Viaducts replacement will open the road to public benefits; developer contributions to be negotiated

Is replacement of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts a road to riches for developers or will public benefits exceed private ones?

The Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts: part of Vancouver's future or relics of a project the city rejected?

The Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts: part of Vancouver’s future or relics of a project the city rejected?

That was the question was front and centre during council discussion Tuesday and the answer from staff was unequivocal: this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve public benefits. You can review the staff presentation slides here.

Their view is echoed by former mayors Mike Harcourt, Larry Campbell and Philip Owen, all of whom endorsed replacement in 2013, as well as former city planners Larry Beasley and Brent Toderian. A key development Tuesday: the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association confirmed its board has unanimously approved replacement.

Concord Pacific’s land, which actually would decline slightly in area, would also increase in value. But the city would negotiate further benefits for the city at rezoning when the specific design is concluded. (Staff have a conceptual design based on likely density and building form, both of which are consistent with what Concord has built on its other sites.)

As for the public, there’s a much larger, better-planned park; more waterfront park; better connections for downtown neighbourhoods; a replacement road system with overall improved performance compared to today’s system . . . the list goes on.

Yes, there are concerns, including those of the False Creek Residents Association. But to quote FRCA co-chair Patsy McMillan in her letter to council, the association “is not against the removal of the viaducts per se, but there are many questions yet to be answered.”

Those answers can only come when city staff know council’s direction: do the Viaducts go or do they stay?