urban planning

MOVments: Cohousing, Kingsgate Mall, and Predicting the Future

This week the Illustrated Vancouver blog posted an artist's vision of the Museum of Vancouver building from 1966. Of course when it actually opened in 1968, the museum looked just a little bit different. Unsurprisingly, Vancouver's landscape of shifting expectations is no less visible today. If we look around the city we can find plenty of predictions that haven't turned out quite as we'd anticipated. Read on for some contemporary adjustments to how we might be living, shopping, and doing business in the future.

Moving in Together. Chances are that most of us didn't expect to be living with roommates past our 20s (alright, maybe our early 30s). Even the word "roommate" can conjure up negative memories of messy bathrooms and passive aggressive notes. Well, Vancouver Cohousing is providing a different framework for shared living, one that incorporates values like sustainability, community building, and intergenerational bonding. As the Vancouver Courier reports, a cohousing fair last night (November 19) aimed to educate people about a living strategy which organizes separate units around a central shared space used as anything from a communal dining room to a playroom for children. There aren't any cohousing communities in Vancouver at the moment but it looks like we can definitely expect increased interest around the subject.
Kingsgate & The Class Divide. For years, what is arguably one of the weirdest malls in the city has provided an eclectic neighbourhood with an eclectic assortment of stores. Now with the new Rize development in the works across the street, Kingsgate Mall is set for redevelopment as a mixed use residential and commercial complex. It's clear that both developers and residents are anticipating a shift in the climate and culture of the neighbourhood, one very much connected to tricky issues of affordability and gentrification. For more on these contentious topics, The Atlantic Cities website recently put out a fascinating article exploring growing class division in the city. As the author Richard Florida suggests, our expectations of "Lotus Land" are quickly diverging from the lived reality: "Even the city widely recognized as the world’s "most livable" cannot escape the growing class polarization of our increasingly spiky and divided world."
Social Venture Award. Finally, two Vancouverites may be changing expectations around what it means to do business here. Carol Newell and Joel Solomon of Renewal Partners, a venture capital firm, have just been inducted into the Social Venture Network’s Hall of Fame. Newell and Solomon have invested in businesses like Happy Planet juices and the Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (SPUD) to fulfill their mandate of providing a seed fund for socially aware start-ups. Currently, their Renewal 2 Investment Fund is also giving out larger sums to companies like Seventh Generation, encouraging growth of already established businesses. Congrats, guys!
At the MOVeum:
[Image: Kingsgate Mall sign, 2007. Photo by Greg McMullen]

MOVments: Location, Location, Location

This week's MOVments is examining the multiple, overlapping geographies that affect how we think about the city and how we situating ourselves within it. Read on to find out about the Museum of Vancouver's position in a shifting urban landscape, the geo-political perspectives that are influencing the shark-fin soup debate, the city across the sea that is giving Vancouver a run for its money, and the city-within-a-city that might be popping up near you.

Museum on the Move? It's no secret that while the Museum of Vancouver may have one of the best views in the city, our location doesn't exactly get mobs of people rushing through the door. Last week the Globe and Mail ran a feature on how we are looking into the possibility of leaving the quiet beauty of Vanier Park for a grittier home in the heart of the city. While our new programs and exhibits have attracted diverse, creative types from across Vancouver, in the absence of an easily accessible bus route or heavy foot-traffic in the area, walk-in visitors are virtually non-existent. We've got our eye on the former courthouse if the VAG ends up moving. What do ya think?
The Politics of Soup. As you may or may not have heard, local restauranteur David Chung recently called city councillor Kerry Jang a "banana" for his support of a ban on shark-fin soup in Lower Mainland restaurants. While the use of the word to categorize Jang as "too white" seems outmoded and even slightly comical, Chung's comments offer insight into the contested territory of Asian-Canadian identity in our province. For Jang, growing up in Vancouver meant that he was simultaneously considered "too" Chinese by his white classmates and not Chinese enough by newer immigrants from China and Hong Kong. 

Stockholm Syndrome. It looks like someone over at The Tyee has fallen in love with the captivating city of Stockholm. Crawford Kilian recently visited the northern European city and found out that it while it is similar to Vancouver in a number of ways, it's also doing a lot of things better than us, way better than us. From dense, aesthetically pleasing residential areas to an unparalleled public transit system, Stockholm seems to be the green, cosmopolitan urban centre that we've always wanted to be. As Kilian describes, "Streetcars drop slightly at stops, enabling easier access for wheelchairs and baby carriages, and space is allocated for them inside. Drivers don't take money; passengers buy tickets or monthly passes at convenience stores and other outlets, and can transfer easily from one line to another. Dogs are welcome on board." Okay great, we're just gonna pack up our dogs and move there now. 
Oakridge Mini City. And finally, plans are still in the works to redevelop Oakridge mall into what some are envisioning as a small city. Architect Gregory Henriquez has proposed a mega-project that would include "2,800 townhouse and apartment units, a high street, a public commons on the mall roof that includes everything from a wedding pavilion to tai chi spaces, a chunk of office space, a community centre, a library, and street connections to the neighbourhoods around it." The project will have a strong focus on pedestrian and transit routes and is looking to heavily reduce car use in the area. We're excited to see what kinds of innovations spring up here in the near future. 


At the MOVeum:
November 8 - Built City @MOV: Urban Evolution "Rescale" with John Robinson & Sadhu Johnston
November 11 - SALA SPEAKS @MOV: Hallucinating in Public
November 18 - SALA SPEAKS @MOV: In Praise of Ambiguity
November 28 - Evolving Geographies of Immigration in Vancouver: History and Horizons

[Image: Planetarium, 1971. Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, 2010-006.192



MOVments: Vancouver, All Shook Up

Ever since the ground literally moved under our feet this weekend, we, like the rest of the province, have been thinking about how we can prepare for potentially earth-shattering changes in the future. The earthquake off the coast of Haida Gwaii has had Vancouverites rushing out to get trained in emergency preparedness procedures but other potentially seismic changes also have city-dwellers stirred up. Read on for some examples of how we're gearing up for changes to our community gardens, the density of our neighbourhoods, and the availability of sustainable lumber products.
Community Gardens Threatened. The possible demolition of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts may mean that Cottonwood and Strathcona community gardens could be displaced. This fascinating piece from The Mainlander looks at the history and social significance of the community gardens in the area and raises the issue of "eco-gentrification." As the article points out, condominiums co-opting the "language of sustainability" have begun creating their own community gardens. However, they often do so without offering the same socio-economic benefits that come from more democratic, grass-root projects.
Dense Districts. Two areas in the city are looking at major changes in the near future: Little Mountain and Grandview-Boundary. While highrises are being proposed for one section of the soon to be redeveloped Little Mountain area, residents in the area adjacent to the site are consulting about what new "ground-level townhomes and multi-family units" will look like in their neighbourhood. Meanwhile, city officials are looking for ways to fund infrastructure for a new high-density commercial zone at Grandview-Boundary. The former industrial area is in need of improved sewer systems, sidewalks, and bike lanes to serve residents living and working in an area that has attracted big businesses such as Bell and HSBC.
UBC Prof Makes Good (Wood). Like most of you, we here at MOVments had no idea what Lauan was (or why it's so bad) before reading this recent Globe and Mail article. It turns out that the wood used to make the majority of movie sets in North America does huge environmental damage in places like Southeast Asia. But UBC professor Garvin Eddy is helping to change that. He has had a hand in developing Oregan-produced ScenicPly which is sourced from sustainable forestry projects. Although it costs more, Eddy is confident that it will provide a viable and environmentally-responsible alternative: "It’s never going to be as cheap as Lauan. [But] if you’re going to use Lauan, why don’t you just go and hire a bunch of 10-year-old kids to work in the studios? Because it’s the same thing."
First World Car Problems. Oh, and this happened in Richmond recently. Sigh.
At the MOVeum:
[Image: Old Georgia Street viaduct, 1939. Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 371-2242]

MOVments: Bright Lights, Big City

Today a neat little visualization of a day in Vancouver transit got us thinking about sources of light (both literal and figurative) in the city during this dreary time of year. In this instalment of MOVments bright spots appear in the form of an exploration of urban lighting, Vancouver's We Day celebration, a new street soccer court, and the lanterns that will be lighting up the sky in Mountain View Cemetery over the coming weeks. 
Lighting Up the Night. The way a city is lit and sometimes over-lit has huge affects on how we behave in urban spaces, says Anya Paskovic in her recent Spacing Vancouver piece. An integral part of urban design, artificial light has often been relegated to a purely functional role with little thought given to aesthetics or a cohesive lighting strategy. Among other things, Paskovic calls for city planners to take more innovative approaches to lighting design and take a closer look at how pedestrians interact with lit environments, highlighting these public experiences in the urban design process. 
We Day Vancouver. Magic Johnson and Desmond Tutu addressing the crowds at Roger's Arena were definite bright spots at last week's We Day celebration. As the Georgia Straight reports, the event, organized by Free the Children charity, aims at encouraging young people to engage in actions for social change. In response to the recent suicide of Amanda Todd the event focused strongly on an anti-bullying message. Johnson summed it up with some simple yet poignant words: "That’s important that you take this away today: Let’s stop the bullying and let’s hug and support people and high-five them instead of bringing them down.”
Street Soccer Finds New Home. The Vancouver Street Soccer League has something big to cheer about: plans are in the works to create Vancouver's first street soccer court at Hastings Park. For those of you who didn't know, Vancouver's street soccer league, is dedicated to providing safe, supportive, and active experiences to homeless, at risk, and substance addicted individuals in the city. Each year, members of the league compete in the Homeless World Cup.
Alls Souls. And finally, Spacing Vancouver gives us the details on the annual All Souls celebration at Mountain View Cemetery. For the seventh year in a row, the cemetery grounds will be lit up with hundreds of candles and lanterns in a celebratory commemoration of the dead. 
At the MOVeum:
[Image: All Souls installation, 2009. Photo by John Atkin. Read his cemetery blog here.]

MOVments: Alternate Realities and Theoretical Futures

This week we're exploring some things that could have been (and then weren't) and things that should have been (and still possibly could be). Confused? Don't be. Just get ready to delve into a few of the controversial, up-in-the-air, keep-you-guessing situations that have been popping up all over our fair city. 
Wide Streets to Remain Wide. Remember the "thin streets" proposal that aimed to increase density in laneways and underused roads? Looks like our streets are going to remain just as spacious as ever, at least for now. As the Vancouver Sun reports resident opposition at a recent city council meeting has meant that the proposed densification of streets in Grandview Woodlands, the West End, and Marpole has been deprioritized until more consultations can be made. During the meeting complaints centered around the logistics of the plan and how residents may lose natural light and green space on their properties.
Partying, Hard? And the 'No Fun City' debate rages on. After last week's Huffington Post article disparaged Vancouver for its apparently non-existent night life, Jason Sulyma provided a rebuttal, telling us that if we're bored here, it's our own fault. He admits that while there are problems with the city's archaic liquor laws, transit system, and funding for art spaces, there are plenty of positive things happening on the scene too. Indeed, from Granville Street gems to East Van grunge-dens, there seems to be a venue for everyone. Well, almost everyone. As The Tyee reports, partying is still very difficult for the under-nineteen set. However, a future with a permanent all-ages venue may be on the horizon. The Safe Amplification Site Society has high hopes for moving into the old Astorino's building on Commercial. 
The Future of Transit. And finally, Vancity Buzz just brought our attention to this nifty little map of the future of Vancouver transit. You might ask how long we have to wait for some of these upgrades? Oh, only about 100 years. With a wait that long, the projected transit routes seem to be firmly in the realm of fantasy. Another factor that makes the map a bit fantastical? Translink was recently accused of making a number of "faulty forecasts" with regard to their projected expansions. With Translink dealing with decreased revenue from the Golden Ears Bridge toll, a smaller tax cut from its levy on gas, and money guzzling projects like the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam and its ongoing support of the U-Pass program, we'll have to wait and see how fast the future arrives.
At the MOVeum:
October 10 - MOV Legacy Dinner
[Image: BC Transit Vancouver and Victoria touring guide booklet, 1994. Courtesy of the Museum of Vancouver collections, H2008.23.1004]

MOVments: On Urinals, Vertical Living, and Liminal Spaces

This week we're getting liminal, exploring the edges of what we consider public and private, indoor and outdoor, and social and solitary. From the Great White Urinal, rooftop (and indoor) gardens, and designs for more social living, this instalment of MOVments is playing and engaging with Vancouver's in-between spaces.

Great White Landmark. Since the early 1970s, the corner of Granville and Georgia has been dominated by what some claim to be the "ugliest building" in downtown Vancouver (nicknamed the Great White Urinal for its large, white, windowless exterior). But not any longer. The plans for a new building designed by James Cheng were revealed yesterday. The new development will see Sears leave its long time home and a new Nordstrom's department store open in the heart of the city. Some city planners are hoping that the modern, glass building will help connect the feel and aesthetic of Robson Street, Robson Square, and the Vancouver Art Gallery to the rest of the downtown core. As architect Michael Heeney told the Globe and Mail"One of the reasons Robson dissipates and loses its energy is because of that block."

Gardens in the Sky. Another new addition to downtown Vancouver? The first "urban vertical urban farm" in North America. Alterrus Systems is building a garden that will run on hydroponic technology and is expected to produce more than 150,000 pounds of leafy green vegetables and herbs annually. And yet another leafy answer to Vancouver's density dilemmas? Gorgeous rooftop flower gardens like this one featured in Forbes magazine. The owner of the house, Nick Kerchum seems like he has the right idea when it comes to gardening: his flowers are completely self-sufficient, and don't need to be watered or pruned.

Growing Up, Growing Together. In response to a recent Vancouver Foundation survey that looked at the increasing loneliness and isolation felt by many Vancouverites, architects Bing Thom, Michael Heeney, and Andy Yan, have written a manifesto that calls for more community-oriented urban planning in our city. Their piece is chalk full of quotable quotes around the need for creative responses to our evolving skyline: "Higher density residential living is ultimately unsustainable if the end result is simply the construction of gated vertical suburban communities in the sky." And the shortage of public spaces that encourage dialogue and promote comfortable interactions between strangers is an undercurrent throughout. Drawing an intriguing parallel, Thom, Heeney, and Yan bring attention to the in-between spaces that may need some tweaking, "Before (and probably long after) Facebook and Twitter, public spaces and streets were the original social network and, once in a while, this network could use some upgrading." On the other hand, sharing space on the streets may take some getting used to, as illustrated by this little story about recent food cart feuding.

Business Time. And lastly, Toby Barazzuol, chair of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association and upcoming Interesting Vancouver speaker, explores the intersections between business and community development in this fantastic opinion piece from the Vancouver Sun.

At the MOVeum: 
September 19 - Opening Night - Object(ing): The art/design of Tobias Wong 
September 20 - Built City @MOV: Urban Evolution, Retold 

[Image: 700 Granville Street, west side, 1981. City of Vancouver photo, CVA 779-W02.16]


MOVments: Growing Up Fast

We here at the MOV just discovered that Vancouver has two of the 10 largest green roofs in the world. This article on the history and logistics of green rooftops got us thinking more broadly about our tendency towards stacking, extending, and expanding in the city. From condo culture to mall expansions, this week we're exploring the direction of growth in Vancouver, and more often than not, we're looking up, way up. 
Living in Isolation. It seems like we can hardly get through an instalment of MOVments without running up against the ever-present density debate. This week, Gordon Price's blog featured a fascinating segment of Walrus TV which compares contemporary condominium developments to what Northrope Frye described as the "garrison mentality" of isolated, early Canadian pioneer settlements. Necessary viewing for anyone interested in the cultural challenges of condo living. 
Rethinking Affordable Housing. The winners of the City's re:THINK Housing competition will be announced next week on July 30. The competition was designed to bring the general public together with architects, planners, and non-profits to discuss bold, creative, affordable housing solutions in Vancouver. With any luck, there will also be some ideas around how to combat the isolating effects of high-rise developments.
Growing Pains. There are some who think that crowd-sourcing won't be enough, and that Vancouver is at a planning turning point, in need of drastic (and de-politicized) change. Lance Berelowitz asks some tough but timely questions in this opinion piece about the direction of the City's planning strategies. As he says, "The city needs a forward-looking, comprehensive plan. We need to come to grips with what kind of city we want to be; with chronic housing unaffordability; with a city of increasing haves and have nots; with transit underfunding and transportation conflicts; with the challenges of intensifying our land uses and densifying our limited residential land base..." Definitely food for thought.
Mall City. Already one of the most successful shopping centres in Canada, Oakridge Mall at Cambie and 41st is set to expand upward and outward. A proposal has been made to develop the mall into a small city, complete with parks and community bike paths. Defying the trend of declining sales at American malls, Oakridge, with customers streaming in via the Canada Line, seems to be uniquely positioned to take on such a project. 
Stacking It. And finally, have you ever wondered about the story behind the towers of books and chaotic floor plan at MacLeod's Books? This profile on owner Don Stewart is a fantastic read. 
At the MOVeum:
[Image: Green Roof at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Photo by Harry2010]

MOVments: Out with the Old, In with the (Sort of) New

MOVments: current events in Vancouver by the Museum of Vancouver

Community garden near Rogers arenaVancouver is changing and growing so fast that, as Gordon Price reports, its newest neighbourhood doesn't even have a name yet. But if we look closely, we can see that a lot of our old ideas and landscapes are actually being repurposed, redesigned, and redefined. This week's MOVments explores the ways Vancouverites are reusing old spaces, re-imagining affordable housing and urban planning, and putting a new spin on a time-honored tradition: the business lunch.

Redefining Growth. Much to our delight, SOLEfood, Vancouver's largest urban farm, has outgrown its first home in a parking lot on East Hastings. Using a social enterprise model and employing over 20 people from the Downtown Eastside, the urban farm just opened its second location under the Georgia Street viaduct. As The Tyee explains much of SOLEfood's success has come from from garnering community support; the farm has received multiple grants, help from local business owners, and a free three-year lease for its new spot on Pacific Boulevard.

Video Stores Live.  With the demise of big-chain stores like Blockbuster and Rogers, They Live (formerly Cinephile) is one of a handful of independent video rental shops in Vancouver that is still making a go of it in an increasingly Internet-dominated business. Like Black Dog and Limelight Video, They Live is filling a niche, catering to those who are searching for hard to find titles and a little personal interaction. And as with other local businesses and art spaces, diversification is the name of the game; They Live will also be offering live music and film screenings.

Rethinking Homelessness. In the midst of so much change, UN representative Miloon Kothari says one thing has stayed pretty much the same since his last visit to Vancouver in 2007: the city's affordable housing crisis. In his interview with The Tyee, Kothari gave a sobering account of the crisis, which he says is caused in part by too much emphasis on market solutions. He suggests that it's time to completely re-frame the housing issue: "What you see in Canada and what you see in the United States is that housing is seen as a commodity and not as a social good. If it's treated as a social good, then the whole thinking will change."

Shifting Planning Policy. Judging from our situation in Vancouver, it looks like the new generation of Canadian urban planners have quite a task ahead of them. This fascinating Globe and Mail article explores the shifts currently taking place in urban planning policy and power assignment. While cities across the country face diverse challenges, Vancouver's former co-planning director, Larry Beasley, is excited at the prospect of a new generation of Canadian urban planners taking on roles as visionaries and risk takers.

The Evolution of Lunch. And finally, on a lighter note: the Vancouver Public Space Network and Space2Place are co-hosting communal outdoor lunches every Thursday this month. Long cafeteria tables, food specials from local vendors, and musical entertainment are making Abbott Street the place to be for an afternoon meal, whether you work in the area or not.

At the MOVeum:
August 18 - MEMBERS ONLY Art Deco Chic: Talk & Tour with Ivan Sayers

[New SOLEfood location on Pacific Boulevard. Photo by David Niddrie]

MOVments: It's Complicated

MOVments: current events in Vancouver by the Museum of Vancouver

Kitsilano coast guard stationThis week MOVments gets messy. From dirty history to density wars, we've rounded up some of the complicated stories that make Vancouver so interesting. Read on for the nitty-gritty on Vancouver tourism, plywood protests, high-rise politics, and the logistics of bike sharing.

Vancouver's messy past. For many, Vancouver’s historical walking tours are how they come to know our city. Unsurprisingly, these tours often choose to focus on positive, uncomplicated aspects of Vancouver's past. Chances are if you take a city tour of Vancouver you won't be hearing much about the Komagata Maru or the 1907 Race Riots. In contrast, local tour guide, Jessica O'Neill, encourages tour-takers to tackle these difficult histories and argues that they make for more accurate, and ultimately more compelling tours.

The writing on the (plywood) wall(s). In a bit of synchronicity, plywood boards have recently gone up at the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, just as MOV unveils its exhibit of the 2011 Stanley Cup riot boards. Scrawling comments like "Trading dollars for lives" on the plywood boards outside the Kitsilano office, locals have been expressing their outrage at the federal government's money-saving decision to close the search-and-rescue station.

Tower power. Are high-rise developments the solution to Vancouver's sky-rocketing real-estate prices? Harvard professor Edward Glaeser says yes. His main argument: building more high-density residences will ease the gentrification of middle-income neighbourhoods and decrease suburban sprawl. Sounds simple, but as we know, the reality is anything but. For more on this issue, read about former-mayor Sam Sullivan's new found respect for Vancouver's glass towers.

The politics of sharing. As we wait to hear who wins the bid to implement the city’s bike sharing system, Vancouverites are thinking about the dirty business of sharing bike helmets. In a city with a mandatory helmet law, some argue that the idea of sharing sweaty, germy helmets is what will doom the project to failure. Meanwhile over in Montreal, an independent helmet advocate is loaning and disinfecting helmets for free for BIXI users.

At the MOVeum:
June 15 - Is This Vancouver? Reflections on the 2011 Hockey Riot Boards
June 19 - Jane’s Walk Recap and Dialogue

[Image: Plywood boards outside the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. Photo by Clive Camm]


Olympic Village. This week the City of Vancouver finally released it’s projections as to it’s financial losses resulting from the Olympic Village. However, while they have stated that actual losses will be $40-50 million, there are reasons for doubt, as the amount doesn’t include things such as the cost of the purchase of the land. Frances Bula has stated her concerns about the way that the numbers were presented to the press, and their accuracy. They are not considering a property tax increase at this time.


Public protest. The bylaw proposed last week that would ban all permanent structures built by protest groups on public property has been rewritten to allow protests outside consulates after heavy criticism that it specifically targeted Falun Gong protestors outside the Chinese consulate and concerns about freedom of speech.

Insite. Research results show that since the opening of Insite, deaths related to drug-overdose have decreased substantially in the Downtown East Side.

Save-on-Meats. An inside look and a lot of pictures of the renovations at Save-on-Meats and some of the exciting things planned for the space.

Rapid transit. An overview of the different proposals for rapid transit along Broadway to UBC.

Viaducts. Stephen Rees takes a close-up look at the land underneath the viaducts, and just how underutilized it is.

Sprawl. After taking possession of their treaty land, we get a first glimpse of what Tswassen First Nation has planned for it: a massive mall, larger than Metrotown and lots of low-density housing.

125 places. Vancouver Heritage Foundation has shortlisted 200 sites as it searches for 125 places that matter most to Vancouverites.

Image: unk’s dump truck via flickr.


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