turning brown into gold

When an estimated 2,800 international athletes and officials descend on Vancouver for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, they will be housed in a brand new residential community built on the last remaining large tract of undeveloped waterfront land near downtown Vancouver, known as Southeast False Creek (SEFC).

The SEFC site, bounded by Cambie Bridge on the west, Main Street on the east, and 2nd Avenue to the south, comprises 32 hectares of which approximately 20 hectares is owned by the City, the remainder being privately held. Originally, the land was an inter-tidal marsh and mudflat, then about a hundred years ago became used for industrial and commercial purposes, including shipbuilding, foundries, pulp and paper, salt storage, and an old City Works Yard and asphalt plant, leaving behind a toxic stew of contaminated land, made worse by poor quality infill such as wood waste, incinerator ash, and construction demolition waste. Needless to say, this is a challenging brownfield site to build on.

The SEFC development plan calls for the area to be divided into seven sub-areas, with the seven-hectare sub-area 2A — better known as the Olympic Village — the first phase of City-owned land to be developed. It will primarily be a residential community of 15 to 20 permanent buildings (construction of which will begin June 2007), as well as many temporary structures.

After the Games, those buildings used by the athletes will provide approximately 1,100 residential units (250 of which will become affordable housing, and another 100 units will become “modest market housing”), a community centre, daycare, retail, and service space for the first wave of new residents in Southeast False Creek.

Beyond the Games

Development will continue up to and beyond the Olympic Games. When fully built out, SEFC will have 6 million square feet of development, with family housing a priority. The housing stock will be comprised of 2,353 units for almost 5,000 people planned in the area north of 1st Avenue, and housing may also be included for an additional 8,575 people in the private lands area, with live-work space a priority.

Peppered throughout this neighbourhood will be amenities such as a full-size community centre and non-motorized boating facility, three to five licensed childcare facilities, two out-of-school care facilities, an elementary school, interfaith spiritual centre, and restoration of five heritage buildings, including the Domtar Salt Building.

Ten hectares of parkland entwined with shoreline improvements are a central facet of the urban design, and will boast a new island and inter-tidal fish habitat, a bridge, boardwalk, and completion of the Seaside pedestrian-bicycle route which, together with a network of paths and streets designed for pedestrians, cyclists and transit, will connect the entire site and link the adjacent neighbourhoods of South False Creek, Mt. Pleasant, the False Creek Flats, and CityGate.

SEFC buildings are intended to be a showcase of sustainable development and designed to at least LEED Silver standards (area 2A has already achieved LEED Gold), with a goal of LEED Platinum certification for the community centre. In some sub-areas, demonstration projects in advanced environmental technologies, such as renewable energy supplies, rainwater management, and urban agriculture, may be explored.

Development of the remaining City Lands (Sub-area 1A and 3A) will continue to 2018, while work on some of the private sites (Sub-area 1B, 2B, 3B and 3C) may occur prior to the 2010 Winter Games and will likely continue beyond 2018. By 2020, Southeast False Creek is expected to be home to 12,000 to 16,000 people.

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