Underground Spaces Already Prepped For Broadway Subway Stations

Developers, city negotiated deals to set aside space for entrances at four key sites.

By Christopher Cheung 16 Oct 2017 |

Christopher Cheung is a reporter and page editor at the Tyee. You can find his stories here and follow him on Twitter at @bychrischeung.

The funding for the planned Broadway subway line isn’t confirmed, but the City of Vancouver has been steadily securing spaces under the busy corridor for transit stations, The Tyee has learned.

The city has been asking developers building new projects at major Broadway intersections to include space for future subway access.

Space has been set aside for four potential stations — at Great Northern Way, Cambie, Oak and Arbutus.

“If there’s a development,” said Steve Brown, the manager of Vancouver’s rapid transit office, “we can make a request to see if they’re able to shape the development to allow for a void space that can connect from the street level down to the underground.”

These large underground rooms aren’t the stations themselves; they are entrances/exits, hence their official name “Statutory Rights of Way.”

“The intention is to maximize the connectivity to future transit stations, and developers are usually more than happy to do that,” said Jeff Doble, the Vancouver director of transportation design at architecture firm Perkins+Will.

Perkins+Will designed the Crossroads project at the corner of Cambie and Broadway.

The city’s engineering department is in the mixed-use Crossroads project, along with a London Drugs, a Whole Foods and, formerly, a Lululemon lab at the street level where one entrance that descends to the void space is located. This void space is large enough to fit a staircase, an escalator and an elevator.

Doble said the developer’s decision to prepare a potential transit entrance for the city is a “no brainer.”

“They would stand to benefit from having transit in their development and having retail in the station, which benefits the station as well,” he said.

Six stations are planned for the Broadway subway; four already have void spaces. Two potential station locations, at Main and at Granville, do not have void spaces beneath them yet.

Crossroads, completed in 2008, was not the first project to have a void space.

The city negotiated in the late 1990s for the creation of a space beneath the Great Northern Way Campus Trust lands, home to the new Emily Carr University of Art and Design. (Modifications were made in 2014 through revisions to the Great Northern Way structure plan.)

960px version of BroadwaySubwayStartMap.jpg
Where the Broadway extension will begin at Great Northern Way. Illustration: City of Vancouver.

At Oak, there is a void space is beneath 988 West Broadway, built by developer BlueSky Properties, a division of Bosa Properties.

At Arbutus, there is one beneath Pinnacle Living on Broadway, built by developer Pinnacle International.

Potential Broadway subway stations are shown in orange. Map courtesy of the City of Vancouver.

The void spaces are currently owned by the developers, said Brown, but “there is a provision that allows for the city to acquire them for a dollar.”

He added that there is no public document that lists the void spaces because “it’s not something usually publicly advertised,” but that the city has “mentioned it to people at public open houses.”

Chief executive Kevin Desmond of TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority, estimated a 2019 construction start for the line and a 2025 completion. So what are these large spaces currently used for?

The Georgia Straight reported that void space beneath the BlueSky Properties project at Oak will be used for retail in the meantime.

Both Brown and Doble said that the space beneath Crossroads at Cambie is being used by tenant Whole Foods.

The Tyee called the Whole Foods, but customer service directed all questions regarding the subway space to the city. Whole Foods denied The Tyee a visit to the space.

Two former employees confirmed the existence of the large space with The Tyee. It’s located on the Broadway side of the store and reached through a service corridor by the meat and poultry department. One side of the room is angled, as if for a staircase.

Some staff have a nickname for the space: the subway room. Managers told staff that it was set aside by the developer for Broadway rapid transit, according to an employee of five years.

“I would describe the room as cavernous,” said the employee. “It’s concrete, has a very high ceiling, about two to three stories high.”

She said Whole Foods used the subway room for storage and seasonal crafts.

“Things like if at Halloween they wanted to put craft-made paper bats around the entire store, the paper bats would be prepped there,” she said. “It was the best room on site to make crafts en masse, because there was space for it. You could let the glue on 200 paper bats dry in there because there’s room to spread them out.”

Both Brown at the city and TransLink told The Tyee that the exact alignment of the Broadway subway stations has not been finalized, meaning there is a possibility that the secured void spaces won’t be used.

Full funding for the Broadway subway is still pending. The line would be an extension of the existing Millennium Line west beyond the current terminus station, VCC–Clark, to Arbutus.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government committed $2.2 billion to Metro Vancouver transit and transportation projects, which include the Broadway line, earlier this year.

On the provincial level, the NDP committed during the election campaign to provide funding for 40 per cent of all projects in the Metro Vancouver region’s 10-year transportation plan.

A regional funding source, aside from TransLink’s property taxes and fares, has yet to be identified.

But whenever the Broadway subway does come to town, Vancouver will have a few rooms ready.  [Tyee]

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