Vancouver Urbanism in the Suburbs

In suburban Vancouver, a small development near a university is trying to replicate the successes of Vancouver's urbanism with dense building clusters and walkable neighborhoods.
October 30, 2010, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
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Grist's Jonathan Hiskes takes a tour.

"Up close, the neighborhood of 3,000 (so far) isn't fortress-like at all. The building cluster includes a variety of forms -- condo towers ranging from four stories to a planned 20-story tower at the highest point, single-family townhomes, and rental units above streetfront shops. First-floor dwellings have front doors and small yards rather than impersonal facades. Narrow streets slow down traffic. This being the Pacific Northwest, greenery sprouts from every soil patch and crevice in sight. Beautifully designed walkways and playgrounds give the sense that, rather than forgoing a suburban backyard, residents get an expansive, intricate yard to share.

The project has a slew of smart energy and water-management features (to protect nearby salmon-bearing streams), but one accomplishment jumps out: By centering the neighborhood around outdoor spaces, an elementary school, and two daycare centers, planners have attracted more families with children than the regional average. That might be the most important story UniverCity has to tell, given the pervasive belief (at least in the U.S.) that urban neighborhoods are no place to raise kids."

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Published on Thursday, October 28, 2010 in Grist
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