About twenty miles south of Vancouver, British Columbia, the 538-acre Southlands site is located in Tsawwassen near the northern United States’ Washington border. A bedroom community where nearly 75% of residents commute to Vancouver, Tsawwassen has seen little to no growth in the last decade and is composed primarily of strip shopping centers and single-family suburban developments. The Southlands is situated among two such existing neighborhoods and Boundary Bay Regional Park. It is the last large undeveloped parcel outside of British Columbia’s Agricultural Reserve boundary.
A unique project, the Southlands seamlessly integrates urbanism with all scales of agricultural production. In a time of rising oil prices, growing food security concerns and the strain of global warming, the Southlands will be a sustainable community at all levels of design. Focusing primarily on food production, the Southlands master plan eliminates all buffers between urban living and agricultural cultivation, and allows each resident the opportunity to farm or enjoy locally produced food.
The master plan seeks to create an explicitly green community with a special concentration on food production for the surrounding region. It also preserves a minimum of two thirds of the site for either open space or farmland. Farming and gardening are integrated at several scales and levels of intensity across the Transect resulting in ‘Agricultural Urbanism’ where food production forms the basis for urban density. From the larger, more rural farm and the smaller, periurban specialty farm to the urban community gardens and individual window boxes, the Southlands plan offers each resident the opportunity to cultivate food at a number of scales.
Agriculture is also integrated at a social and cultural level where the town centre meets food production to form an ‘Agricultural Precinct.’ This Precinct will integrate a main street with live-works, retail, restaurants and civic buildings including a market space for local food producers to sell their wares. Additionally, a new arts center and an educational center partnered with Kwantlen University will educate residents and students in the culinary and agricultural arts. Using the discipline of the pedestrian shed, the town centre will be within a ten-minute walk of all neighbourhood homes, thereby serving as a gathering place for residents and visitors alike. Southlands’ residential component will consist of townhouses, single-family homes, granny flats and cottages, each with unique access to land cultivation whether within an interior courtyard or a private garden plot. Southlands’ compact, walkable agricultural urbanism will serve as a model for an innovative self-sustaining, food-centered community.