Vancouver: Growing up and into world-class status

Vancouver sure has come a long way. From humble origins as a western exploration and trading outpost located on the territories of pre-existing vibrant aboriginal communities, Vancouver has grown over the past century and a half to become one of the best cities to live in the world. The third-largest city in Canada (after Toronto and Montreal) we have leveraged our natural beauty, a prime location for transportation, resources and talent to gain international recognition and the property values that go along with that reputation. As much a part of the East-West Canadian landscape as we are in the North-South Cascadian and West Coast community, Vancouver sits in a special place of it’s own.

Living up to it’s reputation as one of the most beautiful cities to live in, it’s not a secret that Vancouver has it all in terms of natural beauty, from the mountains to the ocean and everything in between. It’s consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world, with a lifestyle and attitude that match it’s beauty. Vancouver was recently rated by Monocle magazine as the 7th most livable city in the world, and  Mercer’s global list of 230 cities placed Vancouver fifth overall in 2016, the highest ranked Canadian city on their list. Study after study repeat these findings, placing high value on our quality of life here. How did we get to where we are now? 

Expo86, now thirty years ago, provided and ideal opportunity for planners to make a lasting impact on the urban landscape, in a city that had sprung up relatively haphazardly along with early growth. Bruno Freschi, Chief Architect for the project, resisted the urge to create a theme-park like environment for the fair, instead focusing efforts on creating a reusable set of iconic buildings including Canada Place, the iconic Telus World of Science geodesic dome at the eastern end of False Creek and the Roundhouse. The theme of transportation and communication led the federal government to get involved with the creation of the Skytrain’s Expo Line, an integral portion of the present-day system which has expanded to connect more of the city, with the extended Evergreen line coming soon.

More recent changes over the last 20 years have included the condo boom that has transformed the downtown core and key energy centres based along those same transit lines. Vancouver’s “City of Glass” skyline is recognizably unique, a blue-green vision that reflects our natural surroundings and has grown upwards out of necessity and pride. Towering above them all, the Shangri-La remains (for now) the tallest building in BC and west of Toronto, setting the standard for height and high-end amenities. In the years since we have seen more developments scaling ever higher heights and offering high-end amenities and the kind of lifestyle features once not found locally. The Vancouver Special as a standard cultural icon of the city’s past has been replaced by skyscraper condos, laneway housing and larger homes.

The increasing interest from Canadian and International buyers, an influx of tech sector money and a well-publicized reputation as one of the best cities to live in has driven major lifestyle changes in our urban centre as well. Our once-sleepy town has grown up over the last decade, and the last five years especially have seen major changes, with global designer brands setting up shop around Alberni and Robson streets, and a booming restaurant, bar and entertainment scene that has definitely stepped up it’s game. 

What does the future hold for Vancouver? Increasing density, ever more interconnected transit systems, new investment in architecturally significant developments and public buildings including the new art gallery are just the start. 

The long and short of it? Consider the quality of life you experience in Vancouver. If you value a healthy, active lifestyle, world-class shopping and entertainment, top-quality Universities, connected transit, natural beauty, an increasing number of Vancouver-based forward-thinking employers, a relaxed pace of life and an “everybody knows your name” feel then you’ll be glad to call Vancouver home for today and the future.


*Photo: Tourism Vancouver

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