1991 ‘Central Area Plan’ consolidates the Central Business District and introduces new residential density

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Urban planning | Built form | Land use | Development | Demographics |


The Central Area Plan was the first framework policy drafted for Vancouver’s Central Area. The Plan “provided a context for a more intensive and environmentally sustainable Downtown through the co-location of jobs and housing. City policies required new development to provide a mix of housing opportunities and full community services” (McAfee).

The Downtown South Plan (1992) rezoned the Downtown South converting predominately low-scale commercial zoning into high-density mixed-use and primary housing. In 1988, The Central Area Plan began with a series of public discussions. It was followed by a series of policy propositions and additional research based on the public’s ideas. The Central Area Plan: Goals and Land Use Policy was amended in December 3, 1991.


This plan redefined the Central Area from the downtown peninsula to “a broad area that includes the entire downtown peninsula, its waterfronts, the False Creek Basin, and Central Broadway” (City of Vancouver Planning Department, City of Vancouver 1982).

The plan significantly transformed the formerly low-rise commercial district into a higher density residential district. This plan proved a successful top-down planning model for the following two reasons: I. Densification addressed an increasing real estate demand from new and elderly buyers for affordable and alternative housing forms. II. “Brownfield redevelopment affected few if any residents” (McAfee).

The Central Area Plan also approved the rezoning of 28 Central Area districts, acting as a guideline for independent rezoning. Based on the guidelines, the Downtown developed into a residential downtown based on livability principles. The plan also compacted the city's central business district and redirected business and commercial growth towards the Broadway corridor. Ann McAfee, Co-Director of Planning (1974-2006) regarded the plan as “the public face of ‘Vancouverism’” (McAfee).


Future Reference: 1975 Downtown Plan, spec. excessive commercial zoning.


City of Vancouver Planning Department. Central Area Plan: Goals and Land Use Policy. Adopted Dec. 3, 1991. Print.

City of Vancouver Planning Department. Downtown South Design Guidelines. 1987. Print.

City of Vancouver. Downtown South Urban Design. May. 1982. Print.

Harcourt, Mike, and Ken Cameron with Sean Rossiter. City Making in Paradise: Nine Decisions that Saved Vancouver. Vancouver & Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 2007. Print.

Punter, John. The Vancouver Achievement: Urban Planning and Design. Vancouver & Toronto: UBC Press, 2003. Print.