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  #1  
Old Posted Feb 13, 2012, 12:48 AM
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Pac NW Plannergeek Honeymoon | Vancouver 2 of 3: Neighborhoods

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 Neighborhoods

And by "neighborhoods," I really mean most of the peninsula, and a few places adjacent to it. I'm not really sure what the local definition of downtown would be, so forgive me if locals don't agree on where to put Chinatown.

Speaking of Chinatown, let's start there.

I was very impressed. Very authentic and very good urbanistically. Definitely the best of the 3 big PacNW cities. I'm glad Vancouver has some solid 19th Century urbanity to compare and contrast with all the new stuff.













Obligatory arch picture.




Adjacent to Chinatown is Gastown, which is clearly Vancouver's version of a tourist "old town". Interesting that so many cities have this type of place. I also wonder what this area was called before "Gastown," which seems more like a name contrived by the chamber of commerce for the benefit of tourists than anything that evolved naturally.

Anyway, cool place physically, but needs to diversify beyond tchotchke shops.




















All right. Chinatown and Gastown are nice, but it's that newer 20th Century stuff that makes Vancouver unique. So let's get to that. I didn't really know what to expect or where to go, so I found a commercial street perpendicular to Granville and took off northwest into the interior of the peninsula, to the West End.

One of the things I started noticing in the West End that is true of much of Vancouver is the relative lack of midrises. Lots of 2-3 story buildings and lots of high rises, but not a whole lot between. It's a very different model than the European version of midrise urbanity that Portland embraces so much, and that I live with in Washington.

The result is neighborhoods with more air, but that feel less complete to me. Like more of a work in progress.














West End turned out to be filled with bunaglows, decades-old towers-in-the-park, and garden apartments. Apparently the newer stuff tends to happen nearer to the coast, as opposed to the center of the peninsula.






North and east of the West End, along the northern coast of the peninsula, is Coal Harbor. This is the quintessential 21st Century highrise neighborhood I was expecting.
















So what's my opinion of Vancouver's highrise model of urbanism? Actually, I thought it was very, very similar to the newer portions Arlington's Orange line corridor here in the DC area, most particularly the Ballston neighborhood. The architecture is very different of course. Vancouver's is more glassy, and Ballston's towers tend to be chunkier. But the major issues are the same.

At the end of the day, they're both good solid urban places that are hands down better than just about anything built in the latter half of the 20th Century, but they both still have the same weaknesses. Too few buildings per block, with too homogenous architecture, result in streetscapes that are passable, but still inferior to the classic 19th Century urban model of narrower buildings.

I think both Vancouver and Arlington are examples of really strong progress in our civilization's ability to city-build, but also indications that we haven't yet perfected it.

So if what I saw of Coal Harbor was too homogenous, Yaletown is a compelling alternative where those same sort of new towers mix with more older buildings.

This was probably my favorite part of Vancouver. It enjoys all the benefits of the new development that Vancouver is famous for, but has enough other stuff going on that it doesn't suffer as much from the weaknesses.
























I was fascinated by this street, which I think is Hamilton. What looks to have originally been almost an alley has been converted to a commercial street, with a raised sidewalk on one end.










All right. Let's get off the peninsula. I mentioned in the last thread that we walked to Granville Island, so here are a couple pictures from there. Not exactly a neighborhood, but whatever.



Click on the panorama for its full-size version.




We went down to South Main Street to see some stores that wife heard she'd like. We took SkyTrain to King Edward station then walked over to Main, and then north on Main into the Mount Pleasant neighborhood before catching a bus back onto the peninsula.












Great building.






Last stop in the thread: North Vancouver. It looks pretty interesting from downtown Vancouver.






So we took the Seabus over.








These are some serious leaves.




Annnd, the ferry back across.






Part 3, focusing on transportation, coming soon.
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Last edited by Cirrus; Feb 20, 2012 at 4:47 AM.
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  #2  
Old Posted Feb 13, 2012, 12:58 AM
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Great tour, Cirrus. All of the Vancouver threads here are definitely increasing the my awareness and understanding of the city. Perhaps a visit will be in order. How does it feel returning to DC's Chinatown after seeing just about every other city's Chinatown?
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Old Posted Feb 13, 2012, 1:17 AM
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I don't think they can be compared as similar entities. DC's Chinatown isn't really a Chinatown. It's Times Square.
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Old Posted Feb 13, 2012, 1:29 AM
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Sweet pictures!

Just an FYI, Gastown is not a new name created for tourist appeal, it has been referred to as Gastown since the 1870s (along with Moodyville), after "Gassy" Jack Deighton, who essentially established it, and indeed, Vancouver in general.
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Old Posted Feb 13, 2012, 4:10 AM
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Before Vancouver was called Vancouver, it was called Gastown, so yeah, it goes way back.

Nice tour, cirrus. The downtown peninsula packs a decent punch for a couple of days of exploring. It's a shame you missed the Kitsilano neighborhood and some spots out in the eastside (Commercial Drive especially). These burgs are as good or even better than some of the hoods downtown. Next time.
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Old Posted Feb 13, 2012, 4:16 AM
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Nice pictures. Your thoughts on Gastown got me wondering about how the name came about as well. Giallo's explanation is a help.
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Old Posted Feb 13, 2012, 5:43 AM
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Interesting. I assumed it was a reference to gaslamps. Guess not.
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Old Posted Feb 13, 2012, 7:18 AM
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Nice tour. The kind of Portland-style midrise development you found missing downtown can be found in abundance just outside the downtown peninsula, in areas like South Granville and Kitsilano, not to mention the new Olympic Village development, which is entirely midrise.
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Old Posted Feb 13, 2012, 8:50 AM
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Like your photography. Nicely done.
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Old Posted Feb 13, 2012, 3:24 PM
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[QUOTE]I was fascinated by this street, which I think is Hamilton. What looks to have originally been almost an alley has been converted to a commercial street, with a raised sidewalk on one end.
/QUOTE]

Hamilton and Mainland streets consist of old warehouses that have been converted to offices and lofts. The raised sidewalks, I believe, were once rail platforms.
Thanks for the photos, looks like you had some decent weather.
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Old Posted Feb 13, 2012, 9:19 PM
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Kitsilano and the rest of that area along Broadway seem interesting as well as the Peninsula. Some of Vancouver's suburbs seem to be developing along similar lines from what I've heard(Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond).

As a fellow Washingtonian, I can attest to the urbanity of the Orange Line Corridor in Arlington, although I am somewhat underwhelmed by it- it always felt very...unfinished? to me, whereas these photos and others show more of a complete city with land that has been used closer to it's maximum potential. Frankly, though, I find this open, airy model more to my aesthetic liking than, say, Manhattan. Just my two cents, not trying to start a density war here or anything

Great job, and I hope to make it out to the Pacific Northwest myself someday (for pleasure, not to visit dying relatives in a Vancouver hospital).
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Old Posted Feb 14, 2012, 1:56 AM
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A lot of Vancouver's development looks more like a more condensed version of the walkable parts of LA. Nice pics.
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Old Posted Feb 14, 2012, 5:20 AM
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I dig it.
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Old Posted Feb 14, 2012, 6:19 AM
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I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, Cirrus. Moreover, I have to hand it to the homeowner on the right for such a distinctive house:

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Old Posted Feb 14, 2012, 6:47 AM
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^it looks like the house of a 1970's James Bond villain.
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Old Posted Feb 14, 2012, 7:50 PM
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My old hood



Love Pomeria



Had one crazy night at a club in the basement of that building on the right.

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Old Posted Feb 16, 2012, 6:47 AM
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Great job Cirrus, a few of the shots in the beginning are a little reminiscent of Greenwich Village imo.
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Old Posted Feb 16, 2012, 6:55 AM
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Great pics and commentary as always. Looking forward to the transit thread especially.
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Old Posted Feb 16, 2012, 6:11 PM
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nice tour, thorough as expected. not sure how i feel about that red man group sculpture though. at least i hope it's a sculpture ...
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Old Posted Feb 17, 2012, 6:42 AM
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the red men attract a lot of attention - some artist from china

at one time vancouver was called granville
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