Main Street Skytrain Station – Planning for transit, Part III

The following is an excerpt from my final research project in the SFU Urban Studies program. If you’re interested in Main Street Skytrain Station, the neighbourhood around it, or the history of land-use planning policies in eastern False Creek, you’ll love this series!

A period of planning and rezoning for the East False Creek area took place between 1983 and 1986, after the Main Street station was constructed. The first planning document released in September 1983 determined the boundaries of the study area, which included the Main Street station area and outlined the planning policies to be used for future development and land-use decisions. These policies included the extent of mixed use development and retention of industrial operations, the urban form and character of East False Creek, and policies relating to movement such as arterial roads, transit and pedestrian improvements.

East False Creek Planning Policies, 1983

A policy plan, approved by City Council in May 1984, initiated a large scale rezoning of land around the station. The plan was based largely on the 1983 planning policies document, and formalized the vision for a high-density residential neighbourhood around the station by creating the FC-1 district zoning schedule. The FC-1 designation replaced the M-1 industrial zoned land around the station and allowed for mixed-use commercial and residential development.

The public return from fixed investment in urban facilities (e.g. A.L.R.T. system) can be enhanced by locating higher density residential and other development near these facilities…In summary, residential development near to the A.L.R.T. Main Street station would increase ridership potential, assist the GVRD Livable Region Program (sic) concept of living close to work, contribute to a range of day and evening activity around the station, and would help to support other mixed commercial uses (City of Vancouver, 1983).

Zoning boundary. FC-1 Guidelines, 1986.

The content of the 1984 Policy Plan suggests that the desirability of the Main Street station area and East False Creek for residential development would be significantly affected by its compatibility with existing industrial uses. The policy regarding industrial uses, however, was to retain and encourage those compatible and viable industries within the East False Creek area. A report on the housing potential in East False Creek produced a year later in 1985 by the Director of Planning reiterated that industrial sites in this area were only being considered for longer-term redevelopment.

…It should also be noted that this report does not suggest the relocation of viable industries in the area and their replacement with housing. Those industrial sites examined are mostly seen in a longer term redevelopment context. The timing for any relocation will depend on many factors, and such relocation would likely only take place to benefit the economic viability of particular industrial operations

Main Street Station Site and LaFarge Concrete plant – a viable industry, 1983. Courtesy City of Vancouver Archives

The last planning document released in February 1986 was to “help achieve good quality development in the East False Creek area, and to ensure the compatibility of different uses (including residential) in a high-density mixed commercial use neighbourhood” (FC-1 Guidelines, 1986). This document was an urban design and development guideline that would ensure a mixed use neighbourhood character and a continuity of built form. The planning process for East False Creek had established some of the early design principles used in North False Creek, including a strong street enclosure, tapered buildings, protected view corridors and mitigation of traffic noise (see The Vancouver Achievement, John Punter, 2003).

FC-1 Guidelines cover, 1986.

Tower form. FC-1 Guidelines, 1986.

Building Orientation. FC-1 Guidelines, 1986.

Street-level retail shop widths. FC-1 Guidelines, 1986.

A variety of commercial uses would be focussed on Main Street, around Thornton Park and the Main and Terminal SkyTrain station location. Visitor and residential hotels are also encouraged. The proximity of the area to the False Creek waterfront and future B.C. Place eastern residential neighbourhood, and excellent views of the North Shore mountains and downtown, make certain locations desirable places to live (FC-1 Guidelines, 1986).

The City planning process between 1983 and 1986 for East False Creek set out to transform the area into a high-density, residential community that was strategically oriented around Main Street Skytrain station. By intending to create a distinct neighbourhood character with dense mixed-use buildings that capitalized on the area’s proximity to a transit station, the East False Creek policy plan was in essence an early transit-oriented development strategy. Although the TOD concept did not become popularized until the early 1990s, the benefits of providing related land-uses and good station integration were recognized a decade earlier during the East False Creek planning process. However, the research provided in this study on how the Main Street station area has changed since 1984 illustrates why transit planning and development do not necessarily synchronise with each other. There are often reasons other than the presence of a rapid transit station that will have a greater influence on surrounding development.

Part I: The History

Part II: An Integrated Development Plan

Part IV: The Transit and Development Paradox

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7 responses to “Main Street Skytrain Station – Planning for transit, Part III

  1. Pingback: Main Street Skytrain Station – The History, Part 1 | Urban Studies·

  2. Pingback: Main Street Skytrain Station – The Transit and Development Paradox, Part IV | Urban Studies·

  3. Pingback: Main Street Skytrain Station – An Integrated Development Plan, Part II | Urban Studies·

  4. Pingback: Main Street Station Redesign | Andrew Trevor Jones·

  5. Hello Andrew. Very interesting interview this morning on CBC regarding Main Street Science World Station. I have worked for Transit for 28 years, beginning with Expo Line engineering and construction, and currently with CMBC Infrastucture Development in Burnaby. The upgrades are overdue, and I am very agreeable about the need to keep moving up and forward on station integration developments, and improvements for not only the influx of population, but accessible for the ones who are challenged by the stairways. Walk-to-work-via-transit will be a higher priority as affordable real estate continues and the use of cars declines in dense urban areas. As a side-bar, I was the drafter in 1985 who drew the architectural/civil details for the chainlink fence along the outside edges of Main Street Station. Nick Vandervelden P.Eng.was Engineer of Record. Today, I’m still involved with Development around Transit Facilities, and integration issues. Cheers.

    • Thanks for your insights, Ray! I’d be very interested to hear more about your work today with development and facility integration. Please feel free to get in touch if you have time: andrewtrevjones at gmail dot com

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