January 2, 2020

The Not-So-Grand Bargain, as seen from above

The New York Times published a wonderfully interactive perspective on “A Decade of Urban Transformation” – the changes in the American urban landscape (with enough applicability to much of urban Canada), as seen from above.


Vast new exurbs have been carved from farmland, and once-neglected downtowns have come to life again. The tech industry has helped remake entire city neighborhoods, and it has dotted the landscape with strange new beasts, in data centers and fulfillment hubs.

The Exurbs Boom Again

At the beginning of this decade, for a short period after the housing bust, it looked as if the exurbs were over. Housing construction and population growth there ground to a halt. Briefly, central cities and denser suburbs were growing faster than exurbia. But the exurbs eventually boomed again, a pattern we can see in rings of new development around most major metro areas in this map, especially in the Sun Belt:

For more images:

The Urban Core, Redeveloped

Changes to urban neighborhoods are harder to detect automatically. But they have been significant, too, particularly in and around the downtowns of cities that have increasingly attracted higher-income, highly educated residents. … redevelopment takes a common form: Buildings have replaced surface parking lots, creating significantly denser neighborhoods.

In their place, apartment buildings, offices, parks and sports complexes have been built …


Big Tech’s Big Boxes

Far from the campuses where their highest-paid employees work, tech companies have fed a second development boom this decade, this one in colossal data centers and fulfillment and distribution hubs. These tend to be located where large plots of land are relatively cheap, but within reach of major metro areas.

Full article here.

There are, however, important contrasts in Metro Vancouver where 99% of growth occurred within the Urban Containment Boundary between 2011 and 2018. (The lands within the UCB have sufficient capacity to accommodate all of Metro Vancouver’s projected residential growth to 2041.)

Our growth pattern is another consequence of The Grand Bargain inherent in the Livable Region Plans – consolidating growth in high-density pockets like rapid-transit station areas and frequent-transit corridors while leaving the lower-density traditional suburbs intact.

The Agricultural Land Reserve has also prevented industrial sprawl, with a few exceptions, like the development on the lands of the Tsawwassen Nation, where along with vast shopping malls and port-related industrial development there is also an Amazon Fulfilment Centre:



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