Three Vancouver Housing Examples

I know I share a secret desire with others to run for the border when things seem to be going pear shaped in the US!! That would be the Canadian border! And when I get there, I will realize that I'm too late and a bit unoriginal since the prices of real estate in Vancouver will be higher than the prices of real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I currently reside. Even so, what can I choose amongst? 

Option 1: The Vancouver Special

Keith Higgins started a catalog of the Vancouver Special houses built mostly between 1965 and 1985. It is a generic builder's house that is specific to Vancouver. Vancouver Specials have an ironic quality to them and are not exactly known as Vancouver's best contribution to architecture. It is probably why they tend to be cheaper than other houses, and easy to fix up and make your own. Here is one example of a before and after renovation of a Vancouver Special featured on the Uonodesign blog. As an architect, this is quite appealing!

Option 2: Living Mixed Use in SoMa (North)
Along South Main Street is a neighborhood known as SoMa, but don't confuse it with SOMA use in SF, which stands for South of Market. This place feels like SF, with 49th Parallel Coffee being the draw for us to the neighborhood. The housing options here are mostly townhouses or housing above retail. It's a livable neighborhood scale that is a little bit more current than the Vancouver Special and denser as well. The residents of this neighborhood have great restaurants, nice grocery stores, and trendy retail all within walking distance - so convenient.

Option 3: False Creek High Rise Living
The development of the waterfront in Vancouver is impressive with its balance between high density housing and open areas. This photo is taken from the front entrance to the Science World and just beyond the Main Sky Train Station.  Both the geodesic dome and the raised train tracks are relics of Expo 86 that occurred in Vancouver.

Vancouver has long served as a model of planning to San Francisco, and these high rises in False Creek are examples of possibility. They are influenced heavily by the high rises in Hong Kong as discussed in this paper in Places by Trevor Boddy.

These high rises are also on Main Street, just like Option 2, but it's down the street and much closer to downtown. And, it feels like a world away. One thing to like: at the base of the high rise are townhouses that are more appropriate for the experience at the street level. This area along False Creek was one of the largest undeveloped areas in the downtown peninsula. In 2009, Council approved land use policies to create a vibrant and mixed-use waterfront district. Five years later, and the results are looking good. There are still many cranes, but the neighborhood has now taken shape. 

And here is the view across False Creek! (This photo is taken from inside Science World looking at the sports venues on the other side). Not bad, eh?


Needless to say, many great choices for urban living in a town that treasures it's outdoor life and good food. And, they have universal health care, good schools, and a thriving economy. Did I mention it's expensive? Looks like it's highly valued for many reasons.