Landing at Marine and Cambie

Fraseropolis Marine Landing perspective

The towers at Marine Landing seen from the north, April 2019

The Canada Line went into service just about 10 years ago, as a rapid transit connection between the City of Vancouver’s downtown and the international airport in Richmond.

Fraseropolis Marine Drive station

Outside the Marine Drive transit station. Starbucks, Subway, liquor store… “Lots of places in Bangkok look like this,” said co-tourist Calvin Hutton.

Tower development along the new line has been significant, although Vancouver’s plan for how it should fit together (the 276-page Cambie Corridor plan) was only recently completed.

North of the Fraser River oddly-named Marine Landing precinct (there were no Marines in sight on the day I visited, or uniformed servicepeople of any kind) is taking shape around the Marine Drive transit station.

Our friend Calvin Hutton met me at the station on a cold April morning. We found that the 100-metre-long retail lane outside the station gate makes an excellent wind tunnel. We walked from there to Oakridge, which is two stations to the north, through residential streets, parks and trails. We finished with an early lunch at Samurai Sushi, a busy takeout place that specializes in quantity.

What I noticed about the Marine Landing area was the sudden transitions from industrial to single-family residential to high-density. What looks like a former print shop is now a church, with an automobile repair business dated 1932 at the back of the same building, just across the alley from a co-op housing complex. The training centre for Montessori teachers is upstairs from a car leasing showroom. This is the kind of mashup that North American urban planners were trained to avoid through most of the 20th century, but it is actually very much to my taste.

Cambie and Marine are broad, busy streets — highways, really — and it is hard to envision this intersection as the heart of an  urban village. However, the services are arriving one by one — drug store, doctor, dentist — and there is more development on the way on the back streets, as a two-block area of houses is ripped out for something bigger — possibly including a food store? The city’s plan calls for more green space and a trail to the river.

At the same time, the city needs to protect the industrial uses that runs for three kilometres east and west of Cambie along the river. Too much industrial land in Metro Vancouver has been gobbled up for more chic purposes, especially in the City.

Fraseropolis Marine Landing 2

Marine Landing towers seen from the west, near the foot of a small city park

Fraseropolis Marine Landing 3

Industrial against residential, Ash Street



Fraseropolis Marine Landing 4

Development coming soon, Ash Street

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Marine Drive Station bus loop under Canada Line guideway, with car dealership on the left and housing on the right

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Detached home at the northern perimeter of the precinct

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Mid-rise housing inside the northern perimeter 


Kerrisdale, vaguely defined

Fraseropolis W 41 Kerrisdale

Classic one-story shopfronts on West 41 Avenue,  February 2019

This is an urban village with extensive services, a large stock of apartment housing, some of it pre-1960, and elegant streets with fine detached homes — as you would expect on the west side of Vancouver.  In case you’re interested, the detached homes currently sell for between $2,000,000 and $4,000,000, even with the recent subsidence in the luxury housing market related to foreign buyer taxes, speculation taxes, money-laundering investigations and the like.

Fraseropolis Kerrisdale redevelopment

A two-storey commercial building on the West Boulevard, possibly 1930s, set for demolition and redevelopment

Residential and commercial properties on the main streets are under redevelopment pressure with new condos on the southern arterial and visible retail turnover. There is an influx of shops catering to Asians; this does not necessarily mean big money, but it might when there are large number of expensive cars parked on the streets, and expensively dressed 40ish couples of all ethnic types pushing baby strollers. The City website does not show a neighbourhood plan; there’s a 2005 “vision” document for a wide area that includes Kerrisdale, basically a wish list based on conversations with residents, but it doesn’t provide insight on what’s happening now.

The City’s website links to an interesting set of Kerrisdale demographics from the 2016 federal census, although it provides no hint on where Kerrisdale’s boundaries lie. Wikipedia says the City’s definition of Kerrisdale is counter-intuitive, including maybe half of what the visitor sees on the ground.  I can’t verify that. Let’s assume that the census numbers have some value as a guide. They show a population of 14,000 — a smaller number than in in 2011, perhaps as the postwar male incomers die off — with only 50 per cent reporting English as their mother tongue compared with 35 per cent Chinese.  A third of this population are renters.

Co-tourist Robert Smarz and I visited Kerrisdale twice in early 2019. On the second visit we approached from the north on the Arbutus Greenway, a multi-use pathway and linear park reclaimed by the City from Canadian Pacific Railway after lengthy and undignified bickering. The sidewalks on the two commercial streets are lively on a Saturday morning and the shopfronts are engaging. The traffic, in this setting is too heavy and too fast. We saw plenty of opportunities for coffee, but saw nothing that appealed to us for lunch, so we retreated on both occasions to a pub in North Delta for beer and sausages.

Fraseropolis Kerrisdale demoviction


The southwest and northwest quadrants of Kerrisdale feature mid-rise apartment towers from the 1960s and ’70s, echoing the feel of Vancouver’s West Side near Stanley Park. Further east there are older and more modest rental buildings, part of the cross-Canada wave of 1950s rental construction.  Bob and I were a bit distressed to see redevelopment signs on buildings along the East Boulevard, indicating that the old affordable units will soon be replaced by fewer, larger, owner-occupied apartments. The City of Vancouver has been a leader in encouraging the development of new rental housing, but I am concerned that the residents of these Kerrisdale units will simply be put out onto the street, as they would be in most other parts of the Metro Vancouver region.

[This is post #41 in the our Urban Villages series.]


Fraseropolis Arbutus Greenway

The Arbutus Greenway, seen from the 45 Avenue crossing

Fraseropolis Kerrisdale apartments

1960s-era apartment buildings on the west side of Kerrisdale

Fraseropolis Kerrisdale townhomes

Fraseropolis Kerrisdale houses

Fraseropolis Kerrisdale Balsam

Homage to San Francisco at West 41 and Balsam

Industry in the big city: evolution, decay or disappearance

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Automotive shop, possibly c. 1920, at the boundary of Southeast False Creek and the Mount Pleasant Industrial Area

Old-time Vancouverites often describe 1986 as the year that everything changed.

Expo 86, staged on the north shore of False Creek, brought the world to Vancouver. Once a rail, seaport and mill town, Vancouver became a place where the primary economic activity is the purchase and sale of promises. Continue reading

The Interurban Tram, 1950-51

Fraseropolis Interurban tram 1951 from YoutubeMy sister Morna has shared a link to a one-hour video record of interurban trams in Vancouver and Burnaby, dating from 1950 and 1951.

A brief history on the TransLink website states that these self-propelled street railway cars were “like streetcars, only larger and more powerful.” The video speaks to a time when the pace of life was slower. The area that is today’s Metrotown (at about 20 minutes) appears semi-rural.

A pop-up village at the University of British Columbia

A promotional photo from showing new high-rise development at UBC

In just seven years, the University of British Columbia has created a highly densified residential neighbourhood on its southern perimeter.

Not everyone loves the Wesbrook project. The University sits outside the City of Vancouver, and there is no local government to put the brakes on the University authority. The University Board develops its lands as it pleases, with some provincial government oversight. Continue reading

Riding Vancouver’s fast train to nowhere

Adam Fitch’s rapid transit map. His LRT line would run from a proposed new Emily Carr SkyTrain station in east False Creek to UBC. The red line on the map, with marked stations, traces TransLink’s SkyTrain route plan as of about 2012. In the real world, stations from Arbutus are to go into service before 2025; stations west of Arbutus have been delayed indefinitely. Adam posted a video on YouTube in October 2018 to advance his proposal.

My thanks to Kamloops-based planner Adam Fitch. He invited me to join him on a May 4 “Jane’s Walk” to consider a cheaper alternative to the Broadway Extension rapid transit project.

Fitch’s proposal would take advantage of a corridor owned by the City of Vancouver, and would avoid most of the tunneling costs associated with the Broadway scheme. It’s an entertaining concept, but it won’t get built, largely because it won’t take people where they want to go.

Continue reading

Vancouver’s Chinatown: heritage site, urban village, tourist zone

Gore Street at Keefer in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Vancouver City Council voted in November 2017 to seek World Heritage Site status for the Chinatown district. This founding neighbourhood began as a segregated zone for Chinese-speaking labourers and merchants outside the railway and lumber camp that covered today’s Waterfront and Gastown areas.  It functioned for many decades as a commercial and cultural hub for Chinese-speaking immigrants, and takes a prominent place in the modern English-language literature of  the Chinese-Canadian community. The retail hub, it should be said, has been supported by apartment housing, Chinese seniors’ housing and small-lot detached housing, either in the core or in the old Strathcona neighbourhood to the east. Continue reading