Urban Design – Implementation Methods




Let The Big Box Bend For You

15 JUNE 2011

“ … Ah, there’s nothing wrong with her that a hundred dollars won’t fix.”

9th & Hennepin, 1985 – Tom Waits


The intention of this discussion is to see how to get from words and paper to action and results; to form the interface between restrictions of reality and academic freedoms. On the one hand my effort is to propose realistic ideas that could actually be built and programmed. On the other, in telling the story of a place, some of the more compelling scenarios might seem fantastic at times. This is one of the joys of pushing or at least trying to push the limits.

In 2001 a development plan for Big Bend Crossing (named ‘River Point’ in this paper) was approved by the city council of Burnaby. ‘River Point’ refers to the region in Burnaby of which the intersection between Byrne Road and Marine Way is the main gateway. Following the phasing plan for the sustainability challenge, a section of this precinct was selected for implementation. The main points from my Eco-Planning assignment are used for the Vision, Goals and Principles of Implementation.

The idea is that by implementing those points in the boundaries of the selected region, their success will be carried over to the rest of ‘River Point’. Some of them, such as mid parkway drainage swales, playgrounds and community programming could be implemented in any part of ‘River Point’ as soon as funding is available.


Through our commitment to earth, water and air our transactions balance between responsibility to our environment, growth in business and the experience of life. Each day is an opportunity to give back to the land we use while nurturing the ties we have to one another.

  • ‘River Point’ is a community dedicated to the promotion of farming in urban settings
  • We integrate agriculture with the fabric of urban living
  • This community maintains a unique local texture to the public realm
  • Our facilities are laid out to enhance walkability and usability for the sake of wholesome, healthy living


‘River Point’, as a neighborhood in transition needs to respond to changing market conditions both local and regional. The development plan from 2001 has resulted in mixed degrees of success for the businesses who occupied its new spaces. New residential developments to the west are emerging that could shift the economic balance of the precinct. Its development requires a revised approach. Focus on human needs should result in the following:

  • Maintain a working balance between industry, agriculture, commerce and living
  • Promote healthy living as a leading component of urban development
  • Create a sense of place within the community
  • Connect with neighboring nurseries, farmlands to nurture a unique local urban fabric
  • Integrate Marine Way into its urban context while taking care of traffic flow.


Among the ideas presented in this paper, some are already in use elsewhere either in the world or in Burnaby itself. Our challenge is to utilize the tools we already have in an economical manner and explore new solutions in ever changing settings. The challenge then becomes our opportunity to be our best.

  • Means of transportation have advantages to be enjoyed and challenges that enable creative solutions.
  • The built environment is a tool that supports human needs.
  • Integration of facilities is a process in the evolution of urban development.
  • The built environment creates space and spaces that should be thoughtfully utilized.


Stakeholders: Property owners want long term residents; Businesses want prosperity; Employees want a convenient workplace; visitors/clients want a stress free time getting around. Develop communications that respond to stakeholders’ wants and needs. Find the connections between those to illustrate mutual interests of the parties involved.

Involvement: Investment in the environment is property- and business-owners’ power to contribute to the improvement of visitor and client satisfaction; Festivals, seasonal events, great gathering opportunities provide reasons for people to come to the place and have a connection.

Recognition: Media attention, tax revenues, a place to show off are part of a politicians moments of grace in the usually thankless reality of governing. Property and business owners can enjoy similar moments when a place succeeds.

Partnerships: Between City Hall and Volunteer groups; businesses of the neighborhood; the neighborhood at large and the surrounding farming properties; City Hall and Translink, Science World, Aquarium, Universities and others. Collaboration and education, apart from being means of interaction are tools in generating change.


Random conversations with local occupants were conducted with an almost obvious conclusion:

People have interest in the environment of their workplace, hard core as it currently is at places. An extensive survey of the region should look for input by residents or neighbors, and visitors who show interest and commitment to the success of ‘River Point’[1].

The adjacent Burnaby allotment community gardens should be a good resource for collaborations

Bus rides: Explore more bus stops; local shuttle service

Existing railway: Re-introduce rail transit as part of inter-urban transportation. This is a negotiation between such parties as federal government, metropolitan municipalities, Translink and CN.

Road traffic: The region as a whole is becoming more and more residential[2]. A joint effort between municipalities should coordinate traffic and find solutions for alternatives for the current heavy traffic going through Marine Way and Byrne Road. A speed limit being one of the tools in this process will also help in directing traffic into ‘River Point’. North Fraser Way is an imminent option for traffic distribution and is integral to solutions in ‘River Point’.

Community gardens/planters: The effort to preserve farmland in an urban setting needs to be seen and manifested. With growing interest in the city for community gardens, it is almost obvious to integrate planting boxes into new and existing developments. With close by nurseries and farm properties, many interactions and business making are bound to evolve.

Landscaping: resting places invite people to stay longer and possibly extend their spending.

Community center: explore viability. The region is evolving and its residential component is a leading component. The school location to the east looks like a suitable option.

Parkade: densification should apply to parking as well. A well designed parkade that integrates other functions will help reduce wasted land and improve access for pedestrians.

Fitness: Businesses focused on sports and recreation should find ‘River Point’ to be a useful junction for commerce and gathering. Examples can be Cliffhanger, yoga establishments and fitness clubs.


Prioritize types of development to allow selection of the most appropriate investment based on phasing plan. Funds, when available, should be proportionately directed according to priority list.

Apply for federal government’s Building Canada Fund and other sources of funding.

Utility investment matching program: Create a formula for street furniture/features investment. For each item property owners install the city will add agreed upon complementary items/services.

Collaborate with volunteer groups: Developers leave space for planting; City delegates planting programs to volunteer groups; get business owners involved.


Rezoning: introduction of residential space will require this.

The following is an example of ideas to make a working connection between ‘River Point’ and the surrounding farmlands and agricultural properties: Encourage/require gardening boxes at each block. This will facilitate growth of vegetables to interested parties. Vacant planning boxes will need to be maintained by residents/property owners. More ideas can be harvested in community gatherings with city staff.

Forming of a neighborhood board for visitor interaction: the ability to help clients and browsers in finding their needs, requires good coordination between business establishments.

Encourage workshops for cooperation between business owners, neighbors and interested parties: enhancement of the above point.

Negotiate formulas with the Burnaby School District to attract volunteering in the region.

Invest in advertizing of regional/seasonal activities.

Conduct design competitions for bus stops, signage, landscaping and so on.

Reach out to local businesses such as Rona and Canadian Tire for fundraising of capital investments. Their tools and employees can be economically more efficient in forming gardening boxes, sheds and the like. Other businesses can contribute relative to their operations.


Traffic: reduction in car usage within site; increase in use of bikes and public transport; people are seen in various hours of the day. Monitoring can be delegated to volunteers.

Business: businesses opening and remaining in area; space vacancy low

Visual: place looks well maintained, clean; signage useful and decorations in place; people are gathering, using the space, shopping, enjoying.

City: tax revenues compatible with business inventory; subsidies eliminated; debts reduced/eliminated


‘River Point’ has an opportunity to lead the way in urban use of, and connection to agriculture. Based on the local heritage and existing working farmlands a wealth of knowledge and expertise can be tapped. The interaction between urban dwellers and the farming community is utilized in exploring new types of domestic food production.

The location of ‘River Point’ between farmlands of various scales allows a type of interaction that is unique to the neighborhood. Physically making connections between our precinct and its surrounding is one of the ways selected to facilitate this.

Pedestrian bridges, the green belt, planting boxes and public realm are some of the tools to be used in turning the place into a livable and working urban community. The introduction of residences into the development process can be gradual but needs to be an integral part of it.

Files of interest

The following are references with background and inspiring information used for the work on assignments, the eco-planning and the implementation. The descriptions below the images in this page refer to file names.

20080305_Future of Big Bend on the table: A 2008 interview with resident re: the development in ‘River Point’. (Link) 2010_StateOfByrneCreek: A 2010 report by Stream Keepers re: condition of Byrne Creek. (Link) 1st LEED PARKING GARAGE: A six story parking garage in Santa Monica, CA. (Link)
Beautiful Chinese Pedestrian Bridge: Completed in 2009 at the Qingpu district of Shanghai by CA-GROUP, an international architecture and urban planning. (Link) La Closeraie & Tower Flower: Inspiring use of materials on buildings designed by Edouard François from France. (Link) Tynehead Overpass Project: Pedestrian bridge recently completed in Surrey, BC. (Link)
vegswale: Reference information re: swale planting for storm water management. (Link) water_quality6677: valuable information re: water quality of the Fraser River. (Link)


Following are maps and drawings to reference the information above.

Proposed Land Use

Phasing Plan

Main Roads Sections

Master Plan

[1] At the Burnaby Auto Mall, visitors can notice a small and tidy wood boxed vegetable garden. It is maintained by owner Edgar Mark Uhlmann. He understands the city’s need to expand the road but expressed dismay with the way in which it was executed.

Further to the north, among the wrecks of crashed cars and industrial equipment, a mass of planters with a variety of growth forms the entry to Evelyn Burch’s stained glass workshop. She finds the concrete structure for the future Jordans flooring company to be disrespectful of the low rise nature of the neighborhood.

[2] ‘East Fraser Lands’ is a development in Vancouver, West of ‘River Point’, which illustrates the regional context of riverside residential development. A story from the Globe and Mail is attached in the CD (20110527_RelentlesslyResidential.doc)

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