Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Suburbs lose out to the bright lights of downtown

with 2 comments

The Globe and Mail reports today that there has been a shift in location decisions of companies. They are now willing to pay more for a downtown location, both reduce their carbon footprint and to “attract well-educated, sophisticated workers.” There’s quite a lot of anecdote here, but also some data on vacancy rates. The examples are from Toronto and Edmonton but there has also been increasing interest in new office developments in downtown Vancouver. It is encouraging that LEED certification is mentioned – though much of the discussion  would seem to point to employee travel behaviour. LEED ND isn’t mentioned.

One of the great issues with regional planning here was the suburban office park – which was not anticipated in the LRSP. These are not going to go away any time soon, but they will have to start adapting. I would expect that developers will try to retrofit these places to become more like traditional urban “central places” with a variety of uses. If we had wise leaders, they would be increasing travel options at such locations, and looking at fiscal measures to encourage the “highest and best use” of land currently devoted to “free” parking. That would require some effective support for transit – and a lot of investment in better walking and cycling access to such locations. I would be interested to see a movement like this develop here. It could be a bit like the way that redundant suburban shopping malls in the US are now being redeveloped for mixed uses.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Posted in good news, land use

2 Responses

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  1. The company I work for is moving later this year. One of the things management took into consideration when choosing a new location was proximity to transit. Although the executives drive to work many employees use SkyTrain, SeaBus, WCE or the bus. Others walk or cycle from areas like Yaletown and The Drive.
    A suburban office park would have been much cheaper, but would have inconvenienced a lot of people and not changed operating costs much anyway. Salaries and benefits are roughly an order of magnitude greater than rent.


    January 25, 2011 at 3:11 pm

  2. What you say is true, David. It was also true at the time when companies were abandoning downtowns in favour of “cheaper” locations in office parks. That is why I think this story is significant because I see it as a sign of better times ahead. Hence the “good news” tag.

    Stephen Rees

    January 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm

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