Rethinking laneways in the West End

more photos of Molehill laneway

One of the most under valued lane use resources of the West End are the laneways. That could  soon change as the West End Planning team is starting a series of workshops entitled “Laneways 2.0” with the view to explore the possibility of developing new types of housing there.
West End Planning Process

Laneways have long been neglected spaces seen only as the backside of buildings where garage is stored and cars parked. Little design attention is given to the back alleys which is a real lost opportunity as this space could be a vital tool in creating more housing and better community.

Danish planner Jan Gehl has long contended that the spaces between buildings are as worthy of attention as the building themselves. The “spaces between buildings” is where we live and are spaces that connect us our communities.

In the Vancouver the real gold standard of what laneways could be is the Molehill Community Housing project located between lane beside Nelson Park, where communities gardens where developed, with traffic calming, space for sitting, community art and impressive landscaping.


The prospects of having new types of housing and an enhance design guidelines for laneways in the West End is a really exciting development in the West End planning process and really has the possibility to be a transformative moment to urban life in Vancouver.

5 Responses to “Rethinking laneways in the West End”

  1. In the discussions, did anyone present a map of the West End showing specifically where the Mole Hill experience can be repeated? There is a finite number of spots where the lane is wide and where conditions might allow infill. Also, are City staff talking about one storey buildings, or 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 storeys? The answer makes a huge difference.

  2. brent says:

    Yes, the city did hand out some concept drawings of proposed ideas. It would appear that the planning team is proposing a pilot project in the laneway from the West End Community Centre to Barclay Heritage Square modeled on some ideas from the Molehill laneway. Design elements from this project could inform future laneway redevelopment in the future if ideas are seen to work.

    The handout that was given out at the workshop will be posted online.

    The housing that is being proposed is where surface parking is redundant in buildings with underground capacity. It would be required to be 100% rental and be family oriented in design. The general idea on the new housing in laneways is that it would create affordible housing capacity for families with kids as this is a building type that is lacking in the West End. Much of the discussion of the laneway design focused on making space where pedestrians felt safe and where kids could play.

  3. Thank, Brent. Could you post a note when the material is online, with link? Also, if you’re talking to the planners, a map of the entire West End where these ideas might work would help the community picture where this is going. For sure, they would have ideas of where the space would permit.

  4. If a laneway house goes in behind an existing single story home, could it prevent, in the future, the development of midrise slim tower on that lot? Need to be aware of the all the factors in order to make informed choices.

  5. brent says:

    The general idea is to locate new laneway infill housing behind larger apartments where the surface parking is redundant because there is other parking available. One lane has been selected as pilot project which runs for 3 blocks from West End Community Centre to Barclay Heritage Square. 6 sites have been noted as possible location for a new type of housing. The design guides lines for the building type have not been nailed down but some of the starting ideas is the housing would be 100% rental and would suitable for families with kids.

    A lot of the discussion on the re-design of laneways was around attempting to make spaces better for walking and for kids.

    I am told that the workshop handout material with the concept images will be available next week on line with a survey for feedback as well.

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