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How Expo 86 shaped Vancouver's development

Last Updated May 2, 2016 at 9:09 am PST

Science World (Mike Lloyd, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Expo 86 cemented 'Vancouverism' as a development model that would be copied around the world

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It has been 30 years to the day since Expo 86 opened in Vancouver, and looking over the land today that the World’s Fair sat upon, it’s easy to see just how much has changed since Expo Ernie rolled among the more than 22 million guests who passed the gates.

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“The idea is that it would be a mixed-use neighbourhood [after the fair], that there would be people of all incomes, that it would be suitable for families with children and have a lot of greenspace while promoting different modes of transportation,” says Gordon Price, an Expo-era Vancouver city councillor and the current director of SFU’s City program.

“Those were the principles that went into the Concord Pacific megaproject that became the basis for all of the other megaprojects that were happening simultaneously,” he tells NEWS 1130.

“It was an extraordinary period of this comprehensively planned development that put in thousands of units that came onto the market all through the 1990s and 2000s.”

Price believes that diverted a lot of pressure from existing real estate.

“It allowed us to move forward and accommodate growth without having going into the neighbourhoods that now feel subject to a lot of pressure. That’s where we are seeing the escalation in prices given the scarcity that has happened as a result there,” he asserts.

It also cemented “Vancouverism” as a development model that would be copied in cities around the world.

“We had established that there would be all the components for a complete community. At the same time, we had never seen anything on that scale before. This was a 15 to 20-year development project. This was five different neighbourhoods. It had 50 acres of parks and extended the seawall. It gave a people a different sense of how you could move around the city. And it’s still underway.”

But the shores of False Creek might have looked a lot different if some of the original plans had come to fruition.

“The original proposal from Concord Pacific was for islands and lagoons. That was the winning competition but it didn’t take long for that to be discarded. What we wanted was something that extended the city.”

Price says what was done with the Expo lands has proved popular with the market, both here and elsewhere.

“It did become the basis for development in other parts of the region and in other cities. Everywhere from Dubai to Dallas have incorporated ideas that you could say in what they saw in False Creek.”