partners on this project.

It's informative and nicely written and all - but to call this anything other than the advertorial it clearly is, frankly is either incredibly naive or deliberately disingenuous.

Millenium Development needs all the help it can get , they have been insolvent since 2007

@ Jerry Incognito: Reading the remainder of my comment that mixed bemusement at the high degree of boosterism with tentative hope and satisfaction that the village will indeed be a good project with an exceptional public realm, it would be 'either incredibly naive or deliberately disingenious' to take anything but sarcasm away from the reference to 'hard-hitting investigative journalism' comment. That said, there's some good information in the Challenge Series document and it does a good job laying out some of the innovative aspects of the project in between horn toots.

'Millennium Water' is a really stupid name.

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