UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Centering the region : the process of place making in Cumberland, BC Paul, Amber C.


Across Canada, residents living in rural communities face an uncertain future. As our natural resources continue to decline and commodity prices remain low, many resource-based industries are closing down their operations. For those communities dependant on extracting or processing these resources, the closing down of the industry can often result in the loss of the economic viability of the town. With little else to support the residents, populations decline and the future of the community is threatened. For those communities determined to retain their residents and find alternative means of employment, making the transition from a resource-based economy to a diversified economy poses a huge challenge. Priorities shift with the growing need for new economic stimuli, which too often results in unmanaged growth that modifies the physical and social structure of the town. Quick development projects unaware of their inherent context threaten the unique character of the community. The village of Cumberland on Vancouver Island is a community facing such a situation. Having recently expanded its borders to incorporate an additional 22 square kilometers of land, Cumberland is suddenly presented with several opportunities for development. One of the development proposals being put forth concerns an area of land surrounding the Cumberland Interchange on the new Island Highway (Highway 19). Due to its strategic position as the entrance/exit point for the entire Comox Valley, the Interchange is considered a priority for development. The fear shared by many of the residents of Cumberland is that the commercial development will translate into large scale "big box" businesses and will negatively impact the image of Cumberland. As such, the challenge for Cumberland is to create a framework in which to guide the development process while preserving its unique local identity. This thesis project addresses this challenge by adopting an intensive methodology incorporating various levels of analysis at a range of scales. The process produced a series of design objectives intended to guide such development, and to stimulate exploration of various design opportunities. The result is an informed design that utilizes the economic potential of the region, enhances local identity and community connections, and provides the village of Cumberland with a socially sustainable vision for growth.

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