People Care

Imagine landing in Vancouver after a visit to a distant place. Is there anything missing here you’ve already seen elsewhere? Even the great things in Vancouver can benefit from fine tuning. How about issues that need fixing?

When Michael Geller invited the audience to share their ideas, his presentation finally delivered on its promise: 12 ideas on how to make Vancouver a healthier, friendlier, more beautiful and creative city. After the presentation, the number of audience members who waited to share their ideas was impressive. The video of the event will let you experience it as it was filmed. Here I will try to extract some of the points that raised my intrigue.


One of the last Mic holders at the question period was a foreign student. He charmingly confessed to riding the Skytrain without paying. He’s been doing that ever since he realized he could. No Skytrain official approaches Japanese looking riders to check their fares. His point was not to brag about fare evasion and definitely not to complain about racism. He would actually like to see in Vancouver systems similar to those he knows from Japan; systems that work.

“The world is a more complex place than we think”, Michael Geller informs us. That “world”, me included since 2002, is coming to BC and Vancouver in a rate higher than local society’s natural growth (Births – Deaths vs Immigration). This city can become better but might find itself sliding the opposite way. It’s not the first time I come out of a local discussion feeling like “Vancouver is a culture, about to be consumed and trashed like any other commodity in our world”.


Although Vancouver is sufficiently welcoming to new insights, it is also notoriously conservative and tied with too many restrictions. It’s not perfect – it’s changing. For some, it’s too much; for others it’s not fast enough. “Act quickly”, Michael urges. This tension between NIMBYism and impatient pressure for change can trash Vancouver. It is no one’s intention but it can certainly  happen.

Do we need to protect ourselves from a looming future or should we find the right mechanisms to improve what we already have? We could strive “to be like ______” (fill in the culture of your choice), but eventually we can work with what we have here. Introducing new ideas, locally sourced as well as imported, is an embraceable (i.e. worthy) challenge.

There’s a difference between seeing and looking, between looking and observing. In my own travels I used to “go to the non-exotic and look for the uncommon”, as Geller has suggested. What’s great about this approach is that you can apply it without even leaving Vancouver. Many of our side streets can be depressingly uninspiring. But as soon as you have an idea that inspires you to do something –  moving quickly should be your priority. Know your tools, be prepared and find the issues you really care about.


As Geller’s entertaining talk approached its conclusion, a layer of whining started to wrap it up. “People care!” I blurted without really knowing what else to say. Initially I was a bit frustrated with the speaker’s delivery. The question period however, was the phase where our gathering truly justified itself.

“The World” is coming to Vancouver to get inspired. Part of it is coming here to stay. In doing so, That World is not only bringing ideas, but making them happen. Let’s open up to that reality and embrace what we already have.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Michael Geller is an architect, planner, real estate consultant and property developer with four decades’ experience in the public, private and institutional sectors. His lecture was performed at the SFU Harbour Centre on April 1 2015.


Step. Pedal. Ride. Planning for change.

After almost-frantically taking notes, I stepped out of Andreas Røhl’s talk at SFU with a mischievous smile: “our Elephant is culture” I was thinking “and our challenge is reaching balance.”

Take off the training wheels

When it comes to issues of leadership for change, there will always be an “Elephant” in the room. Adreas referred to topics that need not be brought up as they tend to clog the discussion. For Copenhagen planners, it seemed unnecessary to talk about Health as a component in the city’s efforts to promote cycling. Instead, they focused on the more tangible benefits like ease of use, access and infrastructure. Of course health for the user is there. But in communications, talking about health is like talking about brushing your teeth: planning is a tedious occupation; don’t bore your audience to death.

Røhl, Copenhagen’s Bicycle Program Manager, is on leave from his current position. He’s joined the team at Urban Systems in their process of consulting the City of Vancouver. His talk – Sticks, Carrots and Tambourines – attracted a massive audience to SFU’s Harbor Center lecture hall. Many points relating to the promotion of bike riding were brought up in the talk. A few short words were presented before Andreas: Brian Patterson represented Urban Systems, one of the evening’s sponsors; Dale Bracewell, Manager, Active Transportation at the City of Vancouver mentioned some points from the city’s perspective. Then a panel made up of Andreas, Dale and two others were seated on stage to elaborate some more following the talk: Erick Villagomez, editor of Spacing Vancouver and  Tania Lo from Momentum Magazine.

It seems to me that North America’s Elephant in the room is Culture. One of Røhl’s slides showed his observation of what discussions about cycling look like in Copenhagen vs in Vancouver (or in more general, North America)

Civil Cycling (Copenhagen): Convenient; Citizenship; Life quality; Mass culture

Militant Cycling (Vancouver): Survival; Sports; Subculture; Rebellion; Critical mass; Environmentalism

Among bikers in any city there will be those who employ this type of cycling or the other. Probably, whether one city is perceived this way or the other, relies on its broader set of values and social habits: in other words, its culture. First we notice aspects of behavior. Then, we tend to describe them in fond words or in mockery. After generalizing we use titles that simplify our discussion. This is the birth of the Elephant. We don’t like others questioning our culture. Some of us don’t want to let go of the car. Others (cyclists in this case) find it hard to grow out of fighting for the cause even after trends have shifted. Andreas Røhl’s message on this was that you can live with more than one means of transportation.

It’s “only” a matter of promoting a culture of change.

The whole talk was compelling. Our City is faced with the challenge of facilitating the change without dictating it. Some of the solutions are common sense: provide infrastructure; invest in programming; listen to the citizens. In Copenhagen there is an underlying history of utilitarian bike riding. This supports their success in reclaiming the roads. Denmark too has seen its lowest usage of bikes in the 1950’s like the rest of the developed world. However, biking never reached the status of subculture as in some other places.

In light of the apparent tension between cyclists and car drivers, be it isolated incidents or ingrained conflict, a balance will be found. We are experiencing a transition from car oriented infrastructure to a more varied and wholesome flow of transportation types. We need to be aware of the Elephant in the room. Whether we talk about it or not, what matters most is what we want of our city. It’s not about biking. It’s about balance in our lives. It’s about our interests and our culture.

Go Society, Go Go Go !

As I am preoccupied with submitting my urban design assignments on schedule, the city is pumped up for the end of the Stanley Cup. My exposure to the games is minimal: Some radio here and there, some comments from my daughter coming back from school and some newspaper. I am astounded by the price people are willing to pay and the amount of people I see walking with Canucks jerseys. I find this drift of individuals into some tribal fusion to be a disturbing degree of dogmatism.

A few weeks ago a group of concerned citizens reversed a Vancouver Council plan to approve construction of the giant casino complex near BC Place stadium. It was an illustration of the strong anti-establishment sentiments that exist in Vancouver; A small victory of creative civic sanity… or not. Even an anti-establishment confrontation entails a waiver of personal identity.

Thinking of my own tribal experience takes me back a few years. Two things I remember from the soccer game my dad took me to: in one of the highlights of the game between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv I heard Dad mutter excitedly: “The referee’s an S.O.B!”; my second memory is from crawling with the crowds to the exit gate: I suddenly feel my crotch wrapping fingers that are not mine.

Jumping an inch forward in the cramped space I can not tell who drew their hand before I had managed to look back. The crotch incident somehow surprised but did not concern me too much. But Dad, this was the first and almost only time since, that I’ve heard him cursing. I never noticed before a special identification in him with the team that we went to see winning. Even though I had feelings of sympathy for Jerusalem they were at odds with my growing recognition that teams change over the years. I prefer a good game, where the best team wins. If “mine” is playing bad why should “we” win?

Urban Design takes the complex tasks associated with planning and construction to shape the optimal response to society’s needs. What is this society? Who are my clients? Is it society or are these the investors and developers? My intellectual soul is not living in holy anger at the corporate culture in which I live.

However, I have many reservations about some of the symptoms of this culture. These are expressed for example in endless marketing phone calls we get during the year, daily junk mail and the choice of so many people in quick and cheap solutions.

The connection I make between the latter and the mobs downtown is perhaps superficial. Famous athletes are for many a symbol of praise-worthy human effort. Fans take the opportunity to connect to a positive public energy and have some ‘good time’. Some even manage to hide in this large crowd. If I do not like sports, if I am not a fan, once I tuck myself into the right jersey, no one will notice me. Does it matter who wins?

Before the first game started tickets for the seventh game were already purchased at record prices. The actual winners are those who control the resources. The crowds are now busy pursuing their thrills. What does it matter who wins? The money finds its place in someone’s pocket anyway.

Various structures in the city sport the investors’ names in recognition of their contribution to its development. The City celebrates wildly with its drunken young people reveling in the action. Urban designers can preach the importance of planning for the community when we are called to play around with the blocks that make up the city. Funding of the construction usually comes from large corporations.

Urban Design is also convenient for the planner who prefers to avoid dealing with the sometimes unpleasant sides of human behavior. But staying in touch with my community is actually crucial to the understanding of what is required of me. My interest is to be part of the process of building and maintaining great cities. Then I can tuck myself into the right jersey and shout “The referee is an S.O.B!”.

Urban Design – Implementation Methods in Brief

Let the Big Box Bend For You

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.

Proposal: develop to become a showcase
‘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. Go to Implementation Methods for details.

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)

Urban Design – Eco-Planning in Brief


Thinking Outside the Big Box

As a region in the process of development (named ‘River Point’ in this paper), the Byrne Road/Marine Way intersection provides an opportunity to assess intermediate results of the approved development plan from 2001.

Proposal: working out the P.A.C.E of commerce.

  • Programming: a good balance in variety of businesses
  • Amenities: Each vehicle that arrives in the region can support many businesses.
  • Coordination: network of business making.
  • Education: take home more than what you came for.

Go to Eco-Planning for details.

Urban Design – Eco-Planning



Thinking Outside the Big Box

15 JUNE 2011

“…Hey Pal! How do I get to town from here?
And he said: Well just take a right where
they’re going to build that new shopping mall,
go straight past where they’re going to put in the freeway,
take a left at what’s going to be the new sports center,
and keep going until you hit the place where
they’re thinking of building that drive-in bank.
You can’t miss it. And I said: This must be the place…”

Big Science, 1982 – Laurie Anderson


“Burnabyis a maturing, increasingly integrated community, which is centrally located within a rapidly growing metropolitan area. Burnaby’s characteristic has shifted from rural to suburban to largely urban. Still, Burnaby’s ratio of park land to residents is one of the highest in North America, and it maintains some agricultural land, particularly along the Fraser foreshore flats in the Big Bendneighbourhood along its southern perimeter.” [Wikipedia:

As a region in the process of development (named ‘River Point’ in this paper), the Byrne Road/Marine Way intersection  provides an opportunity to assess intermediate results of the approved development plan from 2001. The Big Bend, of which this intersection is the main gateway, sits pretty much at the center of theVancouvertoNew Westminstersouthern artery. People come to work here from a variety of municipalities of the lower mainland.

In light of the mentioned plan from 2001 this study attempts to explore ideas based on existing conditions. Monitoring of long term planning and ever changing realities can be seen as a tool for the use of balanced development. Both the community and the environment benefit as a result. Challenges ahead are always an opportunity for breakthroughs.



“The subject mixed-use service commercial precinct is located at the Byrne Roadand Marine Wayintersection, within the Big Bend Development Plan area. This intersection is also Burnaby’s gateway to public amenities in the area including the Riverway Golf Course and the FraserForeshorePark, and to the developing business centres in the Big Bend.”

[Unless otherwise stated, quotes for the Inventory section are all taken from City of Burnaby website.

Topography: Most of the area in discussion is flat and at low elevations. A rise into the residential part ofBurnabystarts at the north tip of the neighborhood.

Soil conditions: A variety of land uses in the area results in various degrees of soil conditions. Perimeters of properties are not always clean and show evidence of dumping and neglect which might only affect visual conditions and not any deeper. The development plan from 2001 describes standards for riparian setbacks and storm water management. New constructions are required to take measures to protect ALRs from related impacts.

Infrastructure: The CN owned railway passes at the south border of River Point. Discussions are already held to assess ways of introducing a rail transit system to the region. Marine Way is a regional artery with congestion challenges. Ways to direct traffic flow into other roads and encourage transit use are considered in the palnning department ofBurnabyand neighboring municipalities.

Contamination: A large portion of the area in discussion has been used as agricultural land with little worry about contamination. Of possible concern would be the gas station on5894 Marine Drive; the Burnaby Auto Mall and the light industry section north of Marine Way, for potential flow of harmful liquids into the soil.

Views: The southern slopes of Burnaby can be seen from most locations. The views from ‘River Point’ into the flat region of the Big Bend are a combination of trees and industrial buildings. Looking into the location from Burnabyone can notice the low rising buildings nestled within a mostly rural setting of farmlands and trees.

“The subject area is located in the flat low lying floodplain of theFraserRiver. Pre-development, the area was bog, covered with lowland shrubs and trees. At the turn of the 20th century, landowners dug a series of ditches to drain the land, and cleared native vegetation, to develop the land for agriculture and industrial development.”

Quality: The decline in fish as mentioned in the documents of Stream Keepers (see ‘Plants, Wildlife’, below) suggests a gradual worsening of water quality in the creek. The source of contamination is believed to be further uphill, possibly theEdmondsprecinct.

‘River Point’ is windy at times. The noise from traffic onMarine WayandByrne Roadis prominent. “The proposed development in theByrne RoadandMarine Waycommercial precinct is primarily car-oriented… It is recognized, …, that automobile use is the primary source of smog and air pollution in the region.”

Plants, Wildlife
“Byrne Creek is a high value salmonid stream, supporting coho salmon, cutthroat trout, and rainbow trout. The Byrne Creek watershed encompasses a significant portion ofBurnaby’s south slope area.”

The vast majority of ‘River Point’ is either paved or built. Most trees and shrubs are of recent planting as part of landscaping in the evolving development. Dense growth of trees exists to the west and north of the area.

On an evening walk a couple of coyotes were seen sneaking around in the built area while various birds were busy jumping and flying between trees and shrubs.

Stream Keepers are a group of volunteers that help maintain the creek through community projects and public education.They also monitor its rejuvenated populations of native fish. From their 2010 report: “Byrne Creek has suffered badly over the last few years. Fish kills due to toxins entering the creek through street drains have been occurring year after year. Numbers of salmon returning to spawn have been steadily declining for five years…. In light of this disturbing, ongoing downward trend in the health of Byrne Creek, we assign a new icon to its overall status.”[Full report can be seen in the StreamKeepers‘ website.]



The designation of this neighbourhood as mixed-use service commercial precinct works well for this busy intersection. Located on land that is mainly composed of highly compressible peat, high density residential development might seem premature considering other residential developments close by to the west. However, it is never too early to plan great cities: the living component of this area needs to be addressed.

Of note should be considered the boundaries of the place: predominantly triangular, it is framed with a creek on one edge, small scale farming on another and agricultural land on the third.

Visits to the site in different times of the day allowed for a growing feeling for its character. These observations form the base for the notes that follow on the way to generating my evaluation.

At its current state, the site possesses some characteristics that point to challenges and opportunities:

  • Massive paved surfaces are prevalent throughout the site. Drainage, vegetation and quality of life could benefit form more permeability at strategic locations.
  • There is no denying that the use of motorized vehicles is likely to continue into the future. This should not contradict an investment in healthy and economical alternatives. The fossil fuel technology could very well be replaced by others. The need to move around outside of the vehicle will still be part of our lives.
  • The requirement from the development plan to maintain or improve fish habitat seems unfulfilled. The causes for habitat conditions though, might be traced elsewhere. ‘River Point’ could show the way to the developments upstream.
  • The large volume of vehicles passing through is an opportunity to turn the site into a destination for more than one activity, be it shopping or business/commerce.
  • Most sites of the region are made of large parking lots, dispersed and single story massive buildings. An alarming small number of benches and other pedestrian oriented features make pedestrian movement feel almost unacceptable.
  • Although the buildings of recent construction look and feel of high quality for their purpose, a strong sense of uniformity exists, resulting in a lackluster sense of place.
  • Marine way practically dissects the area for pedestrians and cyclists into a north region and a south region.
  • The vast majority of the area is flat. Finding the way requires either being familiar with destinations or conducting active searching.
  • Three points form gateways for this location: The most prominent is the crossing of Marine Way and Byrne Road; Next, Marine Drive and Byrne Road; The railway crossing on Byrne Road to the south is the third gateway that leads into the agricultural land and the water edge industrial region of the Big Bend.


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

When asked about the working environment, a local employee expressed contentment with the facilities available on site. This is good news to build upon when trying to make the place even better.

The boundaries of ‘River Point’ possess positive grounds for development as a green belt to serve employees of the area as well as visitors. The Fraser river water edge is a great reference. A quick talk with two frequent visitors, Chrystel Bordas and Jill Godfrey suggests an honest need for pedestrian and cycling improvements.[Refer to Walking and biking for details at ‘Stories of interest’ below.]

Integration of facilities in the form of densification and programming can achieve a significant improvement of the outdoors experience: the need to use cars locally could be reduced; the interaction between people would benefit; more green and revitalization of wildlife habitat will soften the impact of traffic.

Investment in the public realm would address the sense of place. For employees and visitors alike, this is beneficial in generating feelings of ownership and engagement. In turn this can improve commerce as well as safety and maintenance.[Refer to Residents for details at ‘Stories of interest’ below.]

The mass of vehicle traffic is catered for by the existing road infrastructure. Improving movability for pedestrians and cyclists could add volume to the economy of ‘River Point’.

Densification of residential areas opens up urban space for better use and preservation of the outdoors. The same applies for the ‘big box’ concept and parking facilities.

In the long term a residential component within ‘River Point’ will be natural to its business stability and prosperity. Addressing its planning should not be left out of the process.

Balancing life work and play is an effort most people struggle to achieve. ‘River Point’, as a neighbourhood whose residents are primarily employees of its businesses, will make a positive impact by addressing this quest. This can be the P.A.C.E of commerce.

Programming: a good balance in variety of businesses enables clients to have in one visit more than one activity accomplished. In a single trip they consolidate their expenses and the economy of ‘River Point’ improves.

Amenities: time visitors stay in the region is an opportunity for services to address a variety of clients’ needs. For each vehicle that arrives in the region more than one person can support many businesses.

Coordination: communications between establishments will nurture a network of business making that informs all parties involved with available services.

Education: the ability to take home more than what you came for will drive people to come back more often. This in turn can increase the interest of all to take ownership in the health of habitat, quality of life and strength of businesses.

Scorecard: existing development
Only a quick browse of the ‘sustainability scorecard’ is required to summarize its topics. Existing conditions of the site, old and new development demonstrate lack of regard to pedestrian utility and integration into the natural environment. Some notes to demonstrate the statement above:

The vast majority of buildings are big box, single storey spaces.

Distances between buildings are big and crossing the parking lots is an unfriendly affair.

The development plan from 2001 describes this precinct as car oriented.

No public realm of note can be described. Beside the creek there is a paved path though.

Landscaping, although has been applied to the development seems more decorative than part of a layout of public realm.

The north edge of the area has a number of pre-dev single family dwellings. Other than that no residential properties are planned for this region.

Proposal: upgrades and improvements
The recently developed sections of ‘River Point’ were built applying high grade materials, proper drainage, and access for motor vehicles. The single most prominent feature of the site that requires attention is the one that should be easiest to address: the human being. By addressing these needs with attention to the environment a welcome boost to well being as well as business strength is bound to occur. Below are points that this proposal covers.


Pedestrian bridges over strategic points alongMarine Way

Integrate Marine Way into its urban context while taking care of traffic flow

Green walking belt around the site

Use of existing rail tracks for inter urban transit

Outdoors well being

More planting of trees and other plants along sidewalks and buildings

Integrated resting areas and drainage swales in parking lots and other open spaces

Parks with playgrounds and fitness structures

Integrated bike racks and green-scape

Green roofs/planters


Explore options for integrating living space into the various sections of ‘River Point’

Develop a comprehensive signage system to address drivers, bikers and pedestrians.

Integrate additional businesses into big box structures to complement their business

Green roofs and or planters on roofs


Provide a day care facility or facilities dependant on potential needs among employees and future residents.

Setting up of a ‘River Point’ BIA whose roles could include coordination with adjacent farmlands of market fairs, organizing sports activities and collaborations with theBig Bendbusiness district.

Creek Days: activities coordinated with businesses to guide school students around the green belt with focus on revitalization of the creek wildlife habitat and agriculture in urban settings. This could be an opportunity for balanced promotion of the businesses in the area.

Contests and festivals. Many events can have planting and cooking as their focus. Contests bring people together, exchanges of info and commodities facilitate interaction. Bike races.


Phasing of the proposal can be seen in the Phasing Plan in the appendix. About two thirds of the site has already gone through development following the plan from 2001. The last third to be redeveloped should be the new showcase for future updates. The Implementation file discusses this phase in more detail. However, parts of the proposal could be implemented in other locations of the whole site as soon as funding is available.

The Big Bend Crossing as it is currently referred to is pedestrian unfriendly. As a response to the plan from 2001 it has accomplished the execution of car oriented development. Planning urban space is influenced by ever changing circumstances that result in varied levels of success. The first decade of the 21st century has seen a global shift in focus. An urgent need for sensitive use of resources is an opportunity for all to re-think planning as well as ways of living. In this paper I am hoping to point to this direction in my proposals for a revised vision based on the Eco-Planning principles learned in class.

The marine Way andByrne Road intersection is located roughly at the center of the half circle that is theBig Bend. This is the source for the name ‘River Point’. It symbolizes a turning point in the development of the region on its way to a balanced outcome. We have 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 agricultural production without loosing sight of progress in technologies.

This is a proposal for a shift from the Big Box concept to functional densification. It comes to demonstrate the potential of collaboration and integration in the framework of a sustainable living city. What used to be a remote and underused region ofBurnabyhas potential to become the forefront of urban development.

In ‘River Point’ the margins can show the way to the center.