There’s only one true Vancouver in this world, and it’s located in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Home to some 603,000 residents and millions more regionally, the city boasts a very vibrant and authentic culture that draws people from across the globe to visit, do business, and call it their own. A recent trip to the city reminded me why I keep coming back again and again for more. Here are 13 great things about Vancity:
1. Savior of History
Vancouver passionately preserves its history and finds unique ways to transform it into modern-day uses. The Roundhouse epitomizes this effort by acting as a neighborhood anchor of history and engagement. The building operates as a community center for residents to learn, play, and build relationships.
2. Living In Between
Vancouver is a wonderland of so many small spaces for people. Alleyways of all sizes and types line the blocks of Downtown Vancouver, many maintained with elaborate passageways and sometimes the main way for business access.
3. Pioneering Cycle Chic
Vancouver is a place where bicycling is a normal way of life. The City of Vancouver has made a concerted effort to make it easy for ages and abilities with cycletracks and bicycle infrastructure everywhere. One of the best examples of this is through innovative designs like the Hornby Cycletrack lined with planter boxes.
Vancouver knows that people need to get places and the city puts people first with high quality signage everywhere. A comprehensive program has been rolled out to use consistent kiosk types and maps to help people get the lay of the land.
5. Standing Tall
Vancouver is a city of very tall structures. Some of these are of an elegant past and some of these are of the modern skyscraping city. Regardless, the city recognizes that building up instead of building out is the best path forward.
6. Thinking and Being Big
Vancouver is not afraid to think big and act big. SkyTrain and the expansive bus network are proof that Vancouver is capable of doing very big things in a well planned manner. Visit any one of the dozens of SkyTrain stops and you will see a booming city. It is also a city willing to learn from global cities like London (note the signage).
7. Embracer of Oddities
Vancouver is a city full of little oddities like the one below. It is these types of temporary and random installations that make spaces so much more interesting than they would otherwise be.
8. Progressive Champion
Vancouver is willing to talk about things that are sometimes controversial instead of sweeping them under the rug. It’s long been a progressive city that wants to promote social cohesion and equity. Art is one way that Vancouver invites open discussion, but local organizations, individuals, and politicians are pushing forward inclusive dialogue.
9. Monumental In All Times
Vancouver has their monuments to bigger-than-life characters, too. Some of these are towers, others are plaques, but they serve to help the city remember that it has a very deep history.
10. A Reinventer
Vancouver has had its share of ups and downs, but if there is any place that understand what it means to reinvent itself, Vancouver is it. Yaletown is one of many districts that have been revitalized through thoughtful efforts from city officials, locals, and developers and the results are outstanding.
11. An Innovator of Systems
Vancouver is an innovator willing to adopt new ways of using dynamic technology and existing resources in different ways. It’s a place that is actively looking to make the most out of limited space for the benefit of all.
12. A Free Wall
Vancouver is happy to open up its walls for the beauty of masterpieces and the no-so-great attempts at art. It doesn’t see walls as barriers, but rather ways to communicate ideas, humanity, and place to all that can see them.
13. Something For Everybody
Vancouver is a region that recognizes that people have very different needs and their housing market is reflective of that. Some of that is single-family homes, some are rowhouses and townhouses, and other are tower blocks. Vancouver shows that these can coexist seamlessly.
Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.