In Defence of Produce Row

20 Feb In Defence of Produce Row

Participating in the process to develop the planning principles for the new St. Paul’s Hospital Precinct, and the Viaducts and False Creek Flats, the primary issue of concern that emerged for the DVA was the impact of the street network, particularly on the functionality of the North Eastern quadrant of the Flats.

At the April 2016 False Creek Flats Open House, DVA noted the incompatibility of the two arterial road options with either recently constructed City facilities or the elimination of large truck movements along Produce Row.

Produce Row bypassed

Researching further into the content of City policy reports about urban food led to the realisation that Produce Row was being entirely bypassed in the City’s planning considerations. On June 6 2016, DVA representatives met with those of Produce Row in The Produce Terminal at 788 Malkin Ave.

The briefing by a group representing the dozen or so Food Distribution businesses in this precinct, outlined the essential service that their competitive synergy provides Vancouver and its region. Their operations handle the distribution of fresh food products to approx. 95% of the food stores, restaurants, and institutions in the region, that are not served by the vertically integrated marketing systems of the Sobeys and Pattison group supermarkets.

Were these businesses to suddenly shut down, within four days the bulk of Metro Vancouver would be without food, a void that no alternative food distribution network could fill.

Fully supportive of City initiatives such as farmers’ markets, and allotment gardening, the Produce Row businesses had recently been confronted with the prospect that the City’s plans for False Creek Flats would require these businesses to cease operation. In particular for the alignment of a new east west arterial roadway to replace the viaducts and Prior/Venables the City was looking at the lower cost, but unsavoury alternative, whose impact would eliminate use of the existing Malkin Street for HGV turning movements for Produce Row’s delivery trucks.

DVA considered a supplementary Community Health and Well-being Roundtable to bring together food interests from around the City. In terms of effectiveness it seemed more productive to work directly with City Staff and Councillors. Highlighting the fragility of food distribution infrastructure with the new City Manager, Sadhu Johnston, we felt supported in the beginning of a shift in community impact perspective. We emphasised this in the DVA’s July 2016 briefing to City Council regarding the planning directions for the new St. Paul’s.

Support for the William Street alignment

Primarily through the continued efforts of the Producer’s Row allies, the City has brought back to the table the common sense William Street alignment for the new arterial. Noting that there are other interests to be respected, including Parks Board, community gardeners and the arts/cultural land uses in that area, there appears to be a consensus emerging from thinking minds around the selection of this alignment. Compromise will be needed by all parties.

In accordance with the above narrative, the DVA is pleased to formally support the selection of the William Street alignment for the arterial as shown at the Open House on January 25, 2017. We furthermore note the potential synergy between this three dimensional civil infrastructure and the creation of opportunities for other similarly fragile land uses in this quadrant, most particularly the arts and cultural uses, that will be impacted through the modification to road and rail configurations. Thus we urge this roadway planning to be undertaken as an integrated land use and urban design exercise.

Graham McGarva, Past President

Photo: Chung Chow for Business In Vancouver.