A vision for a repurposed Georgia Viaduct
by Common Ground’s publisher, Joseph Roberts
• New York City had a brilliant idea. They took a viaduct and repurposed it into what has become a hugely popular aerial greenway park. Two years ago, while visiting NYC, I was one of first five million who had the delightful experience of strolling across this amazing, recently opened public park in the sky.
It was true highlight of my trip… and it got me thinking. We could create our own uniquely creative version of New York’s High Line Park by repurposing our very own Georgia Viaduct. And we could name this new park the “Reconciliation Bridge,” in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation. A triple bottom line: good for reconciliation, good for the economy and good for the environment.
Imagine the unobstructed view of walking a couple of stories above street level through a well appointed parkway of indigenous grasses, flowers, plants and even trees! Their High Line Park provided ample benches and places to picnic, listen to music buskers, view local craft vendors, enjoy coffee, tea, and food offerings, read a book or do yoga. It was all there. And we can have it all here too if we catch the spirit of the Reconciliation Bridge and repurpose our sturdy Georgia Viaduct for the greater public good.
We already have the infrastructure. Rather than spend millions to simply destroy it wasting the resources and energy that went into planning and building it – re-using offers a vastly superior alternative. It would also provide a stunning walkway to the proposed new Art Gallery a block away. Let’s save the Viaduct and transform it into a wondrous, aerial green parkway. Let’s demonstrate our commitment to reconciliation and create a legacy that will serve the next “seven generations.” Concrete can last a very long time, especially a structure built to support heavy trucks and cars. As a park, it will carry a much lighter load of pedestrian traffic and could easily last another 100 years. The Georgia Viaduct is an existing municipal asset that we can readily repurpose for recreational, garden, and cultural healing.
Vancouver’s Reconciliation Bridge would be world-class – a superb use of urban architecture, offering a huge open space for arts and culture to flourish as well as constituting a gateway to some of the most important cultural buildings in our city: The Queen Elizabeth Theatre, CBC, GM Place and BC Place. As a walkway connecting historic Chinatown and the Eastside with the downtown core, visitors and tourists will have a birds-eye view of historic Gastown to the north, Old Chinatown to the NE, Main Street to the east, Science World to the SE, beautiful False Creek to the south – with its shoreline parks – the Cambie and Granville Street bridges to the SW and a distinctly urban view straight east on Georgia Street leading to the proposed new Art Gallery at Cambie and Georgia, all with a subway station near by.
The creation of a Reconciliation Bridge is an incredible opportunity for Vancouver to do the right thing. We can transform the Georgia Viaduct into one of the jewels of the city and a world-class tourist destination. This would be one the best use of an existing city asset since the inception of Stanley Park. And as well as honouring our First Nations, it would also serve as a concrete act of healing past transgressions and reconciling Canada’s responsibility as well, ultimately leading us to an honourable, reconciled, culturally rich future. j
For further information contact Common Ground firstname.lastname@example.org There is a public meeting being planned with all parties invited to discuss how to move forward with this vision for the Vancouver’s Reconciliation Bridge (location and time TBA)
A tale of two elevations
The High Line (also known as the High Line Park) is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) aerial park in Manhattan built on an elevated section of an old New York Central Railroad viaduct called the West Side Line. You can see how the city’s problem was transformed into an open space benefiting residents as well as the tourist industry. Millions of visitors have walked the High Line since it opened in 2009.
Visit www.thehighline.org for a visual tour and imagine am aerial garden walking park called Reconciliation Bridge in Vancouver, an initiative that would upgrade our city, protect the views of existing residents and create a concrete example of our commitment to keeping our promises to our First Nations people. Our Walk for Reconciliation in 2013 drew 70,000 people to walk in the rain across our old Georgia Viaduct inspiring this new viaduct vision called the Reconciliation Bridge.