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  #1  
Old Posted Feb 9, 2012, 6:28 PM
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Pac NW Plannergeek Honeymoon | Vancouver 1 of 3: Downtown

Pac NW Plannergeek Honeymoon
Seattle: Observation Deck Aerials | Downtown | Neighborhoods | Transportation
Portland: Downtown & Skyline | Neighborhoods | Transportation
Vancouver: Downtown | Neighborhoods | Transportation
Bonus Thread: Loose pictures of the Cascades, Tacoma, and elsewhere

Vancouver Downtown

I got married in October, to a girl who shares my urban geekery. Since neither of us had
been to the Pacific Northwest before, we decided to honeymoon in Seattle, Portland and
Vancouver. My pictures from Seattle and Portland were posted in November and December.
Vancouver is coming now. I overdosed on picture sorting a little and needed a break.

Let's start with a couple of panoramas. Our hotel was right at the foot of Granville Bridge, so one
evening we decided to walk across it to Granville Island. That was a terrible idea, because
the bridge is much longer than the distance from our hotel to the island. We took a taxi back.
The one positive was the awesome view.

Scroll--------->



And here's the view from the hotel roof:

Scroll--------->



Granville Street:




You have *got* to dig the neon.




A couple more from the bridge before we move on:






OK. Our first morning in town the first thing we did was walk the length of
Granville Street, from our hotel to downtown.




One of the things that had struck me about Seattle and Portland was how Seattle
felt like such a big city, and Portland felt like such a smaller one. Walking down
Granville Street I was immediately struck that Vancouver feels very much in between.
It feels like a more beautiful and more urban version of Denver to me.

The Denver comparison especially rung true along Granville. Denver's main downtown
spine of 16th Street is a similar scale and length, and is also a transit mall.





White balance fail, but I like the view. /shrug/










Leaves on a wet glass awning is probably a cliche view. But it's pretty.




Love this building:






Obviously at this point I'm getting more into the middle of downtown.




Great-looking storefront.




Love this building too.










I was very surprised to wander onto an urban Costco. Never seen that before.












I am a fan of the urban stairway, especially those that are wide and solid enough
to function as public spaces. It's too bad this one is so ugly.






Love the library. I think it's much better than Seattle's.










Caryatids. Naked ladies on architecture = win.




I think the main fault with modern architecture is that it's too bare. I want
ornament on my buildings. But I'm not necessarily a historicist. I like experiments
with contemporary ornament too. And so I like this building.






Later that day, after dark, we walked back up Granville to the hotel.




Obviously I had a lot of fun with all the neon.














See you in part 2!
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Last edited by Cirrus; Feb 20, 2012 at 4:48 AM.
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  #2  
Old Posted Feb 9, 2012, 6:49 PM
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^Great shots and I agree that Granville is quite similar to Denver's 16th St Mall except that its far better utilized retail-wise and in the street-front building presence.
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  #3  
Old Posted Feb 9, 2012, 7:33 PM
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I personally can't see how Vancouver can seem like a "smaller city" than Seattle when I look at them through forumer's photo threads. Maybe when you are there in person it seems different. Not to dis Seattle it is great but it just doesn't seem to have as extensive of an urban footprint.
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Old Posted Feb 9, 2012, 8:20 PM
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I've really enjoyed your threads. Very nice photography and really informative.
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  #5  
Old Posted Feb 9, 2012, 9:57 PM
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Nice photos. Granville is great but it's just the party street and not a great representative of downtown as a whole. Hope you went west a bit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mello View Post
I personally can't see how Vancouver can seem like a "smaller city" than Seattle when I look at them through forumer's photo threads. Maybe when you are there in person it seems different. Not to dis Seattle it is great but it just doesn't seem to have as extensive of an urban footprint.
As someone who's in both cities frequently, Seattle seems bigger only in that it has endless sprawl in every direction. Seattle's downtown energy can't compare to Vancouver's - especially after sunset.
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Old Posted Feb 9, 2012, 11:04 PM
novaCJ novaCJ is offline
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Great photos!
While I don't entirely share your views on modernism, I have to agree, that building looks fantastic, as does the rest of the city- from the pictures I've seen, Vancouver pulls off the modernist look quite well.(Stepping off my soapbox now)
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 5:15 AM
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Agreed on the library.
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  #8  
Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 6:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pinion View Post
As someone who's in both cities frequently, Seattle seems bigger only in that it has endless sprawl in every direction. Seattle's downtown energy can't compare to Vancouver's - especially after sunset.
Right but I don't think Cirrus flew cross country to honeymoon in the burbs of the Northwest's fine cities so I'm assuming his comparisons were of the cores of each metro.
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 7:41 AM
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^ a good comparison would be that Seattle feels bigger than Vancouver in the same way LA feels bigger than Chicago.
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  #10  
Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 8:06 AM
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I agree with many of these points, but there is one way (besides sprawl) that makes Seattle feel "bigger" to me: the simple fact that it has several very tall skyscrapers downtown. Vancouver is only just starting to get over some of its seriously restrictive height limits, so many of its highrises can seem rather rinky-dink by comparison to Seattle's. While the height of a few towers is hardly a describer of "bigness" or even "urbanity", it does make Seattle feel more "big city" in certain ways to me. Especially since these towers are office towers, and so many of Vancouver's are condos. That being said, I would take Vancouver's forest of mid-sized highrises any day over a few very talls ones and a lot of sprawl everywhere else. I just wish we could work some more on getting over our height limits.
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 9:28 AM
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Model city. LA could learn a thing or two from Vancouver.
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 4:10 PM
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Not to turn this in to a versus thread, but I'll defend the statement:

Vancouver has undeniably more residential towers than Seattle, but that isn't the lone determining factor of "big cityness" any more than height of a city's tallest commercial tower is. And in many other factors, Seattle is undeniably a bigger city. Here's an easy one: Amount of office space in the inner city (info source):
  • Central Seattle (downtown and adjacent neighborhoods) has just shy of 50 million square feet of office space.
  • Central Vancouver, including the Broadway corridor, has 26 million square feet of office space.
  • The entire Vancouver metro area has about 43 million square feet.
So downtown Seattle has twice as much office space as downtown Vancouver, and more than the entire Vancouver region including all its suburbs. It isn't just that Seattle has a couple of taller skyscrapers; it's that the scale of office development in Seattle is off the chart compared to Vancouver. And that doesn't even include Seattle's suburbs (which have another 45 million square feet or so). Because of this, it wouldn't surprise me at all if downtown Seattle has a larger daytime population than downtown Vancouver, even if Vancouver may have many more people at night.

Of course, office square footage isn't the sole determining factor either. But the point is, central Seattle can lay claim to being bigger than central Vancouver in a number of ways.

Here's another interesting comparison: The central part of both cities shown at the same scale. And for added reference, I've pasted Vancouver's central peninsula (minus Stanley Park) on top of downtown Seattle, and then colored it red. To me, the urban part of Seattle (nevermind the suburbs) feels quite a lot larger than the urban part of Vancouver, even if the urban part of Vancouver is denser. Of course the peninsula isn't all there is to urban Vancouver, but it a psychological barrier if nothing else, and it is quite small.

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Last edited by Cirrus; Feb 10, 2012 at 4:22 PM.
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 5:42 PM
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About time Cirrus!

I'm surprised you had so little to say about the residential form/architecture. I'll assume that's coming in Parts 2 and 3?

That Costco is something else. I also recall being surprised to stumble across it.

I would agree that Seattle feels like the "bigger" city. But if this makes sense at all, Vancouver's core felt more "urban." Sort of the same way a lot of cities in Europe that you know are actually small feel big. Vancouver, even moreso than Portland, actually feels like it's punching above its weight (which I love). Seattle feels about like what it is (which is also great, don't get me wrong).
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 6:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bunt_q View Post
I'm surprised you had so little to say about the residential form/architecture. I'll assume that's coming in Parts 2 and 3?
Yes.
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 6:55 PM
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I find it amazing that downtown Seattle has 50 million sq. feet of office space and San Diego which is basically the same sized metro area doesn't even have 20 million square feet downtown. 50 mill seems like quite a lot for Seattle, their skyline is big but doesn't seem that big.
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 7:15 PM
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In fairness, the office counts are apples and oranges. Seattle's economy has a large office sector, and that's centralized in/around Downtown and a couple reasonably close Eastside core districts (Downtown Bellevue and the Redmond-Microsoft area), and there's no doubt it has more office than Vancouver. But the ratio between cities is probably closer to the metro population ratio.

Vancouver sustains highrise over a much larger area, and mixes housing and commercial to achieve great 18-hour+ activity. Seattle has a denser peak, and also manages decent though non-flashy density in many areas with six-story buildings, though that trend is still in its adolescence. On the edges, Vancouver has grown in a denser format for decades. Either can be called "bigger feeling" than the other depending on opinion.
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 7:27 PM
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^^^ Mhays, does 50 million square feet sound right to you? I've heard downtown Denver has about 27 million square feet. I find it hard to believe that Seattle has double the space of Denver's CBD. I'm not saying that Cirrus's numbers are wrong but maybe what constitutes "downtown" is not a proper comparison.
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 7:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhays View Post
In fairness, the office counts are apples and oranges. Seattle's economy has a large office sector, and that's centralized in/around Downtown and a couple reasonably close Eastside core districts (Downtown Bellevue and the Redmond-Microsoft area), and there's no doubt it has more office than Vancouver. But the ratio between cities is probably closer to the metro population ratio.

Vancouver sustains highrise over a much larger area, and mixes housing and commercial to achieve great 18-hour+ activity. Seattle has a denser peak, and also manages decent though non-flashy density in many areas with six-story buildings, though that trend is still in its adolescence. On the edges, Vancouver has grown in a denser format for decades. Either can be called "bigger feeling" than the other depending on opinion.
For me, Vancouver and Seattle have always felt nearly identical in "big city" feel. One major component that makes Metro Vancouver feel larger to me, is our transit system. Vancouver has just started to construct our 4th fully grade separated metro line, while Seattle only has one semi-grad separated line. On the other hand, Seattle's freeway system makes it feel larger (although Vancouver is now doing major highway projects in the burbs) Metro-Vancouver has a series of massive port facilities larger than Seattle's, but then Seattle has a larger office market. I could go on...

Great pics by the way, but you missed a lot of downtown! I hope you did make it to the Burrard Stations area, Coal Harbour and of course English Bay!.
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 7:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mello View Post
^^^ Mhays, does 50 million square feet sound right to you? I've heard downtown Denver has about 27 million square feet. I find it hard to believe that Seattle has double the space of Denver's CBD. I'm not saying that Cirrus's numbers are wrong but maybe what constitutes "downtown" is not a proper comparison.
Go to the link I included as my source. It shows you the geography. Also, I'm not just talking about downtown. I'm including all the near-to-downtown neighborhoods that are predominantly urban. Not Belleview or Redmond or Tacoma, though. Only things within the City of Seattle.

For the record: I have lived in Denver, and I definitely believe the numbers. Seattle feels *way* bigger.
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2012, 8:00 PM
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Not to sidetrack, but Denver CBD is around 33 million SF. There's another 5 million SF or so on the fringe of downtown ("midtown" submarket) that is typically separated out. Either way, Seattle is significantly bigger. The fact that they also retained much more of their downtown retail, and are ahead of Denver on downtown/downtown-adjacent residential, also helps. The dearth of downtown retail really hurts Denver's downtown "bigness" feel as compared to any of the Pac NW cities.
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