This Is What TOD Looks Like

This is Collingwood Village, a 27-acre transit-oriented development (TOD) in Vancouver, B.C. Quoting from this pdf:

“Collingwood Village is a prime example of how the opportunity created by a new rapid transit system can be the impetus for co-ordinating land use planning with a large scale development. This co-ordination of land use and transportation planning initiatives has seen the transformation of an outdated industrial pocket surrounded by single family housing into a new high density neighbourhood. With the Joyce SkyTrain Station as its focus, Collingwood Village, at build out, will be home to about 4,500 new residents and is a major contributor to transit-oriented densification within the city.”

That’s what TOD is all about. And a great example of what we should be aiming for in Seattle, particularly in the SE Seattle light rail station areas. Not that it would have to be on such a grand scale — it’s the urban design that matters.

Collingwood balances density with amenities: it has seven acres of park, an elementary school, a “neighborhood house”, a community gymnasium, and a daycare. It offers a variety of housing types at both affordable and market rates, with 20% of the units designed for families with children. There are towers ranging from 17 to 20 stories mixed in among 4- and 6-story mid-rise. Lower buildings and a park face the single family zone to the south.

Much of the success Collingwood can be attributed to Vancouver’s strong government planning culture. But back here in the U.S., the balance of power tends to be more weighted toward individual property rights. It wouldn’t be hard to design and build a TOD as good as Collingwood here in Seattle. The hard part would be getting past all the cultural and institutional barriers.

10 Responses to “This Is What TOD Looks Like”

  1. Christo

    I think we need a few small footprint and ridiculously tall office / residential buildings in the SE (particularly along MLK and instead-of/in-addition-to these monstrously squatty 4 story messes now going up), but I don’t like the proportion of Collingwood. This development seems rather blah to me.

  2. The Overhead Wire

    I think its a bit more nuanced than a Le Corbusier type high rise buildings. Density comes in different shapes and sizes but when you say this is TOD I think it would scare people. You can get the same density with less dramatic skylines and more midrises.

  3. Cow

    You should see the developments like Quattro, etc. at Surrey Central Station. TOD up here is quite impressive; when you’re riding the SkyTrain further out, you can actually tell where the stops further down the line are by where the clusters of tall buildings are.

    The other neat thing with TOD is that the Surrey Central Station condos are affordable to average people, but still right at a SkyTrain station and on a major bus loop.

  4. JoshMahar

    “Much of the success Collingwood can be attributed to Vancouver’s strong government planning culture. But back here in the U.S., the balance of power tends to be more weighted toward individual property rights.”

    I think this is pretty key here unfortunately, and not just cultural. The actual city government structure is much better set up to acquire land and mandate it’s use. With the False Creek area (and probably this one as well) the government was actually able to say exactly what part of land parcels developers where allowed to build and exactly how wide the buildings could be.

    I do agree there is some cultural aspects to the difference as well. I would argue that some of the doom and gloom about the NEED for density puts a lot of power into the hands of developers. The city is too scared that developers will leave if they put any pressure on them and they feel, as all too many do, that any density is good. Therefore we get ugly, inefficient density that is built haphazard throughout the city with no coherence of TOD at all.

  5. David Sucher

    (Have you seen this development from the ground? Beware of making judgments without experiencing a place.)

    But my major question is about this statement:

    “Much of the success Collingwood can be attributed to Vancouver’s strong government planning culture. But back here in the U.S., the balance of power tends to be more weighted toward individual property rights.”

    I assume you mean the rights of single-family property-owners. I think that the real problem is that so many people in Seattle (consider Knute Berger) really don’t want to live in a city.

  6. Spencer

    David, spot on with your comment regarding what vantage point we are looking from. Architects rarely render these types of projects from a “worm’s eye view”. Although there are buffers (park, mid-rise buildings, and the elevated train) from the 1 1/2 – 2 story houses surrounding these buildings note the buildings in the upper left corner of the 2nd image…right next to single family houses. Let’s see the rendering from their living room window?

  7. dan bertolet

    David: Yup, guilty as charged — I have not walked that site. There are some photos in the linked pdf, and I’ve seen others that suggest a sensitive treatment of the street-level environment. Also, I think Vancouver has a pretty good record when it comes to designing for the pedestrian.

    Spencer: I think the buildings you’re referring to are outside the boundaries of Collingwood. But in any case, yes, there is no doubt that large buildings block views. It would be impossible for a city to grow without this sort of conflict. But to me, Collingwood looks to be a pretty good example of how it can done with a relatively high level of sensitivity.

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