A Vancouver-inspired downtown Seattle
at 4:26pm by Joe Copeland
With Mayor Mike McGinn getting ready to deliver his state of the city speech on Tuesday, business leaders gathered for the annual State of Downtown Economic Forum. Crosscut Publisher Greg Shaw provides these highlights:
Seattle’s downtown merchants and leaders envision a “New Urban,” and they invited the loyal opposition in Vancouver, B.C., to show them how to get there. This morning’s 2013 State of Downtown Economic Forum at the Westin drew nearly 1,000 leaders, including plenty of mayoral candidates.
Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s consulting city planner and urbanist, presented a friendly and frankly inspiring talk about the road his leadership took to become one of the most liveable cities in the world. He laid down the gauntlet by presenting all the metrics by which Vancouver ranks first, including one that ruffled a few feathers — best coffee city. “Competition between cities is good,” he chuckled.
Density done right, Toderian argued, addresses a range of pressing city issues: housing affordability, rising costs for energy, climate change, an aging population, public health and civic engagement.
Vancouver’s goal is to be the greenest city and one of the most family-friendly. To get there, they've emphasized land use and smart transportation design — what he called “the power of nearness.”
In her annual address on the state of downtown, Downtown Seattle Association President and CEO Kate Joncas pointed out that Seattle has more apartment and condo units under construction than any other metro area outside of Houston. Her number-filled and often humorous talk focused on how downtown must become more child-friendly. There are already 3,000 kids living in downtown’s three square miles. She argued for a new downtown public school. Schools and day care have been instrumental in Vancouver’s downtown success.
One city councilman said after the gathering that Vancouver’s story is a little rosy and largely the result of Asian investment. He also pointed out that the central control Vancouver imposes may not go over so well in Seattle.