Vancouver’s Downtown Waterfront

A spectacular waterfront for a great port city

waterfront_sfu_cc_300wIn 2009, Council adopted the Central Waterfront Hub Framework. The first development proposal for the area north of Cordova Street came forward in 2015 and sparked public interest in the implementation of the framework. The Commission partnered with SFU City Conversation to co-host a public discussion on the future of Vancouver’s downtown waterfront on June 4, 2015.


Vancouver’s coastal waterfront along Burrard Inlet has been transformed in only a few decades from a rough industrial shipping zone to a mix of residential, recreational and commercial developments co-located with Canada’s largest seaport and the region’s multi-mode transportation hub serving 90,000 travellers daily.

The central section of the downtown waterfront, a 22-acre site between Howe Street at its west boundary and the Landing building at the entry to Gastown, was the focus of a planning program initiated in response to the 2006 proposal to locate the Whitecaps Stadium in the area.


The resulting Central Waterfront Hub Framework was adopted by Council in 2009, along with a directive to develop an implementation strategy to help advance plan objectives.

The stadium proposal did not proceed and no development took place within the Framework area north of Cordova Street until the 2014 Cadillac-Fairview proposal for a tower adjacent to the Waterfront Station. The tower proposal, known informally as the ‘origami tower’ or the ‘icepick,’ spurred public reaction and discussion, and brought new attention to the Central Waterfront Hub Framework.

The Downtown Waterfront Working Group, which includes planners who worked on the original plan, published a draft discussion paper in May 2015 outlining issues they would like to see the City address before considering development proposals, including work on the implementation strategy. The tower proposal, rejected by the Urban Design Panel in January 2015, has been withdrawn and is expected to be revised and resubmitted in the near future.