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Why Has 'Vancouverism' Become a Hard Sell in Canada?

Vancouver's remarkable experiment in livable density is the envy of, and model for, cities across the world. So, after a decade of skyline expansion across Canada, why has densification 'lost steam' in the country? Doug Saunders investigates.
February 25, 2013, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"[Vancouver's] combination of high population density in cozy downtown neighbourhoods, intimate street life and popular public transit has become one of Canada’s leading exports: When I visit cities in Europe and the United States, their officials talk earnestly of adopting 'Vancouverism,'" observes Saunders. "To Vancouverize, in the minds of mayors, is to make residents realize that having a crowded, people-packed downtown core is not a problem but a solution. Canadians have known the grim tedium of low-density cities, but now we’re known for the opposite."

Canadian cities are in desperate need of densification to confront the pressing problems of population growth, sprawl, rising housing costs, and funding for quality of life enhancements, he argues. 

"And yet one place where Vancouverism has lost steam is in Canada. Developers tell me that it has become almost impossible during the past three years to get even tasteful mid-rise apartment projects approved in Toronto, as a populist, suburban mayor allows local residents to block anything. Montreal’s blend of corruption and paralysis has prevented much-needed density growth. And even Vancouver, according to one report, still has more than 7,000 surplus parking spaces, and downtown development is now stagnant."

"We lived for six decades with sprawling outskirts and the anomie of parking-lot downtowns," urges Saunders. "Now that we’re famous for inventing an alternative, it’s time to embrace it."

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Published on Saturday, February 23, 2013 in The Globe and Mail
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