Panel weighing impact of various arterial routes through Strathcona

A panel of 42 residents and business representatives is hashing out the pros and cons of various arterials through Strathcona.

The City of Vancouver has to choose a new east-west arterial route to connect Main Street to Clark Drive in East Vancouver after the Georgia-Dunsmuir viaducts come down.

For years, city planners, business owners and community groups have hotly debated where this should go.

Now, a community panel, put together under the previous city council and made up of 42 residents and business representatives, is hashing out the pros and cons of a few options with the goal of making a recommendation to the current council in May.

Instead of coming off the viaducts and heading along Prior/Venables, traffic could go across one of three options: Malkin Avenue, National Avenue or Williams Street, according to the city.

Fresh-food wholesalers based on Malkin Drive favour traffic moving along Malkin and then being diverted onto William Street. This has drawn attention because it would allow these businesses to keep vital access to their loading bays, but cut across the southeastern corner of Strathcona Park, removing a running track, soccer field, some baseball diamonds, tennis courts and a field house.

Another route would travel along the eastern side of Trillium Park and then move east on National Avenue, which is one street south from Malkin.

Strathcona Park as seen from Raymur Avenue at William Street in Vancouver. A panel of 42 residents and business representatives is hashing out the pros and cons of various arterials through Strathcona. Arlen Redekop / PNG

There is also another solution put forth by a neighbourhood group, the Strathcona Residents Association. It’s known as the National-Charles option because it would run along National and curve up to Charles Street before ending on Clark Drive, allowing the wholesalers to keep their access on Malkin Drive and avoid cutting through the park.

What hasn’t been clear is whether or not the city’s community panel is considering this National-Charles suggestion since it doesn’t appear on its website with the other options, nor was it included in the recent park board presentation.

“The panel is officially considering the Nat-cha option,” confirmed Dan Jackson of the SRA, adding this development happened last week. “It’s been like pulling teeth. The city has been very resistant to acknowledge it as an option and it hasn’t put the same amount of work into it as the other options … but many panel members have been curious about it.”

Kyle Bozentko, executive director of the Jefferson Centre, which is convening the community panel for the city, also said the National-Charles option has been added for consideration, describing it as a variation of one of the main options.

“This panel wasn’t set up under this (city) council,” said Vancouver Green Coun. Pete Fry, who is a longtime Strathcona resident. He’s concerned the panel was “curated” by the city rather than being of “grassroots, neighbourhood voices organizing on their own.”

Fry said it’s important to fold in nuances of changing market conditions on the ground such as the impact of plans to build the new St. Paul’s Hospital in the area. In the last few years this has already led to significantly higher land values for business owners that might change how much they want to stay.

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