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Vanishing Vancouver

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Is Vancouver in danger of becoming a bland, grey place stocked with endless towers made of steel and glass? The author of a new book warns unchecked condo development could change our city’s character forever.

In “Vanishing Vancouver,” Michael Kluckner surveys the last 25 years of development between Expo86 and the pre-Olympic housing boom. He argues condo towers may work downtown, but they won’t solve the city’s problems with affordability.

“It’s in the maintenance of the existing apartments of the existing houses, particularly the ones that have been converted into suites, that you’re getting a much more mixed-city and as affordable a city as you can get,” he explains.

Kluckner feels what makes Vancouver desirable is the variety of housing for people in different stages of their lives.

He worries controversial development proposals like the Rize in Mount Pleasant and Shannon Mews at Granville and 57th may alter the character of the traditional surrounding neighbourhoods.

Kluckner adds much is made about sustainability, but when you build huge towers outside the downtown core, you will only make people more reliant on cars.

“It’s really putting the cart before the horse,” he explains.  “I don’t think the transit infrastructure works in Vancouver to support that kind of density. I think all you’re doing is creating a new group of people who are car-captive.”

As a growing number of older buildings meet the wrecking ball, he thinks the look of the city starts to suffer. “Increasingly, we’re living in a city of machine-made surfaces; the glass that is so much a part of Vancouver’s image, the colours of things, the textures… This is already changing.”

“People don’t go to Singapore, where everything is new. In my opinion, [people] won’t come to Vancouver if there is too much of a loss of that character, that historic character that we have,” he adds.

Besides being a writer and an artist, Kluckner was the founding president of the Heritage Vancouver Society. He started this latest book in 2010 after spending several years in Australia before returning to the city and being struck by how much had changed since he left.

There will be a launch party for “Vanishing Vancouver” tonight at 7 o’clock at the People’s Co-op Bookstore on Commercial Drive.