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Construction along the West 10th Avenue portion of the Broadway corridor in Vancouver on March 22, 2016.Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

A bold new plan for Vancouver’s Broadway corridor is suggesting towers of up to 40 storeys on key spots as part of a dramatic increase in density – but with a difference.

Instead of the usual type of area plan that Vancouver has seen in previous decades, which has left it to developers to decide what type of housing to build, the proposal released Thursday would require about 70 per cent of that new housing to be private rentals, with some below-market prices built in, and another 10 per cent social housing. The remainder could be home-ownership apartments.

Along with all that, the massive new plan – the biggest area plan Vancouver has done – proposes a future where some areas are protected from a lot of new development, particularly the commercial shopping “villages” on the major streets that intersect Broadway.

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The many low-rise apartments in the big area, which extends for blocks both north and south of Broadway, should be redeveloped cautiously, with strong protections for existing renters, according to the plan. The detached-house areas throughout various parts of the corridor are envisioned as zones that will gradually develop into a denser mix through more infills, duplexes and some small-scale strata.

Much more space is also planned for commercial and industrial job areas.

“Yes, it is bold, but we think appropriately so,” said Matt Shillito, senior planner with the city’s special projects office. “It is our second-largest downtown. It makes sense to introduce new homes and jobs at a significant scale.”

As envisioned, its emphasis on creating some below-market rental housing is to be achieved by trading density for affordability with private developers.

The 70-per-cent rental housing represents “quite a shift,” Mr. Shillito said, and doing it through private development is a “major tool that we’re having to use” since there is unlikely to be enough federal or provincial subsidy dollars for that kind of ambitious goal.

Mr. Shillito emphasized that the proposal is not a final plan. That will come in February, after hearing from the public until Nov. 30 about everything in this version.

As well, it’s not uniform. There are different approaches for the many different areas along the corridor, which includes Mount Pleasant, Fairview and Kitsilano, the Main, Cambie, Granville and Arbutus shopping areas, the busy office cluster in central Broadway, and two industrial blocks of land.

The province required the city to come up with a plan for increasing housing and jobs along the corridor, as part of the agreement to spend almost $3-billion on an extension of the Broadway subway line from Clark Drive in the east to Arbutus Street in the west.

But the province did not set any targets. Mr. Shillito also said there are no set number goals, although information provided with the plan indicates that 2050 projections for the Broadway area show that it likely needs to make room for about 50,000 new residents, 30,000 new homes and 42,000 jobs.

City councillors and interested members of the public were still trying to take in all the implications of the proposals.

“This plan reaches very far. It really pushes,” said Michael Wiebe, a Green Party city councillor who was involved in the planning for Mount Pleasant long before he got into politics. He said he was a bit surprised to see how large an area the plan covers, with one suggestion for 18-storey towers around the Fraser Street and Kingsway intersection.

He said he’ll be working hard to hear everything the public has to say about the topic.

Independent Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung also acknowledged “there is a lot in there.”

She said the plan is intriguing in the way that it provides a lot of variety in how various areas along the corridor are treated. “It is trying to retain the village-like elements in some areas. It’s striving to provide some differentiation of different areas.”

That kind of differentiation is what successful cities have, she said.

But that differentiation is achieved by having very high densities in some areas to keep other areas at a lower density. That kind of trade-off is going to be the issue that Vancouverites have to debate in this phase of the plan, she said.

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