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Downtown Vancouver 

Vancouver is emerging as one of America's greatest river cities!


Esther Short Park Redevelopment

According to local lore, it allegedly began in 1997 when Mayor Royce Pollard was pushed by an angry transient who told him to 'get out of the park'.  If you know Royce, you can only imagine how that went! 

And so ushered in the era of reclaiming Vancouver's downtown for the public.  Esther Short Park is the oldest public square in the Northwest and is now the shining gem in the rejuvenated Vancouver urban center.  It's four square blocks have been completely refurbished and feature a farmer's market in the summer as well as over 30 concerts a year in the park.  

Within ten years hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the adjacent blocks surrounding the square.  The Vancouver Center, Heritage Place Condos, Esther Short Commons, The  Hilton Convention Center and The Columbian Newspaper Buildings have all sprouted  up around the park.  The city has plans for a large project on the North East corner of the park for a performing arts center and two high rise mixed use buildings.  Love him or hate him, Mayor Pollard has done a fantastic job overseeing the redevelopment of the downtown area.  I disagree with him on some issues but we could not have asked for a better guy for this job.  Vancouver is truly blessed to have this kind of  money rolling into the city.  All told you will read about projects that are very likely to see  completion that total in excess of one billion dollars over the next three to four years.  Wow.

The aerial photos here show Esther Short Park and the surrounding area. The Columbian Building which opened this year and the proposed performing arts complex with mixed use high rises.  Just ten years ago this 4 block park was a destitute wasteland filled with transients, hookers and drug dealers.  Nothing like half a billion dollars to clean up the neighborhood!

With the economy in recession some of the projects have been put on hold for a year or two.  Most of the Esther Short area projects have already been completed.  The 4th tower in the Vancouver Center is on hold for the time being.

This fantastic restoration of a formerly dilapidated area shows that local government can actually get it right from time to time.  Kudos, Mr. Mayor! 


Vancouver Waterfront Redevelopment

Just recently the former site of Boise Cascade's paper plant on the Vancouver waterfront was purchased and the old buildings were razed.  A local development company has the plans laid out and hundreds of millions of dollars are already committed to this very ambitious waterfront redevelopment.  If not for Mayor Pollard and the city council's stunning success with the Esther Short Park area you might be skeptical about a mid sized city pulling off a project of this scope.  

Why is this waterfront such a big deal?  I'll tell you why.  Our big city neighbors in Portland would give their first borns for an opportunity to have an urban downtown waterfront on the mightiest river in the west, The Columbia.  Portland has done a great job revitalizing it's core areas including the Pearl District and the South Waterfront (although the South Waterfront includes some knuckehead things  like the gazillion dollar tram to OHSU, but that's another web page :)).  The problem for them is that their downtown area is on the Willamette River which is nothing more than a typical river you could find in 'Anycity USA'.  Portland features fourteen bridges that span that river and a more impressive skyline than Vancouver will ever have, but their side of the Columbia River is mostly industrial, including the Airport and several of the  terminals for the port.  

For those of you outside the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia River is second only to the Mississippi River in terms of water volume and is the third longest (over 1200 miles) river in America behind the Mississippi/Missouri and The Yukon.  This river at Vancouver is still 110 miles from it's mouth at the Pacific Ocean and it is nearly a mile wide.  It is nearly two miles wide at I-205 and over 9 miles wide near the mouth at Astoria!  The  Mississippi River by contrast is only about 1/2 mile wide at Baton Rouge which is roughly the same distance to the mouth at the Gulf of Mexico.  This powerful river carved the magnificent gorge through the Cascade Mountains. 

The city will be faced with some issues including how to deal with the BNSF railroad which runs two East Bound sets of tracks on an elevated berm between Downtown and the waterfront.  What ever they choose to do with the railroad, they will also have to co-ordinate this development with the new I-5 bridge crossing that is still under controversial project design phase.  See Columbia River Crossing page.   In the end this project will be quite fantastic and will open up Vancouver's downtown waterfront for the first time since WWII. It will likely leave Portland even more "green", this time green with envy.


Other Downtown Redevelopment Projects

Vancouver's awesome emergence as a serious city are not limited to the waterfront and the park.  Other ambitious projects are underway or planned as well.  The last of the old car dealerships (formerly Bill Copps now Carr) downtown has relocated to the Auto Mall area.  This will make way for the Riverwest project that will include a new home for the main branch of the Fort Vancouver Library system and offer high rise mixed use buildings as well.  The city is moving to redevelop the "entrance" to the city from I-5 between Downtown and Uptown Village.  This area which is Mill Plain Blvd east bound and 15th Street west bound will feature two new mid rise office buildings to replace the old Denny's restaurant at 400 Mill Plain.  I hope we keep the Burgerville there across the street.  That is the classic drive-in style burger joint of yesteryear.  The Luxe is another mid rise project going in the North Downtown area as well.  The old Vancouver Police Headquarters has been bought and is going to be replaced with the Luxe project.  

The city is working on making the Main Street corridor shopper friendly by converting to two way traffic.  I like this idea for Main Street.  The city also wants to convert C Street and Washington Street to two way traffic.  This is a TERRIBLE idea.  These two streets provide rapid traffic flow north and south for downtown.  As the downtown expands, the city will wish it had the high capacity of three lanes of one way traffic on those two streets.  Are you listening city planners?  Leave Washington and C Streets alone.

By 2012 Downtown Vancouver will have a thriving and bustling city core that draws in people from the suburbs and buzzes with locals living in the city.  We have already begun to see the positive effects of this brilliant revitalization effort. 

Come hang out in Esther Short Park and watch this city come alive!


All images on this page were pulled from the public domain on 3/26/08 and are the property of their makers or publishers.  

Microsoft Virtual Earth aerial images and City of Vancouver public domain for site drawings.

Other images are under the copyright of Rod Sager, 2008


Copyright, 1994-2008, Rod Sager, Evergreen Online Enterprises, all rights reserved.   Vancouver, Washington, USA

("Downtown" - Petula Clark, Album "Downtown" 1964 Warner Brothers Records)