Friday, January 27, 2012

Re:Generation: a Missed Opportunity?

Last Wednesday, the City of Vancouver, Simon Fraser University, BC Transit Museum partnered together to host an event called 'Regeneration: How We Move Out City' that they billed as "an intergenerational dialogue sharing stories of active transportation for Vancouver's Greenest City goals."

I was particularly eager to talk about cross-generational conflict and the differences that we're seeing in the choices they we are making versus those that our parents or their parents made. I was hoping to learn from people with first hand experience the shifts in transportation modes in Vancouver over time. What I got was not quite that.

Participants were split up into groups (which was nice so get people mixing) and the night was started with a series of 'stories' or presentations.

 Angus McIntyre, who retired in 2010 after being a bus driver in Vancouver since 1969, presented the room with stories of how transit had changed over his tenure. Here's a short video that played:

One of the more interesting things that he mentioned was how citizens in the suburbs that had no bus service into Vancouver would form 'Commuter Clubs'. They would hire charter buses during peak hours to take them to and fro. Citizen action! 

Next,  walked us through Vancouver citizen's fight against the Freeway system in the 60s and 70s. These historical events tend to get a lot of airplay in the success story that is Vancouver's livability. One thing that was missing from the re-telling was that while Gastown, Chinatown, and Strathcona were saved, we still lost Hogan's Alley
Robyn and Graham from Shift Delivery
The last two presentations took us into present-day: one by Tanya Paz from Modo (the Car Co-Op) and Robyn and Graham at Shift Delivery, Vancouver's cycle-based distribution service. Both presentations shared some common themes: times are changing, we have to re-think the way we do things, and that determination and persistance pays off. 

Overall, stories from great people up to great things. 

We were then told to discuss these stories in our groups with the help of our moderators. I didn't find this part of the night particularly useful or fruitful. I was actually disappointed in that the organizers seems to have missed the whole 'intergenerational' aspect of their event. For the most part, it was overwhelmingly people my age or thereabouts. Intergenerational issues didn't even come up. 

For one, I would have asked the groups to raise their hand if they lived in the city. I would have then asked them to raise their hand if their parents lived in the city. That data could have posed some interesting questions. 

Last part of the night (and what I think the event was for all along) was a presentation on Vancouver's Transportation 2040 plan by Councillor Andrea Reimer. Again, a great presentation by a great and very engaged councillor. 

After Reimer's talk, we were organized by 'neighbourhoods' based on where we lived and discussed what our vision of Vancouver in 2040 would look like. Some really great ideas came up like making the alleyways into streets and taking over the 'real' streets as public space or a successful bike share program (hopefully implemented sooner than 2040!). 

But, where was the dialogue? I went hungry looking to talk about generational shifts in transportation choices and was left wanting. It seems that those that have the greatest stake in the future always show up to these events. The question now is how do we get those that got us here at the table? 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

720 Robson: Past, Present, Future?

Hey all,

Started a blog up with my fellow Urbsters at SFU's Urban Studies program. Here's a quick post I did today on the development at 720 Robson Street.

800-Block of Granville Street - City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779 W02.21 1981 
...and its replacement

Thursday, January 19, 2012

BIG things happening in Vancouver?

BIG Architects coming to town? Look at the bold and striking rendering of a possible development around the North End of the Granville Bridge (as seen on BLAH City). The tower on the right is definitely the most 'daring' tower design we've had in Vancouver in a while. Looking forward to seeing more details soon.

Vancouver Life May 1966

JMV over at Illustrated Vancouver was so gracious enough to give me a copy of Vancouver Life from 1966 that he owned. Normally, I'd be ecstatic just to be able to read anything like this (history nerd!) but this particular issue has the Great Vancouver Paint-In in it! Granted, it's not a very long piece but it has a gorgeous cover. Many, many, many thanks to Jason! 

Ugly Buildings

Atlantic Cities has an interesting (and short) article on the case for saving ugly buildings and it made me wonder about all the buildings that are in Vancouver that may have already fallen out of vogue or that soon will:
Buildings aren't preserved based on relative maintenance costs or aesthetics but on the merits of originality and historic interest. Whether it be a pre-historic pueblo, Colonial-era slave quarters, World War II Quonset hut, or a Brutalist tower is irrelevant, as long as it fits the designation of being unique and historically relevant. Many iconic, retro-futurist Googie structures have been lost because the streamlined style was representative of lowbrow, vulgar highway culture. In a similar vein, various Classic Revival and Art Nouveau movie theaters were demolished in the years when the ornate flourish of their decaying interiors was simply dismissed as antiquated, gaudy decadence in the post-Depression age.
Indeed, this is an important issue for Vancouver as we continue to develop, run out of room and push for older building to be demolished to make way for 'progress'. One of my favourite concrete modernist structures is the MacMillan Bloedel Building at 1075 West Georgia Street.
Arthur Erickon designed the 27 storey building for the former forestry giant in the late 1960s and it's actually considered a Historic Place according to this website and has been on Vancouver's Community Heritage Register since 1993.

Look how striking this building is (and how sad that parking lot is). Also sad that the building on the right is no longer standing, however, many of its architectural features were incorporated in Cathedral Place.
City of Vancouver Archives - CVA 780-17
City of Vancouver Archives - CVA 784-051
City of Vancouver Archives - CVA 784-052
What do you think? Are there any ugly buildings in Vancouver that you like or are worth preserving?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Vancouver Paint-In v2.0?

I've been working on some stuff regarding the possible Paint-In event I want to help organize. Since the Art Gallery has removed the fencing (which is great!), not much to paint/protest right now, is there? I figured we could pull it off in spring on the same day (or there-abouts) the original Paint-In happened?

I was thinking there could be public voting and maybe a gallery collaboration.

What do you think? See my dedicated page and feel free to ask questions, provide comments, etc. 

Here's a mock up of some promo material I made:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Are Vancouver Streets Boring?

I replied to a twitter comment the other day about the importance of independent retailers on our city streets. I implied that Vancouver suffers from boring streets downtown because new development tends to price out independent retailers:
I pointed out to three specific chains: Flight Centre, Cash2Go (but for this post, pretend I said Money Mart, and Starbucks. It got me thinking and I decided to see where they were in the downtown peninsula. Here are the results:
Location of Flight Centres
Location of Money Marts (but really, I would like to see any loan place on this map)
Location of Starbucks. Some are so closely located they can't be accurately pinpointed so they're clumped into groups. 

Convenient or over-kill/boring? Obviously, there is a demand for these locations since they're in business but is there a reason for you to visit Robson Street over Metrotown or any other mall in the region?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Langley: The Place to Be?

This past weekend I went back to my beloved hometown of Langley to visit my Grandparents (one of the few reasons I actually opt to go back). If it wasn't for them and my other family and friends, I would honestly never go. Ever. I continually wonder what era Langley is in and who it is they want to attract to their city.

However, apparently, it's an attractive place for people to buy a home in. I came across this 'article' in the Vancouver Sun a little while ago (I use the term article very loosely because it reads more like an advertisement for a development). 

In it, a professional woman who had been living in Gastown in a studio (400 sq. ft.) for the past 10 years and decided that it was no longer the lifestyle she wanted. She apparently "needed a landing pad for adulthood" so she decided to move to Langley, to a project at 210A Street and 56th Avenue. Her new home is a one bedroom (590 sq. ft.) However, her job was still in Vancouver. She made the trade off:
"I found that Vancouver is super expensive," she recalls of her condo search. "When I saw Cornerstone, I said, ‘I wouldn’t mind traveling an hour to work if I lived here.'"
The article continues: 
[The developer] is hoping the offer will attract more people like Shivcharan, young stable professionals who want to take advantage of the rural/urban mix of Langley and see home as a refuge, while still being able to enjoy amenities and recreation nearby.
When Shivcharan weighed the compromises with the comforts — about an hour in public transit, the only sacrifice for the comfort and beauty of living in her own home — the answer became clear to her. “When I saw [it] , I knew the commute would be worth it.”
She says she’s sure she’ll be even more confident in her decision once she’s settled into her new home and community, she says. “Gastown has gotten so loud and crowded. I’m looking forward to getting out to Langley and getting some peace and quiet.”
It'd be interesting to interview this lady again after 6 months to see if she still enjoys, what I assume, is car-less life in Langley. Everything that the developer espouses as positive qualities for their customers seem be counter to 'good urbanism' and may produce negative consequences for the community as a whole. 

For instance, "The building is set back from the street on three acres and raised high enough that buyers of a ground-floor unit will have to look down to view any traffic" reads to me as, very few eyes on the street which is can produce higher crime and poor street-life (a la Jane Jacobs).

Here are some pictures I took (from a car, no less) along 200th Street in Langley:
This passserelle seems new and crosses 200th Street at 68th Avenue. Rather than deal with the real problem - speeding and copious amounts of traffic - Langley has opted to move pedestrian movement up and over the cars but perhaps there's not much you can do for pedestrians on 200th?
This is pretty much what it looks like all the time. This is the middle of town - super inviting, right?
Currently, one of the Langeys slogans is "The Place to Be". Will someone please go here, and tell me that THIS is their ideal community?
 Okay, I'm a little harsh on Langley but it's a pretty easy target. As a young adult, it was the harshest place to grow up and as an adult, it continues to be the antithesis of what I want but apparently it where the landing pad for adulthood is.