Looking down a new street in the Athlete's Village, part of Vancouver's 'grid'
Information is creeping out about the controversial Olympic Athlete's Village project, aka Millennium Water. Unlike in recent weeks it's considerably more positive.
Long before Vancouver was awarded the Olympics, these lands (32 acres for the overall South-East False Creek community, of which 18 acres are nearing completion to be used as the Athletes Village) were targeted by City Council to hopefully become the most sustainable new mixed-use neighbourhood in North America. Although the financial and construction challenges since last year's global downturn have been attracting significant press, as the built community itself materializes day-by-day, the powerful planning and design innovation built into the project is being revealed.
One of the more interesting aspects of this project is the wise effort to tie the property into Vancouver's traditional street grid. Toderian describes it like this:
The plan involves an extension of the urban grid to the water, ensuring strong connectivity and urban integration when the larger area is eventually built-out. There are several innovative street right-of-way approaches including a typical width of 13 metres. Our most special street, Walter Hardwick Way, has a uniquely tight width of 12 metres...
Walter Hardwick was the maverick City Councillor under TEAM.
Toderian summarizes the real challenge that has faced Southeast False Creek: time. Would there be as much controversy on this large development if it was not being hurried in time for the Olympics? We must remember that this was a decision of Vancouver City Council to meet this deadline.
The Olympics-driven timing also challenged us to look with fresh eyes at how we regulate and manage the design process, as an expedited, dynamic approach to development and building design review was needed while not slipping on ultimate quality. The goal, simply, was to do better than we had done before with other large development initiatives, and also do it quicker because of the Olympic deadlines.
Every developer in the city complains that their project takes too long to work its way through City Hall approvals. The irony is that with the Olympic Village, City Hall stood on its head to work fast, and look at the controversy it has invited. In the end, like any large infrastructure project, the story of how it got built will probably be forgotten.
So many creative minds and hands have participated in the thinking around the Village over the years, and so many leaders, professionals and citizens have much to be proud of - perhaps not because of the absence of tough challenges, but because of how the challenges are being overcome.
Toderian thinks that people will revel in the final product, and I have to agree with him.