Southeast False Creek’s waterfront and parks have been awarded the 2013 Urban Open Space Award by the internationally renowned Urban Land Institute (ULI).
The annual award is given to large urban spaces that celebrate and promote vibrant, successful open spaces that have become a public destination and enriched and revitalized its surrounding community. This has been decades in the making ever since the decision was made to develop the formerly decrepit industrial lands that are now known as the Olympic Village and surrounding area aka Southeast False Creek.
What was once an industrialized 79-acre waterfront site, the parks and waterfront at Southeast False Creek articulate the public realm for Vancouver’s premier sustainable neighborhood.
Through the introduction of restored natural environments into a highly urban community, the project exemplifies a new green infrastructure–based approach to creation of the public realm. The open spaces include Hinge Park, Habitat Island, a 650-meter-long (2,132 feet) continuous waterfront park, and neighbourhood streets.
The site rescues, repurposes, and reimagines elements of this industrial past to compose a new identity.
The waterfront itself anchors the residential neighbourhood of Southeast False Creek. Upon selection of Vancouver as host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the development was turned over to serve as the Olympic Village and was returned to the City after the event. The Olympic Games facilitated a short timeline for development of the park without requiring significant alterations to the original design or to the long-term vision for it as a pivotal community catalyst.
Stormwater treatment is integrated into the development. On the east side of the Olympic Village, East Park mixes an outdoor space for residents with bioswales—wide, shallow ditches, planted with greenery, that remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. This landscape feature is fully visible and serves as a main feature in some of the children’s play areas.
The waterfront, which is continuously used by cyclists and joggers, features separated bike and pedestrian routes that connect people to the water’s edge. Hinge Park has a wetland where great blue herons and ducks can be seen. Habitat Island is a great spot for birdwatching or a picnic, and the streets place pedestrians and cyclists on the top of the vehicular food chain.
People and environmental restoration are at the forefront of this foreshore development, which has demonstrated that innovative green infrastructure and a dense population can work together to build and strengthen community ties and a sense of place.
Source: Urban Land Institute
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