“Every city is allowed one”? Creating waterfront suburbias in the Vancouver region


  • Annika Airas Simon Fraser University


Suburbs, Waterfront, Redevelopment, narrative, Vancouver, Port Moody, Front de mer, Banlieue


Waterfront redevelopment in the Vancouver region, Canada, is occurring rapidly. While downtown waterfront redevelopments have long offered planning examples for global audiences, they also set reference points for post-industrial redevelopment regionally. Currently, competing land uses are generating an extremely contentious regional urban development setting. This paper uses a novel narrative approach and uniquely joins insights from suburban and waterfront studies to consider narratives that fuel ongoing regional suburban waterfront redevelopment. The paper first contextualizes suburban waterfront change in the Vancouver region, then analyzes a recent case, identifying four narratives that help justify waterfront transformation. The paper demonstrates how a few strategic plot lines can become powerful in generating waterfront development, thereby threatening stated planning goals for sustainability and affordability, among others. Such narratives also showcase signs of short-term thinking, as suburban cities appear to be “allowed one” waterfront development, a trajectory which can override planning commitments for sustainable urban futures.