Vancouver Mall Swings From “Park and Spend” To “Neighbourhood Hub”


According to Ray Oldenburg, an American urban sociologist, people have home and work, but need a third place to ‘hang out’.  This may have been the role of the library in days past then the local coffee shop or cyber café.  One of Vancouver’s most stylish shopping destinations, Oakridge Centre wants us to rethink all that.  They want to redesign the experience altogether.

“Life in the urban context is often described as lacking a sense of community; it’s not uncommon for people who live in cities to feel disconnected from the people who live right next door” say the project’s master planners, Henriquez Architects.  “City planners and citizens alike are recognizing that along with sustainable living, fostering community living is just as important to the social fabric of vibrant cities.”  Urban and space design has power to transform its visitors.   In his book, “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design” Canadian journalist Charles Montgomery laments the lack of physical social connection in modern urban centres.

By 2025 Vancouver, Canada’s Oakridge Centre will be a ‘mixed-use neighbourhood hub’ or gathering place that offers ‘retail AND community’ amenities, a place where people will want to go for interaction not just Interac ® .   An amenity building with a seniors’ centre, and library  will be next to 9 acres of public open space. This expansive area will feature activity fields, urban agriculture, quiet gardens, a reflecting pool, sport courts, a running track, and more.  A new outdoor shopping street, High Street, will add a different type of retail experience: cafés and restaurants spilling out onto the street will enliven the community after the interior retail closes for the day.

But will anyone want to hang out there if not to shop?  Oldenburg thinks so.  He believes we long for sociability even from among strangers and that people of various ages, race, gender and cultural beliefs are looking for reasons to come together and just need the right setting to do so.