Summary

In May, 2017, City Council approved the False Creek Flats Area Plan which seeks to intensify employment opportunities in this strategically located area of the city. The plan provides a framework to guide future growth and change to support a thriving and evolving economy over the next 30 years. As part of the implementation actions outlined in the Plan, in October Council approved zoning changes and accompanying development policies and guidelines for managing future development in the Flats.

Description

On May 17, 2017, City Council approved the False Creek Flats Area Plan which seeks to intensify employment opportunities in this strategically located area of the city. The plan provides a framework to guide future growth and change to support a thriving and evolving economy over the next 30 years. As part of the implementation actions outlined in the Plan, on October 3, 2017, City Council approved zoning changes and accompanying development policies and guidelines for managing future development in the Flats.

Significance

The City’s Industrial Lands Strategy (1995) protected the False Creek Flats, the Central Waterfront and some areas along the Fraser River for continued industrial roles. However, after that it took more than 20 years of discussion, debate and draft proposals, for the City to develop a vision for the area which addressed both ongoing needs, including rail services and back-of-house activities serving the central business district, and future opportunities, including educational, medical and sustainability aspirations.

The City’s planners and engineers, joined with the Council-appointed Vancouver Economic Commission to undertake stakeholder discussions and a broad public consultation on the roles and possible future for the Flats, with the result that City Council unanimously voted May 17 to proceed with controversial plans for the zoning and development of False Creek Flats, considered the city’s last frontier for high-density real estate development.

The Plan has two primary objectives: to intensify employment through innovation and creative industries, while protecting base economy industries essential for the future health of the city. The plan proposes to facilitate the creation of over 20,000 new jobs in a diverse and a broad spectrum of employment across light industry, service, health, food, creative and technology sectors. Significant intensification of employment is anticipated in the western ‘Health Hub’ anchored around the new St. Paul’s Hospital and the southern ‘Creative Campus’ anchored around Emily Carr University of Art and Design (ECUAD) and Great Northern Way Campus.

To help achieve an intensified innovation economy it is proposed to unlock the area’s economic potential by focusing on five key actions:

  • Establishing programs to assist and grow local and strategic economic sectors;
  • Creating flexible work spaces to meet the needs of current and future businesses;
  • Developing a network of animated public places for employees to meet, collaborate and share ideas;
  • Creating a healthy and resilient environment that improves the area while addressing challenges of climate change and seismic vulnerability; and
  • Building the connections to link businesses to one another and the surrounding neighbourhoods.

To secure and intensify existing well-functioning production, distribution and rail industry minimal changes are proposed to the truck and rail infrastructure in the Clark Drive corridor and existing zoning would be maintained (apart from the removal mini-storage and auto retail) to secure are recommended for core economic light industrial and back-of-house businesses.

Background

The False Creek Flats (the Flats) is a 450-acre central industrial district in the city that is often mistaken for being under-developed or under-performing. Occupied by surface parking lots, old warehouses, rail yards, a rail station (Pacific Central, previous Canadian National Railways), a central avenue lined with auto dealerships and wholesalers, and a growing university campus, the Flats has a relatively low employment density. Nevertheless, the Flats holds a significant economic position within the city and region. Located close to both downtown and the port, the Flats has over 600 businesses in diverse and thriving sectors of the local economy.

Bordered by Prior Street, Clarke Drive, Great Northern Way and Main Street, the Flats are surrounded by several residential neighbourhoods including Chinatown and Strathcona to the north, Grandview Woodland to the east, Mount Pleasant to the south, and Southeast False Creek, City Gate and the future Northeast False Creek neighbourhood to the west.

In June 2013, Council approved a work program, budget and Guiding Principles for a planning process for the “Eastern Core”. It was proposed re-examine the transportation and land-use functions of the area with a focus on sustainability and the green economy and an objective to create a coherent and comprehensive vision of land use and transportation directions for the area as whole. It was anticipated that it will take up to 24 months to complete this work.

In 2015, about two years into the planning program, Council approved the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts. Around the same time, Providence Health Care and Vancouver Coastal Health jointly announced that St. Paul’s Hospital would be relocated from the West End to the False Creek Flats so as to provide a complete “campus of care”.

Two years later, on May 17, 2017, City Council unanimously approved the False Creek Flats Area Plan which seeks to intensify employment opportunities in this strategically located area of the city. The plan provides a framework to guide future growth and lays the foundation to increase the number of jobs in the area from the roughly 8,000 today to over 30,000 by 2047. While employment intensification is a primary objective, the plan also ensures the area provides the needed industrial space to service our city as an integral and essential component of a complete, healthy, and sustainable Vancouver.

The plan was prepared in collaboration with Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) and should be read with the Flats Economic Development Strategy. Together these two documents establish a framework for the future of the False Creek Flats.

As part of the implementation actions outlined in the Plan, on October 3, 2017, City Council narrowly approved zoning changes and accompanying development policies and guidelines for managing future development in the Flats. The 5-4 vote was the result of Green Party and NPA councillors voting against the rezoning due to concerns that new housing and amenities proposed would have an adverse affect on existing businesses. By contrast, the development industry, represented by Anne McMullin, president of the Urban Development Institute, said the city could have done more to provide incentives for rental housing.

Sources


Prepared by: Phil Mondor, Vancouver City Planning Commission Chronology Committee
Revised: Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Related Milestones