By Ron Friesen
The rate of change in urban planning, as exemplified in Vancouver, BC is naturally and understandably causing some homeowners and veteran city dwellers to feel their interests and way of life are being left behind. Single-family homes are being replaced at an accelerated rate with multi-family homes along primary transportation corridors. Increased living density delivers a great challenge to older social norms and ideals. It also offers up a vast new frontier for ideas, inventions and investors to solve the new problems and fulfill the desires the redefinition of livability exposes.
As new ideas, solutions and inventions come to the surface the opportunities for investors with vision will continue to expand. Urban Vancouver population continues to draw intelligent, driven and productive people from around the globe. The majority of the new-world population living in Vancouver will demonstrate an attitude of optimism and belief in the future of the city. Their optimism and enthusiasm is in contrast to much of the embedded historic attitudes carried forward from the twentieth century, but new ideas are contagious in our open society. Near future generations in Vancouver and many other cities around the world will surely, inevitably embrace change and the new ideas. The new and the adapted population will continue to redefine normal, find comfort in function and discover an appreciation for evolving aesthetics. Much of established society will be confounded by these changes, like it always has, while those with vision and entrepreneurial courage will find new ways to prosper.
Many of the old guard will continue to wrestle and criticize the new, continue to hold onto their social and cultural values, will tie themselves to the mast – rather to go down with their ship of old ideals than give in to the tide of new ideas. There is nothing wrong with this.
But change will always persevere. In his book, “The Death and Life of the Single-Family House: Lessons from Vancouver on Building a Livable City”, author Nathanael Lauster appears to support the new-world view. Mr. Lauster compels his readers with the perspective of single-family homes having a more negative impact on a city’s environment and on the population’s health and well being when compared to quality higher density housing alternatives. The status component of owning a single-family home on a private plot of ground will continue to erode for a great number of reasons. This is a cultural shift and it is no surprise to find it establishing roots in a city like Vancouver.
Perhaps the relatively high cost of housing is assisting the City of Vancouver to steer urban planning towards new and supposedly more sustainable housing solutions. Although, there is the school of thought suggesting the City of Vancouver’s Community Amenities Contribution program, extracting money and land from developers in exchange for density zoning bonuses is in itself helping to drive up the cost of new housing. Regardless, the geographic and cultural environment of Vancouver provides for a desirable place to live, all things considered. Demand for housing in any region follows the desire to live there. About the only significant reason to avoid Vancouver, assuming one is tolerant of the abundant annual rainfall, is the specter of the imminent ‘big one’ earthquake many experts predict.
I expect thinkers and practical inventors recognize the importance of safe shelter to human existence and understand this is a great place to apply effort towards new, marketable ideas. Forward thinking investors are always on the lookout for these minds and their new ideas. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places the physiological needs of humans first and foremost under the assumption our lesser needs do not matter if we cannot breathe, eat and remain healthy first and foremost. Safe and sustainable shelter is a basic need and is near the foundation in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory.
Vancouver’s Cambie Corridor development plan has reached stage 3 and the changes, announcements and opinions can be found all over the media and throughout social networks. There is no shortage of news surrounding every announcement and action along the corridor. What we see along the Cambie Corridor will clearly continue to be a precursor to development along Broadway, Kingsway and most every other major corridor served by primary transit. The vision of planners from fifteen years ago is taking shape in transit-centric town centres throughout the lower mainland, and the plans continue to evolve as new ideas emerge, new problems appear and new solutions materialize.
I believe the greatest opportunities for new solutions and the investors who back their birth and development will come in solving the big problems. The horrific Grenfell Tower fire in west London demonstrates significant challenges to safety, urban disaster pre-emption and response resources in high-density neighbourhoods. Opportunities. Ideas? Remember, Vancouver will one day see a major catastrophe by nature of its location. The region is beautiful with dynamic mountains for a reason. Some fine minds supported by wise investors will deliver inventions arising from evolving necessities.
The daily frustration and rage-inducing traffic congestion throughout the lower mainland is another daily challenge. Why not consider eliminating left-hand turns from major thoroughfares? How about we make the entire Broadway corridor one-way, all lanes, between Main Street and Boundary Road…and make the Grandview-12th Avenue corridor one-way, all lanes, in the opposite direction? Seemingly outrageous ideas like these will birth workable solutions. Again, many investors who become specialists in financing the purveyors of new ideas and inventions solving the new problems in the changing city will succeed, no doubt.
When we read about and investigate other cities around the world we find distinct differences in the dynamics of different regions. Vancouver is spoken of in terms of its mission to lead the world in renewable energy solutions, population densification and social programs. Looking into Hong Kong and Singapore we are more likely to discover action policies around technology development, attracting manufacturers and smart city inter connectivity start-ups.
The Internet-of-Things is associated with Asian cities and is expected to create great revenue. Renewable energy goals are associated with Vancouver and are expected to create great cost. Both, however, create great opportunity for investors and inventive minds.