From rural surfers to urban farmers, DIALOG scores three planning awards

From rural surfers to urban farmers, DIALOG scores three planning awards

Whether it’s reconnecting surfers to lost waterfront or finding fresh dirt for urban farmers, it takes imagination to help plan healthy, vibrant communities. The Planning Institute of British Columbia (PIBC) recently recognized just how creative DIALOG is when it comes to drawing out the best in places. 

DIALOG was honored for three separate planning and policy projects at this year’s PIBC awards, more than any other design firm. This recognition includes work in the communities of Vancouver, Campbell River, and Tofino.

“All of these awards are an impressive testament to the talented and diverse group of designers we have working here at DIALOG,” says principal Martin Nielsen, the architect and engineer who, along with architect Joost Bakker, led design on the Pearson Dogwood policy plan. “In particular, the winning projects are a result of the creative energy and leadership of Jennifer Fix and Kevin King, two of our recently appointed Associates in the Vancouver office.”

DIALOG continues to engage and inspire people in communities across Canada through pushing public engagement beyond traditional approaches. This involves using techniques ranging from filmmaking and community feasts to public open houses and lemonade stands.

“We’ve been so fortunate to work with such a progressive group of clients and to have such a broad range of experts across our company, not just planners, working on these projects together,” says Fix. “It’s great to be recognized for such a diverse range of projects and all credit goes to the collective imagination of the teams involved. These awards really demonstrate just how powerful those collaborations are.”

Other DIALOG designers playing key roles in these winning projects include landscape architect Matthew Thomson, intern architect Esteban Matheus, new media producer Miguel Strother, and principal Norm Hotson.

Here are the full descriptions of the awards from PIBC on all three projects:


Excellence in Planning Practice – Small Town & Rural Areas – SILVER

St Ann’s Block: The Making of a Great Street

Author: City of Campbell River Partner(s): DIALOG, PWL Partnership, Highland Engineering and Surveying

This submission focused on the success achieved when the City of Campbell River partnered with a local developer who was making a significant investment in a new commercial building in the downtown core. The partners were able to leverage public realm improvements around this key site which has had a transformative effect on the overall downtown. The City initiated a comprehensive re-design of the streets around the site and the infrastructure beneath the streets. Through green infrastructure and significant quality in the materials and characteristic of public space are not unprecedented in BC, the strategic interventions are a great example of leveraging shared opportunities to encourage and deliver an enhanced downtown property space. Moreover, few cities the size of Campbell River have demonstrated outcomes of comparable scale and scope in terms of quality and function of improvements to the public realm.

The jury identified this project as a catalyst for downtown Campbell River and was impressed with how it will be used to attract more development and stimulate investment in the downtown core.  The use of a multi-discipline approach showcases best practice in leveraging investment which is critical in the province’s smaller communities.

Excellence in Planning Practice – Small Town & Rural – SILVER

A Plan for Tofino’s Main Street: A Place for People at the End of the Road Author: DIALOG and District of Tofino 

Tofino’s Main Street planning process focused on developing a new design concept for this important street paralleling the town’s waterfront.  The study focused on ways to maintain the distinct character and sense of place of Tofino through celebration of historic buildings and stunning views, while strengthening the broader downtown as a seam that stitches the waterfront together with the rest of the community. The project involved extensive community engagement, which included a community charrette, interactive public open house and the development of a film featuring long-time residents and business owners.

The jury thought the use of film to capture the history of Main Street was an innovative idea that will provide a lasting legacy for the community.  The use of ‘quick wins’ (small, inexpensive projects to illustrate the potential of Main Street) was seen as a useful tool to demonstrate the vision set out in the plan. The overall presentation of the plan was done to a high standard.

Excellence in Policy Planning – City & Urban Areas – SILVER

A Whole Health Neighbourhood: The Pearson Dogwood Redevelopment Author: DIALOG & Vancouver Coastal Health 

The Pearson Dogwood lands occupy 25 acres along the Cambie Corridor in a mature residential setting. The lands are home to two outdated health institutions which provide housing and daily care to residents with complex care needs and major disabilities. The buildings are old and need to be replaced while the site is largely underutilized. Vancouver Coastal Health engaged DIALOG to assist with the redevelopment of the site to generate revenue to fund health care while creating significant value to the community and the City of Vancouver. The resulting master plan lays out a comprehensive framework for one of the largest mixed-use residential development opportunities in Vancouver. The master plan proposes a range of new features. This includes a YMCA, neighbourhood retail shops, and approximately 3,000 homes for residents with diverse needs.

Other key features include a new rapid transit station, district energy, urban agriculture, integrated storm water management, LEED Gold buildings, and a beautiful, accessible, and sensual public realm. In developing this complex master plan for the site, the jury was impressed with the incorporation of the sustainable design and the thought that was put into implementation of the plan. The link between health and environmental design while keeping the project economically viable was viewed as a real strength of the submission.

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