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UBC Graduate Research

Designing an Ecological Experience: Lessons and Recommendations for the Helmcken/Comox Greenway O'Neill, Maureen D.


This project aims to operationalize a more holistic definition of the urban greenway using principles and strategies for greenway design from urban design and landscape architecture literature. The theories of placemaking, great streets, and ecoliteracy through ecological design are reviewed. A selection of best practices demonstrates lessons for greenway design and yield a set of strategies for application to distinctive conditions in Vancouver. In combination with a comprehensive urban analysis of the study area, the strategies guide a set of conceptual designs for the Helmcken/Comox section of the Central Valley Greenway in Vancouver. The urban greenway is defined as a naturalized alternative transportation route for environmental education and connection to ecological, recreational, historical, and cultural amenities. It is argued that urban greenways have the potential for engaging citizens and visitors in a grand urban ecological connoisseurship through their function, location, and design. Ten principles for greenway design address three key urban design theories: Placemaking, Great Streets, and Ecoliteracy through Ecological Design. A series of strategies, developed from eight reference cases, aim to put the principles into practice. The principles and strategies are tested on two sites along the Helmcken/Comox corridor in Downtown Vancouver, BC. This corridor is the proposed extension of the Central Valley Greenway, a regional route currently being designed. An urban analysis of the proposed route illustrates some of the constraints and opportunities to design. The resulting design alternatives proposed in this report demonstrate that the principles and strategies can be applied to create a great greenway that is safe, functional, and imageable. Further, the designs illustrate that there is incredible variety in application: bike boulevards, community gardens, traffic calming, and street realignment are some of the possibilities. Recommendations to TransLink and the City of Vancouver suggest that there is an opportunity to pioneer a greenway design that challenges the status quo. It is recommended that the planning agencies develop a phasing plan that prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists in the short-term and creates a greenway that can foster knowledge, meaning, and value of the urban landscape over the long-term. The Helmcken/Comox Greenway can connect neighbourhoods, workplaces, Stanley Park, and the Central Valley Greenway in a meaningful and memorable way, while providing a means for healthy exercise and contributing to mode shift.

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