Video, Past Event, Urban Issues

Shaping Vancouver 2016 | What's so special about 'The Drive'?

May 18, 2016

Commercial Drive is perhaps the most vibrant, textured, and diverse street in Vancouver—outstanding for its unique sense of place and experience.

As the city continues to grow eastward, the pressure to develop this area is mounting and becoming a reality. The changes on the table will introduce new typologies, such as towers, that will radically change the fabric of the street. Heritage Vancouver Society explored how to address the need for additional density and transit within a framework that respects the character of the Drive and its remaining heritage assets.

As a way to engage the Drive, this discussion:

- Reviewed the history of the street.

- Explored what we can consider its heritage assets.

- Pondered the intangible heritage of the area that should be considered when development is being proposed.

- Challenged the notion of prescriptive zoning as a means to preserve an heritage area.

Alongside the question of preservation came the question of character. Should we be satisfied with saving a few important Heritage assets while the character of an area is abandoned to the forces of development? The panel discussed how much of the character of an area we can or should surrender to development, what character can be considered important and worth preserving, and whether that character is tied to traditional heritage forms.

Change is coming to “The Drive” and these panelists addressed how and what can be done to avoid destroying what is important about the street. A general discussion with the audience followed.



Following an extremely successful Shaping Vancouver 2015 series on the City of Vancouver Heritage Action Plan, its initiative to update how the City’s heritage conservation is managed, Heritage Vancouver was thrilled to present our award-winning series for 2016.

The series put together heritage and community experts together to engage in conversation with the public around the heritage of our neighbourhoods, not only in terms of conservation but also in terms of the legacy we are creating for the future of Vancouver and what the actions we are taking today might mean for heritage in the future. The series began with an overview of how we may define a neighborhood and what is needed to create community. The series then took the discussion to specific neighbourhoods in our city.

With close to 1000 residential buildings being torn down in Vancouver in 2015, many residents fear the erasure of neighbourhood character as demolitions become rampant. There is a general sense that new construction, an increase in empty houses and neighbourhood plans lack consideration for the existing neighbourhood context.

These conversations were intended to explore how we can accommodate change and preserve what is important to neighbourhoods and community.

Co-Presented by

SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement and Heritage Vancouver


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