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River District Neighbourhood

Vancouver, British Columbia | 2006-Present
River District Farmers Market
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Weekend Farmer's Market
The River District public realm design offers flexible spaces for a variety of programming. Heavily attended pop-up markets take place on the weekends near the riverfront, trails and parks.

The River District reimagines what was a large and remote brownfield site into an entirely new, sustainable community on the Fraser River. Plans are based on new urbanist principles to foster a pedestrian-focused mixed-use community. PWL Partnership has been involved at nearly every stage, from large scale planning to detailed urban design guidelines and implementation.

River District Neighbourhood Park
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River District Riverfront Boardwalk
A riverfront boardwalk and trail system extend along the shore of the River District neighbourhood, connecting small parks and public amenities.

It’s a massive endeavour that brings together multiple projects, stakeholders, clients and a range of services to create a neighbourhood that is not only highly marketable, but that also complies with complex civic approvals processes.

We initially developed the public realm portions of the rezoning application—which involved planning and designing layout of streets, mews, greenways, trails, public parks, plazas and the riverfront. The livable, mixed-use approach challenged the city’s norms to create streets that focus on pedestrians and bikes, rather than cars, connecting with the district-wide trail system and the river itself.

River District Neighbourhood boardwalk
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Riverfront Boardwalk
Along the boardwalk, visitors can find seating nodes to relax and enjoy the river view.

In later stages, we worked with property developers to design landscapes for the first development sites including plazas, streetscapes, sales centres and a renovated portion of the existing waterfront. Throughout, we incorporated sustainable features like rain gardens and urban agriculture facilities. Our goal was to design an aesthetic that nods to both the laid-back river setting and the site’s history as an agricultural settlement and sawmill. Everything, from the paving materials to furnishings and lighting, played a role in developing the character of the site.

River District Neighbourhood Park North
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Neighbourhood North
The sloped embankment makes for a uniquely terraced neighbourhood park.

At the heart of the community, we designed a terraced park that incorporates a climbing wall, playground, harvest table, urban agriculture plantings, and a picnic lawn—making it a natural gathering place for residents. Though the grading presented a challenge, we used it as a design feature, integrated with the adjoining development.

River District Neighbourhood
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District Parcels
Richly layered landscapes and pocket parks abound within each of the district parcels

Each housing development—ranging from townhomes to high-rise apartments—uniquely responds to the surrounding landscape. Some feature garden plots and others have restaurants and play spaces.

At the town centre, a new civic plaza becomes an urban magnet for the community.   Framed by a randomized assemblage of linear seat walls inspired by the log booms in the Fraser River, an interactive water feature beckons.  

When complete this 128-acre/52-hectare community will be home to 10,000 people across multiple age groups, who will benefit from a district designed for connection and celebration.

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Awards

2008
CSLA National Honour Award

2007
Canadian Urban Institute Brownie Award

Canadian Institute of Planners Planning Excellence Award
Smart Growth’s Smarty Award

Collaborators
ParkLane Homes
WesGroup Income Properties
Polygon Homes
City of Vancouver
Duany Plater - Zyberk
James KM Cheng Architects
Don Wuori Design
Pivotal Lighting Design
Hughes Condon Marler Architects
InterCAD Services
Kim Stephens
GL Williams and Associates
Envirowest Consultants
Patrick Mooney
Holland Barrs Planning Group
Moffat and Nichol
Hatch
Stantec
Bunt and Associates Engineering
Geopacific Consultants
Hughes Condon Marler Architects
Raymond Letkeman Architects
Halkier & Associates Architects
Dialog Architects
IBI Group
GBL Architects
Yamamoto Architects