July 2010

Posted by: Erin Brown John on July 30, 2010 at 5:23 pm


Another round-up of the things we’ve been following this week:

Zoning vs. indie performance venues. This week City bylaw inspectors discovered that Little Mountain Gallery near Main Street is operating as a performance venue without a proper permit. The gallery provides performance space for a variety of different kinds of small acts but was apparently not zoned to do so. At the moment, the future of the gallery is uncertain and hopefully this issue can be resolved. It’s a great little all-ages venue for people you’ve never heard of to perform. Vancouver needs more of these kinds of spaces, not less.

Pigeon Park street market. The Vancouver Courier reports that the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council has launched a street market for residents in the Downtown Eastside that gives binners the chance to legally sell the things that they have salvaged from the trash. Though this doesn’t eliminate the issue of stolen items, it provides many people with another legitimate source of much needed income.

Waste management woes. Metro Vancouver is voting as to whether plans to construct a garbage incinerator in the Metro Vancouver region will go ahead. The Vancouver and Cache Creek landfills are filling up and as long as people are still producing garbage at the rate that they are going, then the waste has to go somewhere.

Quiet culture war in Seattle. An article on Crosscut talks about balancing the city’s dual identity as a home for new urbanism and the creative class and as an industrial port. Each has different implications for policy and urban design. A lot of issues raised are pretty applicable to Vancouver’s context as well.

Image credit: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier

Posted by: Erin Brown John on July 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm


Part of the justification for the current car-free experiment on Granville is the City’s desire to revitalize the area and encourage more people to use the space. However, Granville was far from empty before. The street already has a lot of animation and life, just perhaps not the most desirable kind.

From the 90s onwards city zoning encouraged the location of a high volume of bars and nightclubs on Granville Street, transforming it into an entertainment district. It has a relatively stable nighttime population of pub and concertgoers.

This demographic is much maligned, occasionally the target of news stories that focus on the challenges of policing the area. Most of these people are reportedly young and from the suburbs. Fights, public drunkenness, weapons and gang activity are frequently problems in the area, leading business owners to engage in controversial programs such as Bar Watch.

However, Rediscover Granville’s entertainment lineup reveals that the City is attempting to attract a different, more family-friendly demographic to the area. Whether this new group is compatible with the pre-existing culture of the street remains to be seen.

At the moment, the two populations seem segregated - one inhabits the street north of Robson and the other to the south, and at night they’re very different places. The programmed activities seem to take place mainly between Dunsmuir and Robson and don’t seem to be aimed at changing the culture of the entertainment district.

In a sense, the same separation was visible during the Olympics. The street between Dunsmuir and Robson was filled with lanterns and public art, and attracted a large number of tourists and families. Beyond Robson it was a drunken binge. At the time, that arrangement seemed to work. Perhaps it still does.

It will be interesting to see how the current project with it’s sustained programming works out and whether it changes the feel of the area. Certainly encouraging a greater variety of people to enjoy Granville Street is a good thing. The kind of programming that the City is putting on will encourage people to use the space at other times of day, rather than just at night. Hopefully it will attract people who are normally put-off by the entertainment district to return over the longer term.

Rediscovering Granville is a summer series on the MOV Blog about Granville Street. See the other posts in the series here.

Image credit: E. Brown-John

Posted by: Erin Brown John on July 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm


After the sun has set on the eve of August 23rd, Potluck Cafe and Catering and Horizon Distributors will be presenting a free outdoor film screening on the lawn of majestic Vanier Park. To celebrate food and feasting on the opening week of our new exhibit HOME GROWN: Local Sustainable Food, we invite you to come roll out a blanket and curl up with us for the evening to enjoy the view and a great film.

Until Friday, August 6 we give YOU the chance to vote on one of these three food-themed films. The winner will be shown on August 23rd. So watch the trailers, read the reviews and pick your plat du jour.

Voting on Facebook
Visit the facebook event page, post on the wall the name of the film that you would like to see and invite your friends!

Voting on Twitter

Tweet one of the following:

I’m voting for Babette’s Feast for @Museumofvan’s free #MOV-ie Night at Vanier Park.
I’m voting for Eat Drink Man Woman for @Museumofvan’s free #MOV-ie Night at Vanier Park.
I’m voting for Tampopo for @Museumofvan’s free #MOV-ie Night at Vanier Park.


In a 19th century small village in Denmark life is all grey mush. French political refugee Babette is taken in by two sisters and sets to work as their cook and housekeeper. One day Babette wins the lottery (lucky for us) and decides to whip up many, many tantalizing minutes of French feasting.

An aging master chef with three single daughters, elaborate Sunday dinners and sisters with complicated love lives, family dysfunction and food.

TAMPOPO (1985)
Goro busts through Tampopo’s door like Indiana Jones for a bowl of noodles only to encounter a fatal flaw. The lukewarm noodles “have sincerity, but lack guts.” The film follows Goro, Tampopo and company in a quest to save her failing restaurant.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on July 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm


THE BIG BANG is a fundraising event hosted by Andy Yan of Bing Thom Architects and sponsored by Mark Anthony Brands and Stanley Park Brewery in support of the great youth and family programs at the Museum of Vancouver!

8 pm - Doors Open
9:30 pm - Words from MOV
10 pm - Fireworks Begin
11 pm - Event ends

Tickets: $10 in advance, $15 at the door (plus HST) – there are only 150 tickets available!

Tickets are available online (please print your Paypal receipt and bring it to the event as proof of purchase) or at Visitor Services in person or by calling 604.736.4431.

Cash bar

Please Note: Due to the high volume of car and pedestrian traffic in the area, please consider walking, biking, or taking transit to the event. Parking will be severely limited and traffic will be congested.

All those coming in a car or cab: An access pass is required as you drive into the Vanier Park area. You will need to present it for access. To request a pass, please email:

Posted by: Erin Brown John on July 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm


A decidedly food-heavy round-up of things we’ve been following this week:

Food and rehabilitation. GOOD reports that the Soul Food Project in San Francisco prisons is helping women reconnect with the community, both behind bars and once they’ve been released. The program teaches cooking skills and healthy eating with a focus on affordable food and wellness. The life and job skills they learn are an important way of minimizing recidivism and encouraging inmates to seek lives outside of crime.

Meanwhile, protest continues over the closure of Canada’s prison farms. The farm program provided inmates with job skills while providing meat and dairy products for the local economy.

Social inclusion through food. Vivian Pan at Beyond Robson has started a series about food security and community gardening in Vancouver, with a focus on community building and social inclusion. The first two posts are here and here. It has been an interesting read so far. We’re looking forward to reading more!

Edible landscaping. The Vancouver Sun has an interesting article about the edible garden at the Teahouse Restaurant in Stanley Park. The garden provides decoration for the dining area while it also provides fresh herbs and greens for the restaurant. The fact that the garden is actively used for cutting makes maintenance a bit of a challenge. Still, it increases the visibility of urban agriculture and provides a great example of how food crops can be beautiful as well as edible.

STIR-up in the West End. Terry Lavender presents a useful primer of the issues, stakeholders and conflict surrounding two proposed Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing projects in the West End. The development pits the City against concerned residents over the issue of the construction of new purpose-built rental housing in order to provide more options for affordable housing in one of the most diverse and dense neighbourhoods in the city.

Bloedel Conservatory. Earlier this week the City of Vancouver announced that the Bloedel Conservatory will be saved, and jointly operated by the City, VanDusen Botanical Garden Association and Friends of the Bloedel. The Conservatory ran into financial difficulty due to city budget cuts, and was facing closure. It’s great to see that this local institution will be around for some time to come.

Image credit: Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press

Posted by: Erin Brown John on July 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm


The Holman Block/Golden Gate Hotel (1888-89), one of Vancouver's oldest buildings

This year Granville Street is number four on Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Ten Endangered Sites list.

Each year Heritage Vancouver compiles a list of buildings and historical sites that are in danger of decay or demolition. Certain buildings on Granville Street have made the list in previous years, but this year Heritage Vancouver took the step of placing the entire street on the list. Over time, many of the buildings on Granville Street have fallen into disrepair and there are currently few incentives to promote their restoration and upkeep. The organization is concerned that the current project to revitalize Granville Street will result in the replacement of several heritage buildings with new developments and the loss of the character of the streetscape. There are several reasons why the organization is concerned.

Several key buildings along the street are not currently listed in the Heritage Register, meaning that there is no specific bylaw in place to protect them from being demolished or significantly renovated. Being listed in the Heritage Register places several restrictions on renovations and alterations that can be made to buildings, with the intent of protecting the facade and streetscape. It also makes property owners eligible for grants and other financial assistance for repairs.

Heritage Vancouver has recommended that several buildings along Granville Street be added to this list. However, as the organization argues, though this is an important step, the focus of the Register and bylaws is on the exterior of buildings. There is nothing in place to ensure the protection of the interiors of buildings, leaving spaces such as the Vogue Theatre and the Commodore Ballroom’s horse-hair dance floor vulnerable to being altered or lost during renovations.


The Gresham Hotel (1908)

Another program in place to protect heritage buildings is currently on hold. The Heritage Density Exchange Program rewards developers who restore old buildings or build public amenities by giving them the opportunity to add extra density to other developments. This program has resulted in several successful projects, such as the Roundhouse, the Stanley Theatre and Christ Church Cathedral restorations. However, the amount of density awarded has outstripped the pace of development, leaving a large pool of potential new development that is not being built. In the downtown core there is limited space to absorb that density.

In the meantime there is increasing pressure to densify the downtown core and many buildings along Granville Street continue to decay. With the renewed focus on cleaning up the area several significant buildings could be lost. Important decisions must be made about the future character of the area, whether heritage features will be maintained, or whether the street will be transformed into something new.


The Yale Hotel (1889)

Rediscovering Granville is a summer series on the MOV Blog about Granville Street. See the other posts in the series here.

Images: E. Brown-John


Posted by: Erin Brown John on July 16, 2010 at 1:54 pm


A round up of things we have been following this week.

Beatty Street wall repaint. Painting is finally underway on the new Beatty Street wall mural. The project is jointly funded by the City of Vancouver and Concord Pacific and depicts figures from Vancouver’s past and present. More information can be found on the project’s Facebook page and Youtube.

Shortly before the Olympics the Beatty Street Wall was painted over by city workers conducting what was apparently routine maintenance. The move sparked the ire of a large number of people in the community. For those of you who may be feeling nostalgic, the original artwork is still visible on Google Street View, here.

Pop-up shop. Douglas Coupland partnered with Roots to open up a temporary store in Gastown stocked with several limited edition signature items. The event has garnered a lot of buzz and is part of a trend in retail and marketing that turns shopping into an event with stores appearing in novel locations for limited periods of time. Pop-up retail and marketing has already been used successfully by several companies. In a sense, the Cheaper Show uses the same model in order to create new markets for local art. I’d love to see this concept used for non-commercial purposes too, like education or community building.

The changing face of Gastown. The Westender focuses on the closure of Biz Books to highlight the pressures on independent businesses as Gastown gentrifies. In spite of the neighbourhood’s facelift, rents are rising and there is a growing number of empty storefronts as people wait for the renewal and residential density ushered in by Woodwards to arrive.

City calls for container housing. City council is considering a motion to explore the use of shipping containers in providing low-cost social housing. The Tyee ran a very positive story about this kind of housing earlier this year, but the comments below reveal that it is a very controversial idea.

Old Spice answers your questions. And a shout-out to Old Spice for launching an excellent social media campaign this week. In short: you send a message to the Old Spice Man via social media and he responds in a video on Youtube. This is in no way a product endorsement, I just think it’s a clever and entertaining campaign and Mashable is reporting some incredible stats about its’ reach and effectiveness.

Image credit: Kris Krüg, via flickr

Posted by: Erin Brown John on July 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm


Last week the City of Vancouver went ahead with the Rediscover Granville project, a plan to make Granville Street pedestrian-only until Labour Day. Five blocks have been blocked to traffic and the City has installed artificial turf and extra seating in order to encourage people to use the new space. There is a schedule of public events and activities planned along the street during the weekends.


The project aims to revitalize the streetscape and create community through increasing the amount of public space downtown and encouraging further use of the space including larger restaurant patios and more busking. Though this has not been the first time that pedestrian-only options have been explored or attempted for Granville Street, the City cites the success of street closures during the Olympics as the main reason why it has gone ahead.

The street closure was announced to much fanfare and media coverage and gained a lot of attention when crowds came to watch World Cup games on giant screens near Sears. However, now that the project is underway it is likely that it will get very little press until it is completed.

Over the next several weeks we intend to focus on what is happening on Granville Street and explore some of the issues around what we see.

Image credit: Kama Guezalova, (CC) via flickr