Change oval site, class says

January 22, 2004, vol. 29, no. 2
By Marianne Meadahl

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If Vancouver is to live up to its sustainability mandate over the next several years, plans for a trio of key development projects, including SFU's Olympic oval, may need some fine tuning.

That's according to a class of 25 SFU geography 449 students who spent the last semester examining Vancouver's sustainability mandate in relation to the 2010 Olympics, and developments at southeast False Creek and the east Fraser lands.

Sustainable developments fulfill present and future needs without compromising nature or the environment.

Among their findings:
SFU's Olympic speed skating oval should be moved. Students say it would be better located on an existing playing field to the east of the proposed vacant field site.

“The sustainable vision of the speed skating oval should be one of a second AQ - an athletic quadrangle - which is linked to the rest of the campus superstructure and has classrooms, offices, student facilities, and possibly even residential units that wrap around the oval,” says student Brendan Hurley. “In order to keep this facility, which will be relative in size to the AQ, from not becoming a white elephant after the games, its visibility and accessibility need to be considered.”

Hurley also says because of the size of a long track speed skating venue and the high rainfall on Burnaby Mountain, runoff from the roof will need to be handled with multiple strategies, including a green roof.

Students also say developers of the east Fraser lands, an area owned by Weyerhauser and the city of Vancouver, need to consider alternatives that allow for more density.

“Insufficient density does not allow for many options when it comes to amenities and transportation,” says Analyse Saely, who met with planners and site representatives during her team's investigation.

She adds developers of the site, located west of Boundary Road and south of Marine Way, should give greater consideration to more community-serving businesses with walkable distances and alternatives to transportation and wastewater management, problems that continue to plague its neighbouring development.

Students looking at the southeast False Creek site say that although there has been much innovative planning, the area will undergo a major transition as the site of the 2010 Olympic athletes' village. They say more attention is needed to determine housing needs that will best fit into the existing community if sustainability is to be achieved.

In addition, graduate student Sean Connelly says developers need to examine alternative land tenure arrangements to generate more community involvement over the long term. More specifically, he says they need to develop a land trust representing community, city and developers.

“Now that the Olympics are a reality, there is an opportunity to aim the international spotlight on our city and on our efforts toward sustainability,” said student Matt Nugent during a recent student presentation to an audience that included planners and developers.

The students' projects were undertaken as part of a fourth-year geography course taught by Mark Roseland, director of SFU's community economic development centre.

“The purpose of the course is to give students an opportunity to examine the issues related to sustainable community development in a dynamic way that integrates theory and practice,” says Roseland.

Previous classes have examined the 2010 Olympic bid and the UniverCity project on Burnaby Mountain. The students' reports and recommendations are being posted on the web at

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