As part of Vancouver’s 125 anniversary, Vancouver Magazine has come up with 125 things that make the city unique. I’ve picked ten of my favourite (in no particular order):
Because the Marine Building got restored, not demolished.
Because our first council had foresight
Vancouver city council was inaugurated on May 12, 1886. In their first piece of business, the 10 aldermen, led by a real-estate-baron mayor (Malcolm MacLean), resolved to ask the federal government for use of an area designated a military reserve (in case of American invasion). Ottawa agreed, and two years later, Lord Stanley—Canada’s governor general at the time—dedicated those 1,001 acres to “the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colours, creeds, and customs, for all time.” In 2008, we renewed our lease on Stanley Park—99 years for $1. It’s the best land deal in the country, for one of the world’s great urban parks.
Because we export our approach to planning all over the world.
Because Darlene Marzari killed “urban renewal”
Back in 1968, the city was working on a plan: move thousands of people out of their Strathcona homes and flatten everything south of Prior Street to make way for a 30-foot-high, 200-foot-wide, six-lane freeway from Highway 1 to Burrard Inlet downtown. The roadblocks: area residents, many of them Chinese Canadians; Mike Harcourt, then a 25-year-old storefront lawyer who would become Vancouver’s mayor and then B.C.’s premier; and Darlene Marzari, a London School of Economics grad who’d been hired by the city’s planning department to find new homes for the Strathcona evictees. In community meetings, Marzari came to see that this “urban renewal” would be a disaster. She switched teams, helping lead opposition to the project, then went on to serve 10 years as an NDP MLA. Vancouver remains the largest metropolis in North America without a city-core freeway.
Because we have the longest automated light-rail rapid transit in the world.
Because the “W” stands for “we”
Former city councillor Jim Green, the hat-wearing Southern gentleman who’s championed the Woodward’s housing project since its infancy, points out that his master-planned housing baby has no equal on the planet. The 536 kitted-out condos offset the 200 social-housing units in a balancing act that lured the city’s yuppies further east than ever before. The mix of housing brings folks from every walk of life together on a single city block. The biggest surprise to come out of this social experiment? Nothing went wrong. The sidewalk did not split open to swallow Woodward’s, and 6,000 people pass through its courtyard every day. One block down, 10,000 to go.
Because Car-Free Day turned into a city-wide party.
Because the city’s a smorgasbord
Your best friends are a Chinese-Caucasian couple? Your son’s pal in high school was Rwandan? You spent an evening at a Catholic church hall when your niece’s best friend threw a lavish Filipino birthday party? You shop at a mall (Park Royal) owned by an Ismaili Muslim family on land leased from the Squamish First Nation? The city was settled by Natives, named by the British in a region explored by the Spaniards, and built up in its early years by a Jewish mayor, Chinese entrepreneurs, Punjabi millworkers, and Japanese fishermen. It has the least segregated neighbourhoods in Canada and the highest proportion of interracial couples. Sushi, bánh mì, and pho for all!
Because anyone can have the perogi dinner at Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral.
My name is Yuri after all!
Because you can’t get a Big Mac on Granville Island
Cement trucks, fresh produce, a cutting-edge art school, hand-dyed scarves—not the mix you’ll see at any accountant-planned mall. Granville Island is an only-in-Vancouver special, a government-initiated plan (kudos to onetime Liberal cabinet minister Ron Basford) to create a festival marketplace on what was once a sandbar, re-using old industrial buildings and banning chain stores. Locals and tourists alike pour in to the city’s one McDonald’s-free zone to buy handmade brooms or cut flowers, silver earrings or the latest cookbook, attend dance performances, have a beer, let their toddlers feed the seagulls, listen to buskers, pick up seafood just off the boat, and then head home, perhaps on one of the toy-like ferries that chug across False Creek.
Read the entire list here.