Will 2010 mark Vancouver’s decline?


I was out east last week, and being in Montreal [mbm] reminded me of something that I’ve noticed before in other cities, the fact that sometimes an event or a period of time comes to define the city in such a way that the city seems and feels locked in that time period.

Edmonton feels like it’s still in the 1908s’ when the Oilers were winning Stanley Cups and West Edmonton Mall had just opened. Montreal feels like 1976 when they had the Olympics. Winnipeg largely feels, at least if you spend your time in the downtown core as opposed to the burbs, like 1919 just before the General Strike. Part of the reason for this, especially in the cases of Edmonton and Montreal, is that lots of money was poured into Edmonton during the oil boom of the ’80s for development, and the same with Montreal to prepare for the Olympics.

Vancouver has largely been pushed forward by an economic boom, and influx of money and people from around the Pacific Rim. Bits of it, such as the Skytrain lines and the area around Science World, seem like 1986 but for the most part it’s hard to apply a specific era to the city. Still will 2010 possibly be the high water mark in the development for Vancouver and the beginning of its nadir?

5 Comments so far

  1. Alden (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 8:29 am

    Maybe Vancity will be the next Galgary? They seem to be doing well….

  2. Ryan Cousineau (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 8:34 am

    On one hand, Vancouver doesn’t have proximate oil wealth. On the other hand, Vancouver doesn’t have separatists effectively scaring people out of living there.

    There’s no obvious impediment to Vancouver’s continued popularity as a place to live except for a San Francisco-style problem of being too popular for its own good. Or more precisely, so popular that it goes from very expensive to ludicrously expensive.

  3. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on November 21st, 2007 @ 10:12 pm

    Hear, hear, Ryan. Yes, there will be a dip in our fortunes at some point. But it seems even more likely that Vancouver has long passed the point where it needs to worry about fading back into global obscurity. We’ve not yet seen our finest hour.

  4. Mark (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2007 @ 9:15 am

    Thank you Ryan. You already wrote what I was going to say.

  5. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2007 @ 9:54 am

    Ryan, that’s true but there are other issues. If the city and provincial government come close to bankrupting themselves over developing for the 2010 games then it’s going to be a long while (decades) before either government focuses on new infrastructure projects such as highways, further expansion of the Skytrain or anything that requires significant capital. That in and of itself could freeze the city in amber.

    Then the other issue is that external factors could hurt Vancouver’s economy, including the continued flopping about like a wounded goat of the American economy, a burst of the web 2.0 tech bubble, the continued increase in the Canadian dollar and more.

    I’m not saying that we’re all going to end up homeless, or roaming the streets of an empty Vancouver like characters in Douglas Coupland’s Girlfriend In A Coma, but with the exception of a few world class cities such as London and New York, most cities to me have a feeling of a certain era based on when most of their infrastructure and significant landmarks were built. Vancouver’s avoided that by being in a constant state of development for a long time now, but eventually it’s going to end or at least slow.

    Of course who knows if either of us will be right. There’s always the chance that radioactive badgers will destroy the city in the first Human- Badger War, but we’ll see what happens in twenty or thirty years.

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