Vancouver's Urbanarium debates ask 'difficult questions' about city's future

The first in a series of unusual housing debates kicks off in Vancouver Wednesday, as urban development experts try to tackle some of the most polarizing issues in the city.

Urbanarium debate topics include increasing density in all neighbourhoods and the future of high rises

How many high rises is too many high rises? Should density be increased in all Vancouver neighbourhoods? These questions and others will be debated at the Urbanarium City Debates. (Gregory Henriquez/Vancouver House/Büro Ole Scheeren/KKAA)

The first in a series of unusual housing debates kicks off in Vancouver Wednesday, as urban development experts try to tackle some of the most polarizing issues in the city.

The Urbanarium City Debates have been organized by the Urbanarium, a non-profit group made up of academics, city planners and citizens, in partnership with UBC. 

The first debate suggests adding density to all neighbourhoods.

Organizer Leslie Van Duzer says public debates are a good way to really hear all angles to a problem and hopefully change some minds.

"If people are not open minded enough to be persuaded of another point of view, we're stuck," said Van Duzer.

At each debate, teams of experts argue competing visions for solving what organizers call Metro Vancouver's biggest challenges.

Audience members vote before and after each debate, with a prize awarded to the team which changes the most people's minds. 

Some of the city's most recognized names will be at Wednesday's sold-out debate at the Museum of Vancouver, including former mayor Sam Sullivan and former planner Brent Toderien.

Van Duzer says she's looking forward to a heated exchange.

"I am personally hoping that people will be fairly aggressive in really asking some difficult questions of one another where they disagree."

A second debate on Feb. 3 at UBC Robson Square Theatre will focus on whether to build fewer high rises, with four further (as yet undefined) debates scheduled before summer.

With files from Lien Yeung

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