Approval of Concord’s 5BW rezoning clears way for final push on Creekside Park extension

False Creek residents anxious to see completion of the Creekside park extension on the north side of False Creek can count on a critical council decision by this time next year, in the wake of last night’s council approval of Concord Pacific’s rezoning proposal for Area 5BW.

That’s when city staff will report back with final recommendations regarding the future of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts, including final configuration of a park with and without the Viaducts.

If council decides to replace the Viaducts with a new road system and a ramp to Georgia St.,  the community will see a much larger park than originally planned, with better connections to surrounding neighbourhoods and new housing possibilities on Main St.

Leave the Viaducts the way they are, and final park design can be completed according to the current street plan — at a smaller size. Either way, thanks to amendments to last night’s rezoning recommendations, council will have all the park options in front of it.

That direction and comments from Peter Webb, Concord’s senior vice-president of planning, left city planning manager Brian Jackson “very encouraged” that the way to the park is getting clearer, especially  given Webb’s suggestion that planning and construction of at least part of the park could begin before complete development of Area 6C, the last remaining undeveloped Concord land between Plaza of Nations and Creekside.

(Jackson’s presentation included this graphic history of the Concord lands development.)

These developments and more emerged at the end of two days of hearings into Concord’s 5BW proposal on the northwest end of the Cambie Bridge, many blocks from the park and the proposed new dragon-boating centre that dominated the discussion.

Why doesn’t the city simply order Concord to deliver the park, as some have demanded? The exchanges at the end of last night’s hearing provided more insights for those who were there. (I reproduced much of the staff background on this issue in an earlier post here.)

  • the wording of the official development plan for the Concord lands sets the trigger for park delivery as development of Area 6C. With 5BW approved, it is the next and final piece of the 24-year Expo lands development. Now work can focus there.
  • Area 6C contains contaminated soil which cannot be moved from the Expo lands. They must be stored under the surface of the future park. Build the park before Area 6C is developed and the contaminated soil would have to be dumped on top of the completed park. Replacement of the Viaducts could increase park space, reducing soil disturbance and costs to the province, which is responsible for remediation costs.
  • Finalization of any plan requires provincial buy-in because the province will pay the cost of handling contaminated soil. Achieving that agreement requires a final proposal on park configuration. Work  will proceed on that aspect in the coming months.
  • Once the final design is known, Webb suggested, it may be possible to construct part of the park before completion of the Area 6C development because some area may not be required for soil storage.

All this means a clear way ahead should be available to council 12 months from now. The only new and complicating factor: Jackson warned that staff has been preoccupied by a new lawsuit targetting the city and Concord brought by the group seeking early park delivery.