This article—which, in large measure, holds up Vancouver as a model for the redevelopment of lower Manhattan—makes this arresting claim:

[D]owntown Vancouver has recently eclipsed Manhattan as North America’s highest density residential area.

This claim came as quite a bit of a surprise to me—I thought I was a Vancouver statistics geek, but I’d never heard that before.  And after fiddling on the internet for a bit, I now realize why:  as far as I can tell, it’s simply wrong. 

According to the 2001 Canadian Census, Vancouver’s downtown peninsula — the densest part of the city—had just over 70,000 residents in a little over 2 square miles, for an average population density of just under 50 people per acre.  It’s probably a bit higher now, but not all that much. 

Meanwhile, Manhattan squeezes more than 1.5 million people into just 23 square miles, which means that the average acre in Manhattan has 100 residents.  (That, of course, includes Central Park, which occupies well over a square mile in the center of the city.  Excluding that, as is done for Stanley Park in Vancouver, pushes Manhattan densities a bit higher.)

That makes Manhattan, on average, about twice as dense as the most heavily populated neighborhood in Vancouver.

I’m not trying to take anything away from Vancouver.  Its record in creating livable urban neighborhoods is truly remarkable.  Lower Manhattan can learn a lot from what Vancouver’s accomplished over the past few decades.  Still, there’s no purpose to be served in propagating bad information:  that can only lead to distorted expectations and, ultimately, bad decisions.

Update:  Apparently, Vancouver’s downtown peninsula isn’t even as dense as Brooklyn, let alone Manhattan.  Jeez.