Viaducts review triggers bigger question: what is your vision of city’s eastern core?

Vancouver residents will be invited to brainstorm about their vision for the city’s critical eastern core — all the way from the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts to Clark Drive — in the second phase of a review of the viaducts’ future that comes to council Tuesday.

It’s a remarkable sequel to the 1970s debate on the future of our city that resulted in the defeat of freeway construction in Vancouver — except for the viaducts themselves.

Having confirmed the city can move goods and traffic even if the viaducts are partly or completely removed, city planner Brent Toderian and head traffic engineer Jerry Dobrovolny are challenging voters to imagine a new future for the city’s strategic eastern core, including the False Creek Flats between Main St. and Clark Drive.

Driven by an “ideas competition” that engages the broad public, and a “special urban design team” of local and international experts, the ploanning processed, called the Viaducts and False Creek Flats Eastern Core Strategy,  will open up debate about the last major area of undeveloped land in the city.

But it will also give residents in Yaletown, the Downtown Eastside, Strathcona, Citygate, Chinatown and Grandview Woodlands a chance to seize a new future for their neighbourhoods before the city makes final decisions on major rezonings around BC Place Stadium.

As the report makes clear, “the viaducts create a physical and visual barrier in this area of the city,” and “recommends proceeding with more detailed analysis of theviaducts removal or reconfiguration” as part of a “big picture look” at the future of the Eastern Core.

There are many options for the viaducts. Frankly, if we can’t find a better way to handle future traffic and goods movement, they should stay as they are. But is a freeway stub built in 1971 the best we can do?

The viaducts’ importance to traffic movement is declining and the phase 1 study has made it clear the city could do many tings: remove one or both of the viaducts, link Expo and Pacific Boulevards to Georgia and Dunsmuir, or simply remove the sections on either side of Main.

The result would be dramatic new opportunities for green space, community development, who knows what?

Tuesday’s report invites Vancouver citizens to offer their ideas.