Tour of the False Creek Flats: ULI BC Members Get An Inside Look at a Rapidly Changing Industrial Area in Vancouver
(written by Pietra Basilij, Sustainable Community Development, Vancouver Economic Commission)
Last Friday, ULI BC hosted a tour of a different flavor. Whereas our tours typically showcase innovative new developments and urban planning initiatives, including sustainable practices and projects, the False Creek Flats tour was a showcase of a work-in-progress—an area that is poised for big change in the coming decade but isn’t there yet. So, why take a tour of an area where redevelopment is just barely underway?
The Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC), our host partner for the tour, was eager to take ULI BC members on a tour of the Flats to showcase the businesses and institutions that are inspiring their economic development efforts in the Flats—looking to inspire ULI BC members to take a leadership role in contributing to the area’s future. Unlike much of Vancouver’s remaining industrial land base, the False Creek Flats is a uniquely large, contiguous employment district close to Vancouver’s downtown core. Given the rapidly decreasing supply of these types of employment lands in the city, the VEC recognizes that there is an opportunity to do something different here—to create innovative employment clusters unlike any other in Vancouver that will support a diversity of jobs and contribute to a healthier, cleaner, and greener city.
The tour of the Flats included stops at the new Providence Healthcare Campus site, the City of Vancouver’s National Works Yard, Direct Tap / Fresh Tap, the Great Northern Way Campus, and several business hubs on Industrial Ave, including a recycling hub, local food processing hub, and arts hub. Highlights included:
- Hearing from IBI Group’s Stuart Jones about the desire to create a comprehensive health campuson the site of the future St. Paul’s Hospital, which will include healthy outdoor spaces, biotech/lifesciences R&D facilities, healthcare support services, and amenities for the 2000+ individuals that will be working on site
- Hearing from the Vancouver Economic Commission about the grassroots economic development and green business initiativesthat are underway in the Flats, including programs to help industrial businesses reduce their GHG emissions, develop waste-to-resource connections, and convert their fleets to alternative fuel sources
- Visiting Direct Tap and Fresh Tap’s warehouse and distribution operation to hear from Mike Macquisten about the waylogistics businesses in the Flats are adapting to become leaner and greener, including delivering at night, utilizing app technology to streamline ordering processes, and reducing packaging through creating standardized reusable packaging that can be shared among clients.
- Visiting the Great Northern Way Campus and hearing from Emily Kaplun and Kristine Liu about the new Emily Carr Campus development and the associated arts, culture, design, and amenity spaces that are being builtto accommodate synergistic businesses, organizations, and professionals that add to the vibrancy of the Emily Carr and Centre for Digital Media community.
- Stopping in at three innovative industrial colocation projects on Industrial Aveand hearing from Louise Schwarz about the space and equipment-sharing model that Recycling Alternative has established with United We Can to maximize their trash-busting impact; hearing from Sarb Mund about the digitally connected local food network he is building to further support the more than 25 local food businesses that are getting their start at the Commissary Connect kitchen; and hearing from Marietta Kozak at the Arts Factory about leveraging private and public sector support, as well as innovative partnerships, to create new and interesting spaces for the arts at an affordable rate for professional artists.
While it may seem premature to tour the Flats and showcase the area’s future (or premature to do a bike tour in rainy March for that matter), ULI BC was excited for the opportunity to highlight the transformation of the False Creek Flats for our members and guests, in hopes that you will capitalize on the opportunity to get involved in shaping its future.
“Seeing the creativity and diversity of entrepreneurs and industrial businesses in the False Creek Flats was inspiring,” said David Gilford, Vice President for Urban Innovation & Sustainability at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “Vancouver Economic Commission’s approach to identifying and supporting sustainable new business models is something that other cities should keep a close eye on.”
“The variety of site visits during the tour of False Creek Flats provided great insight into the dynamic economic development of the area. The tour highlighted how local entrepreneurs already contribute to Vancouver’s green economy by enhancing the local food economy, smart logistics, recycling, as well as developing software to support equipment and space sharing. The tour provided an excellent opportunity for a city-city knowledge exchange on these topics as well as a platform for local residents to engage at an early stage of the redevelopment process.” Monica Ridgway, Network Manager, Green Growth, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
If you’re interested in learning more about the future of the False Creek Flats or in contributing to helping shape its future, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Learn more at www.vancouver.ca/falsecreekflats or www.vancouvereconomic.com/theflats or by signing up for the Flats Facts Newsletter.