UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Residence on the margin of the central business district : a case study of apartment development in the west end of Vancouver, B.C. McAfee, Rosemary Ann Pickard


The growth in numbers of large apartment buildings adjacent to the urban core in the period 1955 - 1965 provides striking evidence of a recent change in urban residential structure. Several hypotheses have been advanced in this thesis and tested in the West End of Vancouver, British Columbia. The research indicates a close correlation between recent high-rise construction and the increasing numbers of persons, in both relative and absolute terms, who form small household units and have few family responsibilities. Such persons are either young adults or elderly retired individuals. In either case the common requirements of a small dwelling unit and available out-of-home activities are noted. The adjacent location of the Central Business District appears critical to the siting of a concentration of high-rise apartment buildings. Both reasons given by West End apartment dwellers for their residence within the West End and their recorded activity patterns indicate the strong drawing force of the Central Business District employment, shopping, entertainment and recreation services. Indeed, daily activity patterns of the West End apartment dweller indicate few connections outside the West End - Central Business area. Thesis research indicates that periods of apartment growth appear closely related to government legislation, new techniques in construction and to available capital. Three theories proposed in previous investigations of central residential areas are negated by thesis research: 1). Public redevelopment schemes have not initiated West End apartment construction. Private developers have seen the market for middle-income residences adjacent to the core and have exploited it without public redevelopment capital being necessary. 2). High-rise construction does not necessarily involve an increase in population density adjacent to the core. Within the limited area of the West End different regional demographic patterns are noted. Regions of previously existing high-density converted buildings have not experienced major increments in the total population as apartments replace earlier multi-family dwellings. The only areas to show appreciable gains were those in which apartments replaced earlier single family homes. Clearly population growth is related to past land use rather than to only recent apartment construction. 3). Apartment residents were noted to be persons who had lived, at least for the previous fifteen years, in central city locations. Few were returnees from suburbia, as indicated by previous authors. Data for this thesis was drawn from three sources: existing literature on urban residential locations, questionnaire study of West End apartment residents, and from apartment developers. Based upon this study of inner-city residences, several inferences have been drawn that relate both to future West End development and to urban residential theory. Within the West End, apartments locate adjacent to the maximum number of amenities. The lack of views and adjacent park areas in the central region of the West End have discouraged private high-rise investment. Some alternate land use, possibly town-house or senior citizen projects, could be instituted to revitalize the central area. Two models of inner-city residences are presented. One defines the characteristics of the inner-city high-rise dweller, the other, the sequent occupance of the area. Three stages of inner-city residential growth are noted: a period of upper and middle-income single family home settlement; conversion of single family homes into multi-family dwellings for all income levels; private redevelopment of the area for middle-income oriented apartments. The forces influencing this change were urban core location and expansion, transportation changes, available land, available capital, and the period of settlement. During the past fifteen years the construction of middle-income high-rise apartments adjacent to the urban core has been noted in Vancouver, as in other North American cities. The initial demand for this form of accommodation and its continued expansion are related to the expanding segment of the population who desire residences adjacent to urban core activity.

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