2050. It sounds far away. For those of us born after 1974, it’s another lifetime. But, in terms of planning, it’s not so distant. I recently attended the Urban Land Institute’s 2050 conference, where the guest speaker was Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. His topic: How to Shape Our City for the Future.
Mayor Robertson began by looking back at Vancouver circa 1974. In that year, our population was mainly Anglo Saxon. We were dependent on motor vehicles, transit was basic, housing was cheap, our waterfront was industrial and the economy was resource-based.
Today, we are the most Asian city outside of Asia. Thirty per cent of our commuters walk, cycle or use transit. Our economy runs on brain power and we are an international hub for film/television production, digital media, IT and green power. And, each year, Vancouver ranks in the Top 5 listing of the world’s most livable cities.
While all of that is wonderful, there is a downside. We are becoming a land for the rich. This has created an affordability issue which prevents business from locating in Vancouver. It is also pushing our population further east, and forcing us to remove land from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Making Vancouver a ‘model city’ for the future is one of Mayor Robertson’s goals. Not only does he want us to remain in that Top 5 list, he is going after the title of Greenest City. That means upping our game on transit (particularly the Broadway corridor), land use, housing affordability, and cultural and economic issues.
It was a breath of fresh air to see a council looking so far forward. Our city is in the midst of a major transformation and we must think progressively. The population of Vancouver proper may only be 600,000, but there are 2.3 million people in Greater Vancouver and smart solutions are needed to ensure that everyone is accommodated, and that we continue to thrive.