7 ways False Creek Flats could change Vancouver

The City of Vancouver is launching a planning process that will dramatically change the 450 acre industrial site.

Industrial zone near downtown core is undergoing a transformation process

A rendering of the proposed relocation of St. Paul's Hospital to Vancouver's False Creek Flats. (Providence Health Care)

Unless you're one of the 8,000 people who work in Vancouver's False Creek Flats, chances are, it's not a place you give much thought to.

The City of Vancouver wants that to change, as it launches a planning process to redevelop the 450 acre industrial site.

The area bounded by Prior Street, Clark Drive, Great Northern Way and Main Street was originally a swampy tidal flat, but was filled in early 1900s to make room for industry, much of it related to the railways.

Today, most of the land is still owned by rail companies and the City of Vancouver.

It's home to more than 600 businesses ranging from manufacturing, transportation, textiles, food and beverage production to art galleries. It's also the site of several city works yards, including the fire department and waste management.

Depending on the results of the planning process, here are seven big changes that could be coming to the area, according to the City of Vancouver's manager of planning and development Brian Jackson.

City of Vancouver Manager of Planning and Development Brian Jackson says big changes could be coming to the False Creek Flats. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

1. "Green" job zone

Jackson says the city wants to encourage green and innovative technologies and "healthy cities" initiatives to set up shop in False Creek Flats. This could mean building new facilities to replace some of the aging low-rise warehouses in the area.

2. St. Paul's Hospital

False Creek Flats has been named the site of the new St. Paul's Hospital.

"It's a very exciting opportunity to blend innovative heath care facilities with innovative technology and green businesses we are hoping to attract here," says Jackson. "We see it as a another side of (industry) that could come down here and locate in the flats."

3. Arts and education centre

False Creek Flats is already home to several galleries, artists' studios, and a digital arts campus run by UBC, SFU, BCIT and Emily Carr University of Art and Design. The VCC Skytrain Station is within "Flats" boundaries.

The main Emily Carr campus will relocate to the area 2016.

4. Transportation hub?

False Creek Flats will need a transportation redesign to accommodate the proposed influx of people. The area is bisected by active railway tracks, meaning there is currently no continuous north/south transportation corridor.

Changes could include overpasses, and a subway station on the proposed (but not yet approved) Broadway-UBC rapid transit line.

"This going to be one stop of what I like to call 'The Brain Train'," says Jackson. "The connection from VCC to Emily Carr to the hospital to UBC ... I think it's really quite exciting."

The railway tracks cutting through False Creek Flats present some transportation challenges for automobiles, pedestrians and bicycles. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

5. New route into downtown 

With the possible removal of the Georgia and Dunmuir Viaducts, and lobbying from Strathcona residents to move traffic off Prior Street, the City is looking at the option of creating a new east-west arterial.

It could be located on Malkin Avenue or National Avenue.

6. Higher rents

The additional infrastructure and new buildings will likely bring higher rents and land prices, as the area becomes less isolated and more desirable.

"It's an unfortunate side effect" says Jackson. "But the intensification of the area...allows for more uses and more people to be able to work down here."

7. No new condos (at least in this neighbourhood)

One thing that won't be coming to False Creek Flats are condos, or any other form of housing.

"City Council has had a longstanding policy to support non-residential uses in this area." says Jackson. "We have to have places in Vancouver to locate industry."

The public is invited to take part on the planning process in a variety ways, beginning with an launch event on May 27.

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