City of glass. Sometimes loved, sometimes maligned, glass towers are cheap to build and make up most of the landscape in Vancouver. However, new building codes and concerns about energy efficiency and aesthetics are driving the evolution of these buildings.
No-fun city. Mark Lakeman from Portland’s City Repair Project says that risk-adverse planning is stifling free expression and citizen engagement.
Protest. Council passed a new bylaw regulating public protest this week, legislation that some argue will not stand up in court.
Ransack the toolbox. In search of solutions to the growing affordable housing problem in Vancouver.
No casino. After much public debate, the proposed Edgewater Casino expansion was voted down by Vancouver council, stating that a larger casino would not fit Vancouver’s brand.
Taller buildings in Chinatown. Council has approved height increases for buildings in Chinatown but some are still concerned about the potential for gentrification and real estate speculation to drive out low-income residents.
Aww, it’s a mini Vancouver Special!
Image: conceptDawg via flickr
Best in the world? City Planning Director Brent Toderian looks at the debate around Vancouver’s recent livability rankings, what they mean and just how hard it is to quantify and rank quality of life.
DTES development. The City may have postponed a decision about towers in the DTES but city manager Penny Ballem made it clear that they are definitely going ahead with other development projects in the neighbourhood.
Library housing. Turns out the new Strathcona branch of the VPL will include social housing after all.
Rainwater. The Tyee looks at how Vancouverites could put rain water to better use.
Winter die-off. Some very concerning news about bees in Metro Vancouver.
Image: runningclouds, via flickr
On a bright and sunny Saturday morning in February, 75 Moving Through participants embarked on one of three architectural walking tours organized by MOV, as part of a multidisciplinary exploration of Vancouver's built environment, called "This is Not an Architectural Speaker's Series". As some of you know, the groups were completely full, so not everyone was able to join. The good news is, we recorded each walk, and the podcasts are now available for listening and download!
Three concurrent walks and groups set out from Stadium/Chinatown Skytrain, Commercial/6th, and King Edward Stations, and joined together for lunch and an all-group Q&A and wrap-up session lead by Gordon Price at SFU Woodwards. Our intrepid guides report:
Mini-Walk A: The Path(s) Not Taken: Viaducts, Expressways, and Almost Vancouvers.
(*Guides: Vancouver Public Space Network, Michael Green, mgb architecture)
Most Vancouverites rarely spend any time in the parking lot across from Rogers Arena, but standing there looking up at the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, it is easy to feel like you've been transported to the overpass wasteland more typical of LA or Detroit.
Demian Rueter and Brandon Yan, transportation coordinators from the Vancouver Public Space Network and Michael Green of mgb architecture have thought a lot about these overpasses and about what could have been if the downtown freeway started in the early 1970s had been completed. Walking through Gastown, it is easy to see what would have been lost. The European style streetscape that was jeered for so long as a tourist trap left behind by Expo 86 has become in recent years a dependably fun spot for a night out and home to some of the city's best restaurants. If the freeway had been built, not only would this be lost, but also large chunks of Strathcona and Chinatown. By passionately opposing this plan, the residents of these neighbourhoods prevented this plan from occurring. A widely forgotten casualty of the project was Hogan's Alley, the neighbourhood Vancouver's Black community called home.
When we start to think about these great neighbourhoods surrounding the viaducts, it's easy to imagine that parking lot becoming something really exciting if the viaducts were to come down.
Mini-Walk B: Speed and the Shape of the City: Vancouver’s Evolving Transitscapes
(*Guides: Andrew Curran/Translink & Graham McGarva, VIA Architecture)
Graham McCarva sees transit stations differently than most people. Graham was the lead architect behind Commercial/Broadway station, it is informative to walk with him through the station and surrounding neighbourhood. "A subway station is a place to buy flowers," he told us, a place where everyone should feel comfortable walking past at any hour. This idea informed the of this station, which responded to neighbourhood concerns of unsavoury characters commanding the intersection. Previously the location of the busiest pay phone in the region, it is now home to the busiest Shopper's Drug Mart. The main action on the Drive used to be north of 1st Ave, but since the station was renovated the neighbourhood has grown right down to 12th Ave.
Andrew Curran, senior planner at Translink, introduced the concept of Marchetti's Constant, and helped put the station into historical perspective, explaining that this, the highest traffic station in the system, serves the same function as did the former streetcar station (now a post office) at 6th and Commercial. Like the streetcar station before it, Commercial/Broadway Station connects two suburban lines to lines bound for Downtown (and UBC), moving thousands of people each day.
Andrew and Graham sparked many questions among the group, making the ride to SFU Woodwards a lively one. We were better able to see the role that transit has played in the development of the lower mainland, and puzzle over the role that the Canada Line and other future lines will play in the area's ongoing growth.
Mini-Walk C: Evolution in Station-Area Planning the Cambie Corridor
(*Guides: Jim Bailey, City of Vancouver & Peeroj Thakre, pH5 architecture & Urban Republic Arts Society)
Tucked beneath the streets at King Edward Skytrain station, Jim Bailey, senior planner for the City of Vancouver's Cambie Corridor Station Area Planning project, led us through an engaging discussion about this interesting, and perhaps under-discussed area of Vancouver. Ranging from the Cambie Village to Marine Drive, Bailey divides the area into 5 Precincts, suggesting each has room for development of a unique character and livelihood. However, while single family homes are currently at a market value of $1.5million near King Ed station, it is clear that increased density will be necessary for more affordable living situations. As we walked through the laneways surrounding the station, Peeroj and Jim discussed with the group, how optimizing transit, cycling, and walking opportunities, as well as increasing public amenities, and opportunities for community engagement will be key for the future of the Cambie Corridor.
See the Moving Through photoset here.
The changing face of commercial space. Across North America, developers and planners are taking aim at shopping malls, tearing up parking lots to build housing, big box stores are moving downtown and suburban shopping centres are urbanizing. An article in the Globe and Mail looks at some current redevelopment proposals for shopping centres around Vancouver.
Casino. Paragon is seeking changes to legislations that place limits on the amount of money that can be carried into BC casinos without a Canadian bank account. They would like the province to allow casino patrons to be able to wire money directly from foreign bank accounts. But there are concerns about money laundering.
Other municipalities are concerned that a larger downtown casino will pull patrons away from the suburban casinos they rely upon for tax revenue.
The public hearing is tonight at City Hall. Should be interesting, because there are so many people signed up to speak.
Traffic. A couple weeks ago it was announced that the traffic on the Golden Ears Bridge was far less trafficked than TransLink had hoped, and was losing money as a result. Now it seems like traffic is falling short of what was predicted all down the coast. So what does that mean for new infrastructure projects like the Port Mann?
Vancouver, do you know where your children are? Census data says they’re not downtown.
Tent city returns. Housing activists are setting up again to protest the City’s lack of commitment to social housing at the Olympic Village.
The elms of East 6th may be coming down soon. They’re getting old and difficult to maintain, and the park board wants to replace them with smaller trees. Doing so will permanently alter the streetscape, something that some residents really don’t want to see.
Komagata Maru. Coming soon, a new monument to commemorate the Komagata Maru, a ship of Punjabi immigrants that was forced to return to India in 1914.
Image: mezzoblue, via flickr.
Happy New Year! Wishing you lots of health and happiness in your year of the rabbit.
Favourite places. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation wants to know which places in the city are most important to you. They intend to place 125 plaques around the city to recognize important and previously unrecognized places.
Homelessness. The City has made great strides in providing new housing for the homeless but is projected to fall short of it’s goal of eliminating homelessness by 2015 unless more funding can be produced.
Cultural space. The City has set aside space at 688 Cambie for cultural use but the Vancouver Art Gallery must still demonstrate that it is able to raise the necessary funds to build a new building and operate and there are concerns that the City is trying to fit too many things into the same site.
Internet metering. Vancouverites are taking on the CRTC over the issue of usage based billing, plans by internet service providers to limit downloads and charge people for extra use. To date more than 400,000 people have signed the petition created by Vancouver-based OpenMedia. Another Vancouverite, David Beers, debates the issue in the Globe and Mail here.
Green design. re:place Magazine looks at Canada’s first Passivhaus in Whistler. Formerly Austria House during the Olympics, the building uses 10% of the energy a normal building would and shows the possibilities for sustainable design with wood.
Image: Carol Browne, via flickr
SOLEfood. A scrapyard on Hastings Street may be the location of the second SOLEfood Farm in the Downtown Eastside. The farm is run by United We Can and provides seasonal employment for residents in the Downtown East Side.
Big debut. The Vancouver Police Department inaugurated their new twitter accountwith a marathon session of tweeting every call they received in a 24 hour period. It just so happened that this allowed them to tweet about the lockdown at Gladstone Secondary but they say that they will likely only be using it for traffic and safety announcements in the future.
Hastings Park. The plan for the renovation of Hastings Park unveiled last week has come under fire from the local community for increasing the size of the PNE and the number of tradeshows hosted in the park.
Internet billing. City Council is voting tomorrow on a motion to oppose the CRTC’s approval of usage-based billing for internet service. The CRTC decision will likely result in increased costs for users, making access to information more difficult for those who can’t afford it. Council has no ability to change the decision but they want to raise the profile of the issue.
Powering the city. Scout Magazine takes a walking tour of electrical substations around Vancouver.
Red army. In the early 1930s the unemployed took to the streets of Vancouver and had their concerns largely ignored. Past Tense has a bit of interesting history about the political unrest at the time and the rise of the Communist Party in Vancouver.
Image source: Dan Toulgoet, The Courier
Homes and books. Housing advocates are urging the city to consider including social housing in a new library branch that is to be constructed on East Hastings.
Opsal Steel. Two towers are planned for the Opsal Steel site south of False Creek. The 90 year old building is one of the best remaining examples of west coast early industrial architecture. The plan calls for portions of the original building to be saved. The building was listed as one of Heritage Vancouver’s Top Ten Endangered Sites in 2001 and 2002.
Viaducts. Anthony Perl, director of urban studies at SFU, wants to tear down Vancouver’s viaducts. He says the land is better suited for social housing and other projects and represents a huge unmet potential.
Bike lanes. City Caucus looks at why separated bike lanes are so controversial in Vancouver and elsewhere.
Salmon. Scientists now believe that the unusually large salmon run this year was caused by the eruption of the Katsatochi Volcano in 2008, which led to a greater amount of phytoplankton in the water for the fish to feed on.
Meanwhile, the Cohen commission is still looking for answers as to why last year’s salmon run was so small and debate continues regarding how best to promote biodiversity without harming the fishing industry.
Local food infrastructure. In their ongoing series searching for solutions for fostering a local sustainable food system, The Tyee looks at Mennonite produce cooperatives and auction houses in Ontario.
Image credit: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier
A round-up of some things we’ve been following.
Safekeeping. First United Church announced this week that it is desperately in need of funding to keep their storage facility in operation. The facility allows Downtown East Side residents to store their belongings in a secure environment, but will close if they are not able to secure the necessary funds.
Social stigma? Mixing social housing with high-end developments is not new to Vancouver, however, the sluggish sales of units in the Olympic Village has reopened the debate about the social engineering of communities and provision of social housing. Development consultant Michael Geller stated early last week that the inclusion of social housing within the development may be hurting sales. Very understandably he has been met with a lot of criticism for this view and unfortunately the debate turned nasty.
How much does it help? Bob Rennie and architect Peter Busby debate the merits of green building.
One book, not Vancouver. Vancouver Public Library named The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as this year’s One Book One Vancouver. While conceding that it’s an old favourite, Terry Lavender questions whether a more Vancouver-centric book or author could have been chosen instead.
Speak up. Mero Vancouver launched a new website called Renters Speak Up to encourage renters to participate in discussions about affordable housing in the region. Though housing policy affects them, they tend to be absent in discussions. That is about to change, at least for renters who speak English and have internet access.
Image credit: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier
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.
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.
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
Quick post: Love this shot of Peter Fox (left) and John Fluevog taken in 1971 outside the Hotel Europe. (What is it about a flat-iron building that’s universally popular? Read the Gastown blog’s nice profile of the 101-year-old structure here). Timeless. And when plaid, three-piece suits are worn this confidently, they might be too.
Image courtesy of John Fluevog