City Buys Arbutus Corridor

Description

The City of Vancouver pays $55-million to buy the Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (CP) rail line that ran between Kitsilano and the Fraser River for redevelopment as greenway, including cycling and pedestrian paths. The land is also to be preserved for a potential light-rail corridor.

Potential Significance

The Arbutus Corridor creates a transportation greenway in accordance with City Council’s 2014 transportation plan, provides for a light-rail service in the future between the southern edge of downtown Vancouver and the Fraser River, and ensures that freight trains will not run through urbanized areas on Vancouver’s West Side. Renamed the Arbutus Greenway, the green space may spark some densification in close proximity to the corridor.

Background

  • The corridor, from First Avenue to Milton Street, is nine-kilometres long and in most places, around 20 metres in width. Redevelopment of the land is estimated to cost up to $30 million in addition to the purchase price.
  • CP stopped running passenger trains along the corridor in the 1990s and discontinued commercial service to the Molson’s Brewery at 1550 Burrard St. in 2001.
  • In anticipation of the discontinuation of service, the City of Vancouver in 2000 approved the Arbutus Corridor Official Development Plan. The development plan designated the land for transportation, including rail and transit, or for greenways.
  • Intending to redevelop the land for residential and commercial use, CP challenged the city’s right to enact the plan in B.C. Supreme Court. The court ruled against the City in 2002. The B.C. Court of Appeal reversed the lower court and affirmed the City’s authority. The Supreme Court of Canada in 2006 upheld the appeal court decision.
  • About 350 garden plots were authorized on city-owned land along the corridor and remained throughout the controversy. Garden plots on CPR land were destroyed.
  • The land is part of a 6,458-acre parcel of real estate granted in 1886 by the federal government to the Canadian Pacific Railway in exchange for a commitment to develop the land and operate a railway to the West Coast.
  • The Arbutus Corridor was at one time a vital part of the City’s transportation, business and social life, linking Vancouver with Richmond and Steveston. The train service was known as the Vancouver and Lulu Island Railway and colloquially as the “Sockeye Special,” because the train brought fish from the Fraser River to Vancouver.
  • Shortly after acquiring the land, the City implemented short-term measures to increase safety and accessibility, installing pathways of gravel, asphalt and bark mulch. The pathway by the fall of 2016 was available for walking, cycling, running, and roller-blading. Consultation on long-term use of the land was to begin in the winter of 2016/17.

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