Vancouver and Hamilton were remarkably similar cities 40 years ago, but deliberate choices have put these two cities on diverging paths. This article examines the reasons Vancouver has become a city known for its livability and dense urban form.
By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published August 02, 2011
this article has been updated
I grew up in Vancouver in the 1970s and 1980s before leaving in 1990 for the UK and France. In 1998 I moved back to Canada, making Hamilton my new home.
In the last twenty years I have returned to Vancouver every few years and have been fascinated by its transformation from a sleepy (almost too laid-back) backwater to a vibrant, urban 'world class' city. This transformation has been remarkably rapid.
Vancouver: vibrant, urban 'world class' city
When moved to the UK in 1990 most people had only the vaguest idea where Vancouver is. I usually ended up saying it was just north of Seattle.
Today, when you mention Vancouver, everyone has heard of it, many have visited it, and it has a universally good reputation. This is partly due to the Winter Olympics and partly due to its high ranking on various international liveability rankings. But it is mostly due to its qualities as a city.
I was recently in Vancouver again to attend the ICIAM 2011 conference at the new Vancouver Convention Centre and was again impressed by the changes since my last visit three years ago. Putting on my amateur urbanist hat, I decided it was time to try to understand better why Vancouver is the way it is, and what we in Hamilton might learn from their experience.
I don't mean to imply that I don't like Hamilton (quite the contrary), but, as we tend to say here, 'it has so much unrealized potential' and seems to constantly under-perform as a city. As Christopher Hume recently wrote in the Toronto Star:
This is a city that has made every mistake in the book, and has the scars to prove it. Few urban centres have managed to inflict as much damage on themselves as has Hamilton. After eviscerating its core in the 1960s and '70s, it seems to have run out of any clear sense of where it was headed and why.
We owe it to ourselves to examine other cities that seem to have done most things right. By all accounts, Vancouver is one of the few North American cities that has.
I don't necessarily want to live in Vancouver, but I would like to live in a better Hamilton. This article includes an historical overview of urban development in Vancouver over the past few decades and a photo essay showing what Vancouver is doing today.
At first glance it might seem absurd to compare Vancouver and Hamilton. After all, Vancouver is a dense, vibrant city that is the economic and cultural centre of its region and province. However, the two cities are actually remarkably similar in population and both have well-defined geographic constraints.
They each also face their own weather challenges: Vancouver gets over a metre of rain a year and has 18 more rainy days than Hamilton, while Hamilton is colder in the winter and gets 126cm of snow to Vancouver's 48cm. Their main differences are in their urban development patterns in the past several decades.
Size: According to the 2006 census Vancouver and Hamilton were respectively the 8th and 9th largest cities in Canada, and both are part of much larger conurbations.
The urban areas and populations of the two cities and their associated conurbations are compared in the table below. Note that the City of Vancouver is entirely urban, while only 20 percent of the total area of the City of Hamilton is urban.
The data show that Hamilton and Vancouver are surprisingly similar in terms of total population (although Vancouver's population is growing much faster) and in their locations in very large conurbations (although Vancouver is the centre of its region, while Hamilton is the secondary city).
The main difference is in population density: Vancouver's population density is almost twice that of Hamilton (and the density of the downtown is much greater: 35 000/km^2 for the West End). It is the origin of this difference that we focus on here.
|City population||Urban population||CMA population||Conurbation population||Urban area of city||Urban population density|
|Hamilton||504,559||647,634||692,911||6,539,700||227.7 km2||2,844 / km2|
|Vancouver||578,041||578,041||2,116,581||2,116,581||114.7 km2||5,335 / km2|
Geography: Both Hamilton and Vancouver are limited and defined by their geography. Hamilton is bounded to the north by Lake Ontario, divided into upper and lower cities by the 'mountain' and by the conurbation of the GTAH to the east.
The City of Vancouver is essentially a peninsula bounded by Burrard inlet to the north (and the North Shore mountains beyond), and the Fraser River to the south.
In both cases, there is one direction that is open to 'sprawl' development: to the south in Hamilton, and to the east along the Fraser Valley in Vancouver.
In each case, the provincial government has attempted to limit sprawl by defining a greenbelt. In Vancouver this is called the Agricultural Land Reserve and was established in 1974-1976 by the NDP government of the day. The Greenbelt bounding Hamilton to the south is much more recent: the Liberal government only established it in 2006.
Economy: Although Hamilton's economy was historically based on heavy manufacturing; the city has lost most of its large employers in the past three decades. This has posed a major challenge for the city's finances, which has shifted most of the tax burden to homeowners and small businesses.
This loss of manufacturing base is often cited as a reason for the city's inevitable decline. However, Vancouver has thrived with essentially no manufacturing (what little there was centred on False Creek and was essentially all gone by the 1970s). It is also not a financial or government centre and has relatively few head offices. Vancouver was also economically depressed from the 1930s until the late 1960s. Despite this, Vancouver still has relatively low property taxes and is now economically quite successful.
This demonstrates that cities do not need to be manufacturing or financial centres to thrive. However, they do need to be attractive places to live and work. By focusing on livability, and getting the most return on its infrastructure investment by encouraging density, Vancouver has pioneered a new economic model for North American cities.
Elevated and sunken freeways carve up the city in this 1960s proposal.
In 1970 Hamilton and Vancouver were similar in size (300 000 and 430 000) and urban planning principles. Both cities had ripped out their streetcar lines; converted streets to one-way to improve traffic flow and shifted transportation planning to ensure "the free, efficient and rapid flow" of the private automobile according to the transportation paradigm of the day.
Both cities had also begun densification by demolishing many city blocks in neighbourhoods of large houses adjacent to the downtown core (the Durand in Hamilton, the West End in Vancouver). Both cities were simply following the standard American urban development model of the 1950s and 1960s.
However, in the early 1970s Vancouver made a fundamental choice that was to determine its future development. Vancouver refused to build a freeway system through the downtown core. It is now the only North American city without a freeway.
Freeways separate the waterfront from the city. The hotel Vancouver is still the dominant building in the downtown core.
In the period 1954-1967 the City of Vancouver and the Provincial government, together with various private interests, started promoting and planning a massive 8-lane freeway that would enter the downtown core from the east, cutting through the Strathcona, Gastown, and Chinatown neighbourhoods, and follow False Creek before turning north at Thurlow Street to cut through the West End and connect to a proposed third crossing of Burrard Inlet at Stanley Park.
Much of the freeway would have been built in a massive 'ditch' below grade level, and its construction would have involved the wholesale demolition of (mostly poorer) neighbourhoods. This project, known variously as Project 200, or the East End Penetrator, was estimated to cost at least $300 million (over $1.5 billion in today's dollars).
It would have been a disaster for Vancouver, destroying much of the downtown and leaving the remainder carved up into isolated islands. It would also have wasted huge amounts of what is now the most expensive real estate in Canada. The first stage of this project, the 6 lane 1km elevated expressway known as the Georgia/Dunsmuir viaduct was built in 1971. It was the only part ever completed. What happened?
Vancouver today, with much higher density than imagined in the freeway plan. Image credit: wikipedia.
Although the downtown freeway project had the backing of the mayor, major developers and even prominent architects (like Arthur Erickson), by 1967 it was provoking a massive backlash from residents who, understandably, didn't want to see their neighbourhoods demolished and replaced by freeways. These public protests were well organized, persistent and ultimately successful in forcing the city to abandon its plans.
In fact, the freeway protests were a pivotal step in citizen engagement and showed residents that they had the power to decide what sort of city they wanted to live in. The citizens' revolts that stopped the freeways are nicely summarized by Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs.
The protests were successful, not because they changed the mind of Mayor "terrific" Tom Campbell (a lawyer and developer), but because they mobilized voters and convinced the Federal and Provincial governments of the day not to share the costs. In fact, Mayor Campbell hated the protestors and dismissed their concerns.
Somewhat ironically, in 1970 Hamilton published an ambitious and detailed design for a network of LRT-like rapid transit lines throughout the city. As far as I know, implementation of this plan was never considered seriously.
Instead, as recently as 2007 Hamilton was still following a 1950s proposal by building a new freeway in the city, and it has still not implemented a rapid transit system. (In the early 1980s they actually rejected the Skytrain system that instead went to Vancouver.)
It is important to remember the Vancouver freeway protests when we in Hamilton are told that our destiny is fixed and we don't have any real control over how our city develops (because of "the economy", "market forces" or simple defeatism).
Interestingly, the freeway protests are the subject of an exhibition at the Vancouver Museum and a Simon Fraser University MA thesis. A strong tradition of citizen engagement is perhaps the most important legacy of the freeway protests.
Here in Hamilton, encouraging citizen engagement is part of our official vision statement, and the city promotes all sorts of engagement exercises - Vision 2020, Setting Sail, Downtown Master Plan: Putting People First, Pedestrian Summits and the Cycling Master Plan.
However, Council largely ignores these exercises when it comes time to make real decisions. For example, individual councillors began vetoing parts of the cycle plan as soon as it was adopted, and the traffic department vetoed the pedestrian scramble crossing at York and MacNab that was supported by public consultations and city planners.
When a general policy framework is adopted, staff and council should have a clear idea of what operational changes will be required to implement it. Hamilton has recently put pedestrians at the top of the transportation hierarchy (which has been the case in Vancouver since the mid 90s), but staff does not know how or if this change will affect operational decisions (there is no sign yet that it has).
A better approach would be to recommend specific operational changes together with the proposed policy change. If these changes are too difficult to implement, or are unacceptable, the policy should be changed or eliminated.
In this specific case, operational changes could include converting all multi-stage pedestrian crossings to single stage, eliminating prohibitions on crossing certain intersections (and making them safe to cross), increasing the minimum acceptable sidewalk width based on the category of road, and allocating resources with the goal of eventually installing crosswalks at all intersections on major arteries (such as Main, King, Cannon).
One could also try to define how to balance the competing interests of pedestrians and motorists. If pedestrians really come first, an operational rule might be: "the time of pedestrians will be weighted as 30% more valuable than that of motorists." So a pedestrian improvement that increases average travel time of motorists by 20% would be fine, but one that doubled the travel time of motorists would be unacceptable.
Because it is very difficult to predict how a given change will affect traffic, the city would officially embrace pilot projects to test out various solutions (as Vancouver and New York have done).
As we will see, in Vancouver there is perhaps less direct input in planning, but they actually do try to build the sort of city that residents want to live in, based on generally agreed principles followed consistently over decades.
Once they had rejected the downtown freeway system, city council and planners had to come to terms with the fact that the standard auto centric North American urban development model was off the table. They had to think differently.
Beginning in the early 1970s Vancouver developed an urban planning system that is unique and admired internationally. It is this "Vancouver model" that has produced the "most liveable" densely urban Vancouver we see today. As Gordon Price notes:
All City Councils since the 1970s, regardless of ideology, have reiterated a policy that there will be no more room for single-occupancy vehicles: no more roads, not even any more road-widening, save for the few places not already developed. From then on, resources were increasingly devoted to a priority list that puts the pedestrian in first place, followed by cyclists, transit users, and then the car drivers.
Unlike Hamilton, which seems to resort to empty slogans like "Open for business" and has no clear strategic vision, Vancouver decided what sort of city it wanted to be in the early 1970s and has stuck to this vision for forty years. Note that this period included both left- and right-wing councils (Vancouver politics is highly polarized, and based around municipal parties) and economic booms and busts.
The Vancouver model relies on a planning department that is largely independent of Council influence, and on the entire city staff (including the traffic department) being onside. This is contrary to the case in Hamilton where the progressive ideas of the planning department are often ignored or opposed by council or vetoed by the traffic department.
In addition, residents and developers tend to oppose any and all city planning decisions by appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). For example, the new official plan proposed by the City of Hamilton fixes many problems with the existing plan, but is the subject of dozens of appeals. One developer, Paletta, is appealing separately every single provision of the plan!
These appeals will prevent the plan from being implemented for years to come. The OMB is peculiar to Ontario, and has made planning throughout the province vulnerable to capricious decisions by the OMB magistrates and encouraged a conservative planning culture in Ontario municipalities (to avoid OMB appeals).
As is often the case, the successful Vancouver model relied on visionary leaders. The Vancouver model was developed by a succession of two idealistic planners: Ray Spaxman (who moved from Toronto) and Larry Beasley.
Spaxman started the change in the 1970s and Beasley continued in the 1980s and 1990s. Vancouver was very fortunate to have over thirty years of consistent, effective urban planning. What are the elements of the Vancouver model?
Although downtown Vancouver has extremely high population densities, it generally feels comfortable and human in scale. This is partly because the streets are full of people and there are shops and services wherever you go, but it is also because of the particular "tower and podium" design Vancouver has promoted.
In this model a narrow tower (much narrower than the apartment buildings in Hamilton and Toronto) sits on a podium of three- or four-storey townhouses and shops. This increases the light to the street and provides space for shops, as well as well as giving the street a more human scale.
Tower and podium design - townhouses with their own front doors on the street, combined with a narrow tower (upper left).
Another aspect of the Vancouver model is flexibility in achieving the overall goals of density and liveability. A developer can gain more density by providing public space, a community centre or a percentage of geared-to-income housing.
Although developers were initially hostile to the "over-prescriptive" planning guidelines in Vancouver, they have come to appreciate them as they realized they produce much more desirable communities (and hence increase the price they can charge for their apartments).
In Hamilton we are often told we must settle for whatever the developer proposes: a suburban one-storey stucco box with a drive-through in the centre of downtown, a shopping mall with no doors or windows on the street, a subdivision with no shops or sidewalks. We are told that "beggars can't be choosers" and that if we assert our right to choose the city we want to live in that we will chase development away.
The Vancouver Model shows that developers will adapt to progressive urban plans. In fact, good urban planning builds value for developers because it creates more attractive communities. People sometimes claim that this can be done only in Vancouver because of the high property values, but it is in fact the other way around. Vancouver real estate is so valuable because they have stuck to high, consistent urban planning standards over four decades. We could too!
As pointed out by Mark Chamberlain in a recent Spectator article, basic "City Math" shows that higher density means that city infrastructure is being used more efficiently. Road and utility infrastructure is basically the same for low- and high-density urban forms, so high density is much cheaper per resident.
In Hamilton most residential development is on the fringes, in the form of greenfield sprawl, which is very expensive (the city loses thousands on each new detached house). More people living downtown on existing infrastructure generate more taxes for minimal investment: it is no wonder Vancouver's property taxes are so much lower than Hamilton's!
However, density requires high-level rapid transit, a high quality pedestrian experience and mixed-use zoning. Vancouver has an excellent bus and rapid transit (i.e. Skytrain) system, and has made constant improvements to the pedestrian and cycling networks over many years.
Hamilton sees investment in rapid transit, cycling and pedestrian improvements as pure "costs". However, we are losing huge amounts of money in "business as usual" and these investments are necessary if we are to put our city on a sustainable model, both financially and environmentally.
Despite its advantages, the Vancouver Model has limitations.
The first is clear when you look at the entire Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD). Although Vancouver has no freeways and has favoured high-density mixed use development, most of the rest of the region conforms closely to the standard North American auto-centric model. Apart from a few high-density centres (often near rapid transit hubs), most of the Fraser Valley looks like the suburbs anywhere on the continent.
Interestingly, despite the rhetoric here in Hamilton about everyone wanting a detached home in the suburbs, the City of Vancouver is still the most desirable place to live, with high real estate prices and strong population growth. This suggests that other (suburban) municipalities in the GVRD could successfully adopt the Vancouver Model if they wanted.
Another oft-cited drawback of the Vancouver Model is lack of affordability. Real Estate prices in Vancouver are extremely high: the average price throughout the GVRD is about $800 000 and the median price is about $600 000. In terms of affordability, the cost in the City of Vancouver is about 11 times average household income compared to about 5.5 times average household income in Toronto.
On the other hand, in 2010 rental prices for a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver were similar to Toronto ($1,195 compared with $1,123), although much higher than Hamilton ($705).
Of course, to a large extent real estate and rental prices reflect employment opportunities and livability. Places that offer good employment and high quality lifestyle command a premium because people want to live there. Nevertheless, high housing costs are a challenge, especially to those on lower incomes.
Vancouver has addressed the issue of housing affordability by mandating or encouraging (via bonusing) developers to provide a certain number (typically 10-20%) of geared-to-income units in their new buildings (e.g. the Woodward's building). However, this has not been enough and Vancouver has recently unveiled an ambitious plan to construct 38,900 affordable housing units over the next ten years. This program will be funded using partnerships with other levels of government, non-profit organizations and the private sector.
Although Hamilton real estate is definitely affordable, as far as I know we have no comparable social housing plan and the city has not constructed significant numbers of new units in many years.
The Mayor has said he is the champion of "keeping Hamilton affordable", by which he seems to mean avoiding infrastructure spending, ensuring our housing costs remain low and property taxes don't go up. Surely it is preferable to have an attractive city with excellent employment opportunities, rather than relying on derelict buildings, vacant lots and a stagnant economy to depress costs!
Vancouver also suffers from pockets of extreme poverty, associated with drug use and criminality. In fact, Vancouver currently has the highest poverty rate in Canada, and has a growing gap between rich and poor (along with the rest of Canada). The worst area is the downtown eastside, which is the poorest postal code in Canada and has a large number of drug users.
Despite the activities of dozens of social service agencies (both public and private) and various plans over the years, the conditions have only gotten worse. The previous mayor attempted to address the core problem of drug use through his four pillars program (prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement), and this program has seen some success, although it has been under constant attack from the federal government.
Another area where Vancouver has been less successful is in retaining built and cultural heritage. As I mentioned above, Vancouver, like Hamilton, demolished large parts of its original residential district in the 1960s. In addition, Vancouver is a much newer city with the earliest surviving buildings dating from the 1890s, and not much before about 1912.
Vancouver has designated over 160 buildings in Gastown (the original downtown), but much of the rest of the city has been lost and the Vancouver of today would be unrecognizable to a visitor from the 1950s.
Fortunately, much of the recent development has occurred on reclaimed industrial brownfields (the north and south shores of False Creek, Coal harbour, Yale Town), but it is nevertheless difficult to see a continuity of style or feeling with the Vancouver that went before. For better or for worse Vancouver has decided to re-invent itself as a hyper modern city of glass towers. It is an attractive and comfortable hyper modern city, but it is very different from the small isolated town that preceded it.
When I lived in Vancouver people were always very proud of the place, believing (somewhat naively) that it was indeed the "best place on Earth." They also closely followed each new building, new urban design proposals and debated the merits of different solutions to various urban issues.
I was interested to see that this tradition continues, and would like to mention three issues in particular that were being discussed in the local press.
Articles in the Vancouver Sun and the local edition of Metro reported that Vancouver will establish a 30km/h speed limit on Hastings Street through the Downtown Eastside (the poorest postal code in Canada).
This recommendation was made due to the large number of pedestrian/vehicle collisions (13 between 2004 and 2009). Longer crossing times and dozens of intersection safety cameras will be installed at other dangerous intersections in the city as part of an overall pedestrian safety initiative.
What interested me about this story was the level of interest (six articles in the Vancouver Sun from July 21 to July 27) and the speed at which it developed.
When I read the first article on July 21 it was just a proposal, and the speed limit reduction was opposed by the police, who felt that "speed is not the primary contributing factor" and that the lower speed limit would eat up to much of their resources in enforcement. They did support engineering changes to the street.
However, by July 26 Council had voted to adopt the changes, with Mayor Gregor Robertson commenting:
Walking is the top priority in the city's transportation plan, and it's important that we improve the safety and comfort of our streets and sidewalks for pedestrians.
Contrast this with Hamilton, where pedestrian injuries and deaths are met with indifference, prohibiting pedestrians from crossing, or a stern admonishment from the police and traffic department that pedestrians 'need to be more careful.' The police even went so far as to start a campaign to ticket 'jaywalkers'.
Despite the fact that Vancouver's streets are crowded with pedestrians and dangerous wet, dark conditions prevail for much of the year, Vancouver's pedestrian death rate is falling from a high of 14 in 2007. In contrast, despite its far lower numbers of pedestrians, Hamilton has a similar number of pedestrian deaths (e.g. 9 in 2010). Nevertheless, Vancouver considers their rates far too high and is working to reduce them further.
In the last ten years or so Vancouver has added bike lanes on many streets, but the downtown has been missing many links in the cycling network. This changed last year when the city set-up a pilot project converting a lane of the Burrard Bridge to a physically separated cycling lane, and adding separated cycling lanes to Dunsmuir and Hornby Streets downtown.
Although there was initially a lot of opposition from motorists and local business (due to the loss of parking spaces in front of the stores) a follow-up study has shown that traffic times are virtually the same, cycle trips are way up (from 14 000 to 50 000), collisions dropped 18% and businesses have suffered only "minor ill effects."
Burrard Bridge bike lane trial project.
When I walked back downtown along Burrard Bridge one afternoon at 5:30pm I saw throngs of walking commuters on the sidewalks, as well as groups of commuter cyclists. Motor vehicle traffic was flowing freely.
Interestingly, the city tried dedicating a lane of the Burrard Bridge to bicycles back in the mid 90s, but the outcry from motorists was so severe that they quickly back-tracked. Nevertheless, they have tried again and the lanes have been well accepted this time around.
Here in Hamilton when I asked the traffic department why the Main St bridge bike lane just disappears at the east end of the bridge, they said "oh, we tried it twenty years ago and there was a huge outcry...we won't try that again!" Another difference with Hamilton is that the traffic department claims that they cannot do pilot projects (at least they did when the Durand Neighbourhood Association asked about setting up some traffic calming pilot projects).
Separated bike lane pilot project.
The Georgia viaduct is the only part of the Vancouver's massive freeway project that actually got built, and now the city is planning to tear it down eventually.
What impressed me was the calm, reasonable way the issue is being discussed, unlike the similar Gardiner issue in Toronto.
The city planners and traffic engineers have already established they can move goods and traffic without the viaduct. Even the trucking companies aren't worried. Now they are asking citizens to imagine creative and inspiring uses for the space now taken up by the elevated expressways.
If only two-way conversion of our downtown streets (including Main, King and Cannon) could be discussed and evaluated in such an open way!
Essentially, most councillors believe the viaduct will be gone within 10-15 years, once new rapid transit lines are built to take their place. Perhaps surprisingly, despite the huge population growth in the downtown, motor vehicle traffic on the viaducts has actually decreased.
Since the area around the viaducts is being developed as residential, they are now seen more as an obstacle (and a relic from a backward era) than a useful piece of transportation infrastructure. They also prevent now-valuable land from being developed.
Vancouver is not Hamilton, we don't necessarily want to make the same choices and Vancouver's development was shaped by its own conditions and history. In particular, it has a spectacular geographic location and has not been defined by any particular industry.
Its recent extremely high density and tall towers were in part the result of the purchase of 84 ha of brownfields for $320 million over 15 years by Hong Kong developer Li-Ka Shing in 1988, and an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong in the 1990s.
However, the most important lessons from the Vancouver Model are generally applicable:
Residents have the power to decide what sort of city they want to live in. Vancouver residents deliberately rejected an urban freeway-based proposal, and eventually developed a dense, mixed-use pedestrian-based alternative.
This is despite the common belief that North Americans never willingly settle for anything 'less' than a suburban detached home and rapid car access throughout the city.
Effective city planning requires deciding on a strategic vision and sticking to it. Vancouver has followed the same basic urban planning strategy for 40 years now, regardless of changes in council and city administrators. This consistency allows the city to learn gradually how to do things right, and lowers the risk to developers. However, it needs all city staff (and council) to work together.
In Hamilton, all too often strategic plans (e.g. Vision2020) are not implemented, different city departments work at cross-purposes and council interferes in staff decisions. Planning and public health are busy promoting walkability, while traffic and economic development promote auto-centric models, and veto the progressive ideas of the planners (because they would slow traffic, or are not favoured by certain developers).
Sustainability and livability are achieved in dense, mixed use, pedestrian-oriented development. Vancouver is consistently rated one of the most attractive and liveable cities in the world because it has focused on these qualities. Density makes cities more financially sustainable because it costs much less to provide services for a given number of people in a dense neighbourhood.
The current greenfield development model favoured in Hamilton (and most other cities) is both economically and environmentally unsustainable. Density is only possible in pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods, and these neighbourhoods require high-level public transit (like LRT).
Planners must be insulated from council and flexible in achieving strategic goals. Vancouver's planners operate largely free of direct council (and OMB!) interference, and have the power to mandate mixed use and particular built forms. Planning is prescriptive and interventionist.
However, they are flexible in achieving their goals. In Vancouver, developers can gain more density or height by providing public amenities (such as community centres, green space, or a percentage of geared-to-income housing).
In Hamilton we are afraid of scaring developers away by imposing high urban design standards, but the experience in Vancouver shows that insisting on high standards actually creates value for developers and that the right developers will (perhaps reluctantly) go along with them.
Keeping standards low to 'attract' developers has not served Hamilton well. It hasn't even been successful in attracting low-quality urban development!
|Year||Vancouver Price||Hamilton Price|
Note that Vancouver and Hamilton prices were essential the same until the mid 1970s - precisely the period in which Vancouver shifted away from the auto-centric model to a dense, urban mixed use model. Vancouver did not have high property prices compared to other Canadian cities until the late 1970s.
Editor's Note: also be sure to see Nicholas Kevlahan's photo essay of urbanism in Vancouver.