Efforts to reinvent the Heights District in central Vancouver call to mind a proverb from ancient Greece: “Big results require big ambitions.”
As city officials move forward on plans to redevelop 205 acres anchored by the former Tower Mall site, the scope of the project can obscure the basic reasoning behind it: To reimagine a portion of the city that long has been neglected.
In so doing, officials are wise to take a holistic approach to the endeavor by including affordable housing, walking and biking paths, parks and retail spaces. But they also must be cognizant of concerns from local residents and must effectively address traffic and parking issues.
The basics of the preliminary designs are impressive. As explained by Columbian reporter Carlos Fuentes: “The project will bring hundreds of residential units and commercial spaces to the area, and the city is making sure it will create housing and economic opportunity for low-income families and small-business owners.”
The idea is to create a “20-minute community,” which the city of Vancouver website describes as an area “where residents can walk, bike or take transit to meet their daily needs.” In other words, there will be easily accessible space for pharmacies, medical offices, dry cleaners, coffee shops, parks and other amenities that help define a community.
Desires to reduce vehicle traffic have helped promote the idea of 20-minute communities in cities throughout the world. One reason is the demonstrably negative effects of gasoline-powered cars; if somebody can walk five minutes to a pharmacy rather than driving 20 minutes to one, that is better for the environment — and for their health. Another motivation is to reduce congestion in urban areas and ease the paths of travel. And still another is to enhance the feeling of community that comes with neighborhood businesses, promoting