Originally Posted by giallo
Vancouver is an odd one. My first thought is to call it a downtown city, but the metro is morphing so quickly in to this multi-nodal, East Asian city-by-design layout, it's hard to say. Things that make a strong downtown by North American standards are being built further and further away from downtown, and while Vancouver has some great neighbourhoods, there aren't a ton of them.
So, regarding this question, I don't really know where Vancouver's strength lies
Vancouver's funny because downtown is easily avoidable; I hardly leave the Broadway corridor, for example, which contains my home, work and places to shop for essentials - and I'm a dyed-in-the-wool urbanite. None of my friends live downtown, either, so I go downtown maybe once or twice a month. Even all the fun stuff that I go out to do isn't downtown: many of the better restaurants and all the microbreweries are away from downtown. In many cases, it feels like downtown caters to people who live downtown.
But, on the other hand, most of the city's identity comes from downtown: glass skyscrapers, the seawall, Stanley Park, etc. There's something uplifting about crossing one of the False Creek bridges and being deposited in a peninsula of skyscrapers.
By contrast, when people think of Toronto or Montreal often they might think of the urban neighbourhoods away from downtown: the Bay and Gable areas with streetcar commercial streets in Toronto, or the triplex with wrought iron staircase neighbourhoods of Montreal. Most people aren't thinking of Main street in Mount Pleasant when they think "Vancouver".