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Vancouver viaducts are coming down: What happens next?

The viaducts will be destroyed, but it will be a few years before the under construction signs go up. Here’s a timeline of what to expect.

The Vancouver viaducts seen at night.

Michael J. Roberts/For Metro

The Vancouver viaducts seen at night.

Vancouver’s viaducts days are numbered, but don’t yell “timber” quite yet.

Late Tuesday night, Council narrowly approved an estimated $200-million plan to remove the viaducts to build condos, a 13-acre park and an at-grade road network in their place.

But the city will take 18 months to come up with a concrete funding plan before bringing out the wrecking balls to execute the plan by 2025.

The controversial decision sparked a mix of passionate reactions. Some lauded council for a “brave” choice that will reshape the neighbourhood while others decried a move they see as a big win for developers at the expense of commuters and the community.

No matter what side you’re on, the viaducts removal will go down as one of the largest, if not the largest, infrastructure choices this council will make. Here’s a timeline of major milestones residents can expect as the story unfolds over the next decade:

October 2015 until spring 2017: Negotiations

City planners must sit down at the bargaining table with major landowners including the province, the Aquilinis, Pavco and Concord Pacific.

Land value will increase once the viaducts are gone, so planners must negotiate how much developers will pay the city in development contributions and community amenity contributions in exchange for the extra value. The province will get a chunk of cash from Concord if density goes above a certain limit, and the city plans to plead for some of that money. The city must also decide whether to sell or lease the city-owned land that will be freed up once the viaducts are gone.

Planners expect to get $300 million from these sources. The cash will go toward the deconstruction with the leftovers allotted to community amenities such as daycare or schools. Planners must come back to council by the end of April 2017 with a detailed public benefits strategy and outline of who will pay for what so taxpayers aren’t stuck with the demolition bill.

Early 2018: Deconstruction begins

Once the city has its funding sources in place, it will begin to tear down those roads.

Construction will undoubtedly cause traffic snarls, although Vancouverites have managed to live without the viaducts before when they were closed during the 2010 Olympics and, more recently, for Ryan Reynolds to film Deadpool. 

A small section of the Dunsmuir viaduct near Rogers Arena will either be upgraded or replaced to facilitate traffic coming in and out of the arena.

2020: New roadway complete

The at-grade roadway, including a two-way Georgia Street ramp and a six-lane Pacific Boulevard, will be finished.

Upgrades to the eastern part of the seawall are also expected to be finished by this point.

2018 to 2024: Condos, contaminated soil and Creekside Park 

When the viaducts come down, Concord will start developing its final piece of the Expo ’86 lands it bought from the province 27 years ago. At the time, it agreed to build a park once this development is complete, and the province promised to remediate any contaminated soils on Concord’s land.

Residents will get the park they’ve been waiting for depending on how long remediation takes. Dealing with contaminated soils is expected to cost between $16 and $21 million.

2020 to 2025: Community building and (some) affordable housing

The city owns two city blocks that straddle Main Street between Prior and Union. The blocks are currently occupied by the viaducts, but once those are gone the city wants to develop up to 850,000 square feet of housing, commercial space or community amenities.

Preliminary plans include honouring Hogan’s Alley, home of the black community that was displaced when the viaducts were built in 1971, and building affordable housing. It anticipates about 200 or 300 affordable units out of a total of 1,000 homes.

The property is subject to the Downtown Eastside plan.

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