April 24, 2006

Vancouver Heritage Commission boots Gastown stadium proposal

The Whitecaps' proposal to build a new soccer stadium received a red card from the Vancouver Heritage Commission today. The VHC declared it "detrimental" to the heritage values of Gastown on Monday afternoon.

The decision, while not binding, is one of several negative responses from advisory commissions who report to Vancouver's city council.

The football club wants to build a 15 000-seat stadium over the railyard between Granville Square and Cambie Street. It would have to be built 10 metres above the tracks creating what some fear would be a giant wall on the northern edge of Gastown.

Commissioner Cheryl Cooper said, "It flies completely in the face of what the Heritage Commission has been trying to achieve in Gastown and would disrupt the neighbourhood and the quality of life."

VHC member James Burton said, "It would obliterate what you see from the water."

Another member, Cam Cathcart, said the scale of the project "appalls me."

But not all the members agreed. City councillor Suzanne Anton voted against the motion and argued the project would have positive economic benefits and would address the loss of the demolished Empire Stadium. She said, "Cities need their stadiums."

Anton also added she had to consider more factors than the stadium's impact on the heritage value of Gastown.

Team owner Greg Kerfoot, who was not present, bought the land for approximately $17 million but Canadian Pacific keeps a right of way to marshall trains.

Cathcart added he wished Kerfoot had consulted the commission before purchasing the land. He said while he supports a new stadium, "This is not the place for it."

The commission emphasized development is possible but it would have to respect the historical context of the area.

The area is made up of a grid of streets with a fine grain of narrow lots and small store fronts. They saw the project as out of scale with Gastown.

Cooper also cited Gastown's recent success in attracting residents to the area as a proven strategy. Also, a new stadium would cut off Gastown from its historic relationship to the waterfront.

Upon hearing the news of the decision, Jon Stovell, spokeperson for the Gastown Neighbourhood Coalition, said, "That's pretty interesting news...Good. We don't want a waterfront big box."

For more info visit the Whitecaps submission to the City of Vancouver.


  1. Exactly how would the stadium cut off gastown from its historical relationship with the waterfront? at the moment you cannot sit on any beach to watch a sundown. you cannot stroll along its shores. you cannot even see the waterfront. give me break. the stadium will actually reclaim the waterfront from those ugly train tracks.

  2. Hi Dave:

    Not all connections to the waterfront are about watching sunsets. Working waterfronts could be in the future of Gastown.

    Strolling along its shores could be in the future especially, as the consultant engaged by Vancouver recommended to the city, an overall development plan is developed for the Central Waterfront District.

    Overbuiding a stadium on top of tracks that may not be there in 25 or 50 years would be a mistake. Urban design isn't measured in weeks, months or years, but decades. A stadium seven metres in the air would be bad for both Gastown and the Whitecaps if somewhere down the line Cambie Street and all the others ran right to the water's edge.

    With an overall review and design effort, with all the partners in the area involved, there would be a more dynamic and better placement for the stadium. For example. What would happen if the tracks were moved at a 9 degree turn (allowable turn for a train marshalling purposes) from Main Street pushing the rail yards further north. A canal or channel could bring water right to Gastown.

    By giving Gastown back its waterfront, the area immediately north may have fewer obligations to defer to the heritage values of Gastown. This is just one possibility.

    Multiple partners by need will work together. It can happen hear to soccer lovers and Gastown proponents.