How does Vancouver Compare?

How is all this new ‘urbanity’ in Vancouver elevating our ‘city’ status against other Washington cities? The skyline of our fair city has definitely seen a tremendous transformation. It is not so much how tall the buildings are as much as it is about a sheer volume of new projects. As of now in Downtown, Smith Tower remains the building with the most floors at 15 and 805 Broadway remains the tallest building at 165 feet. There has been no change in the rankings of the tallest, yet the skyline has quite literally doubled in size from the perspective of view west of the interstate bridge across the river from Terminal One. A couple of months ago I showed a comparison of Vancouver on my ‘Couv’ Life blog showing this transformation over just two years.

There is a massive change. Several more mid rise structures are going to be topped out in 2020 and a few high rise projects will likely break ground topping out sometime next year. If you follow the link to ‘Urban Pipeline’ you can see that much more is on the way. There is only one building proposed that might change the status of tallest and that is the “Trestle” project for Block 14 which is planned at 16 floors and 185 feet tall. But tall isn’t necessarily the thing that is making Vancouver look and feel more urban, it is volume of projects. Our downtown and the new waterfront are filling in the density. The more people and services in the Downtown core the more walkable and sustainable it becomes.

Comparing Vancouver USA to any city in Oregon not named Portland leads to a crushing defeat of the Beaver state challengers. Eugene has a great walkable Downtown, but Vancouver USA with that shiny new waterfront is just too cool 😉

How about the Evergreen State? Washington has 4 cities with more than 150,000 population and Bellevue is just shy of that. Clearly #4 Vancouver isn’t in the same weight category as #1 Seattle, but #2 Spokane, #3 Tacoma, and #5 Bellevue are.

Spokane is the center of influence for the “Inland Empire” and as such it feels bigger than it is. It is the regional heavyweight. Spokane however lacks the close connection to a major city like Seattle or Portland. if you can’t find it in Spokane you got a 400 mile ride ahead of you! Vancouver is a more of a cross between Tacoma and Bellevue.

Bellevue has a ridiculously huge urban skyline with 40 story skyscrapers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bellevue is the king of mid-sized cities as far as urban skylines are concerned. Seriously, there are MAJOR American cities with inferior skylines to Bellevue a city of just 145,000 people! But Bellevue’s urban high rises are all newer structures. You won’t find a high rise built in the 1960s like you will in Tacoma and Vancouver. Bellevue lacks of historical buildings. It’s core area is also a bit bland. It is however, very nice, super clean, and even quite ‘ritzy’. You can eat of sidewalk in Bellevue. It’s just not really very exciting. Bellevue is a bit stuffy what with all that Microsoft cash in the local economy. Bellevue is only a 10 mile drive to Downtown Seattle, which is nearly as close as Vancouver is to Downtown Portland (7 miles). Another negative in the Bellevue equation is the need for billionaire grade levels of cash to live there.

Tacoma is only marginally larger in population than Vancouver but it is the seat of government for the second largest county in the entire Northwestern US. Pierce County (Tacoma) has a larger  population than Multnomah County (Portland). Tacoma has somewhat steep streets in the Downtown area so that impacts the walkabilty a bit despite Tacoma’s efforts to bring residential and retail to the core. Tacoma is a city that feels much larger than it is. It also has a bit of a reputation as a “tough” city and that can be a hindrance to attracting quality businesses to their waterfront. Tacoma is also a bit of a haul to get to the “big city” as Seattle is 34 miles away on the notoriously congested I-5. In fact Tacoma’s local traffic is awful compared to Vancouver.

The bottom line is this: Vancouver is one of the best urban living opportunities in the Northwest, providing a city centered walkable lifestyle with some of the best city traffic around, decent parking, and very close proximity to a major city and the associated services such as airport, transit, events, etc.

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