NCI's Background

A distinguished group of planners, academics and concerned citizens founded the New City Institute in 1996. Since then, the Institute has been involved in academic and action research aimed at advancing the theory and practice of sustainability. The New City Institute undertakes research and public education on:

Structuring the built environment to minimize impacts on the natural environment,

Creating healthy, sustainable communities;

Improving planning theory and practice;

Fostering public participation and a culture of civic engagement.

The Institute also offers a variety of consulting services to both the private and public sectors.


Don Alexander is a professor in the Geography Department at Malaspina University College in Nanaimo and past president of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada. He is a founding member of British Columbia’s Community Development Institute, and the lead author and project manager for the BC Sprawl Report 2004.

Kathryn Cholette is former leader of the Green Party of Canada, and has played a key role in bringing stakeholders together to resolve land use and environmental conflicts. She was instrumental in organizing the Tin Wis Coalition, was a co-organizer of the "Greening Our Cities" conference, and has helped initiate a number of other workshops.

Charles Dobson teaches creative problem solving and sociology at Emily Carr College of Art and Design. He is the author of The Citizens' Handbook and The Troublemaker's Teaparty, A Guide to Effective Citizen Action.

Marcia Nozick is known for her work with City magazine, and for her classic book on sustainable community development: No Place Like Home. She currently lives and works in the Downtown East Side, and is the Executive Director of EMBERS, a community economic development organization.


Since its founding, the New City Institute has played a key role in a number of local initiatives. These include:

• the initiation of a series of lectures on the legacy of Lewis Mumford;

• the production of five case study reports on a proposed sustainable community; affordable housing and heritage issues; area-wide transportation demand management; community mapping:, and ‘character zoning’

• co-sponsorship of a conference on eco-city organizing with the Eco-City Network, and of a mayoralty candidates’ debate with the Forum for Planning Action;

• production of a regular section in New City magazine on "Sustainable Communities / Social Change";

• Initiation of a web site on urban sustainability and issues of local democracy;

• helping to lauch the Southeast False Creek Working Group, an organization devoted to realizing Vancouver’s first truly sustainable community, and to policy discussions about that community's future contours;

• exploration of the potential for citizen participation in initiating and implementing policies relating to density and "smart growth";

• organization of a class series on sustainable living for the Langara College Continuing Education program;

• ongoing efforts to create a heritage trail around the False Creek basin, illustrating the area's vibrant ecological and social history;

• creation of a "seeds of sustainability" database of innovative projects in B.C.’s Lower Mainland;

• participation in the creation of Smart Growth BC (SGBC) and Association for Better Communities (ABC), and

• holding workshops on urban sustainability at the annual Community Development Institute.


Learning From Shaughnessy: The Role of Design Guidelines in Adjudicating Community Conflicts

Capturing A ‘Sense of Place’: A Personal View of An Innovative Experiment in Community Mapping

A Vision For A False Creek Urban Heritage Trail

False Creek – Past, Present, and Future: An Anthology

Victory Square: A Future in the Balance

A Transportation Efficiency Improvement Plan for Vancouver

Southeast False Creek: Council’s Next Challenge


The New City resource site was established in 1997-98 to replace New City magazine. It also incorporates the work of the Vancouver Citizens' Committee which produced the widely used Citizens' Handbook. New City magazine and its predecessor, City magazine, for many years offered the only in-depth alternative perspective on urban planning, housing, citizen participation, and sustainability issues in Canada. Founded by planning professor, Kent Gerecke, and others in 1974, it continued publication until 1998 with Marcia Nozick taking over as editor in 1992, and Ross Dobson assuming the role in 1995.

The New City Institute continues to examine how cities are developed and how this affects the health and sustainability of ecological and social relationships. It also continues to examine ways of involving citizens more closely in the decisions that affect their lives.

Contact us at:

891 Sawyers Lane,
Vancouver, BC, Canada, V5Z 3Z8
Phone: 604 731 0686

Editors of this site:

Don Alexander

Charles Dobson