Yesterday I profiled a bountiful urban garden on the rooftop of Quebec City’s Hôtel du Vieux and asked the question: with the pressure on the Agricultural Land Reserve what does the future hold for food security in Vancouver? Could Vancouver be doing more with our numerous rooftops regarding urban farming? Indeed there are some excellent rooftop projects around town already up and running (Fairmont Hotel Waterfront and YWCA immediately come to mind).
This past summer I had an opportunity to tour an extensive urban agriculture program on top of Bosa’s False Creek apartments located on the corner of Main Street and Switchmen in Olympic Village. The program is sponsored by the Bosa Properties Foundation (more here)
Building resident and program participant Thea Treahy-Geofreda took me on a tour of the operation and provided some background on the projects history:
The Bosa Properties Foundation has committed to supporting our rooftop garden project each year. They supply all the soil, seeds, seedlings, equipment and support (if necessary, through Can You Dig It!). The team of residents maintain and harvest the garden from there. This specific rooftop garden has been operational for 3 years and we are planning our 4rd season now. Bosa also supports the efforts of the community garden within their Chinatown building.
The crop yields are substantial and are never wasted, supporting a range of local organizations in Vancouver:
We have 3 designated plots which are donated to Project Chef, a school based cooking program in Vancouver. They request the crops they need before the growing season starts, and we provide them throughout the summer. All left-over produce from our bi-weekly harvest are donated to the Vancouver Food Bank. We consistently provided them with 1-3 boxes of mixed vegetables each harvest, all season.
Food waste recycling is done onsite using a continuous flow Vermiculture system (Compost worms) providing nutrient rich worm tea and castings fertilizer for the garden while reducing the need for organic waste collection. More on their composting system here.
I asked Thea what are the teams biggest challenges and most successful crops:
There are little (if any) challenges with our rooftop garden, as we are protected from strong winds, attract an abundance of sunlight and are protected from most “pests” found at ground level. We do deal with some aphids and slugs, though nothing like those working on the ground.
Tomatoes and hot peppers have got to be out most successful crops. The heat and sunlight we get create the perfect environment for these plants. The hardest thing to grow on our rooftop are squash and pumpkin. We quickly gave up on that after year one.
Kinda makes you miss summer doesn’t it? Thanks to Thea and the Bosa Properties for exposing me to such an exciting urban agriculture initiative.
With the seemly relentless attack on the Agricultural Land Reserve from Mega Malls, Port development, speculators and farmland banking from countries including Mainland China and Saudi Arabia (More here), what does the future hold for food security in Vancouver? Well, perhaps our numerous rooftops are the solution. A friend recently experienced a delightful stay at Hôtel du Vieux an Eco-minded boutique hotel in the heart of Quebec City’s old town.
From the hotel owners:
“Hôtel du Vieux-Quebec is an officially recognized and award winning leader in the environmental movement. Committed to reducing its impact on our natural environment, this Quebec City hotel has launched a series of initiatives to lighten its ecological footprint.”
As impressive as their commitment to carbon reduction and recycling is check out their jam-packed rooftop gardens:
The hotel compliments its abundant crop production by maintaining 5 beehives as part of the Miel Urban or ‘Urban Honey’ project, increasing urban pollinators in an insecticide free zone while producing Honey for local cafes and restaurants.
“Hôtel du Vieux Québec has installed three green roofs. Our rooftop gardens grow an assortment of organic vegetables, flowers, herbs and other plants. This helps to keep part of the hotel cool in the summer thereby lowering our energy consumption, sequesters carbon and captures runoff rainwater. This also enables us to provide fresh organic produce for staff and clients. We also insure that our gardens have plants that help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other pollinators in our area.”
More on Hôtel du Vieux and their sustainability initiatives here.
Could Vancouver be doing more with our numerous condo tower and mid rise rooftops? Could this be our new Agricultural Land Reserve:
Tomorrow in Part two I visit a Vancouver example.
Continuing on the small scale infill theme (see previous posts in the series here and here) we travel to the Westside of Vancouver where the Airey Groups Bishop Kerrisdale development makes the most of an unusual narrow sliver of land.
The project mixes residential rowhomes with a classic brick clad retail space located on a unique wedge shape lot addressing the street with excellent scale and proportion.
I had to check that this wasn’t an existing heritage structure as its seems most new developments bypass traditional materials and look in favour of more contemporary elements when designing commercial space.
It all works and compliments the neighbourhood node of small scale shops across the street. Development is located on W 57th Ave & East Blvd across from Choices Supermarket.
I came across these interesting small scale infill projects while walking to a friends house in East Van a few weeks back. My phone battery was dead but luckily there always Google Street View!
Here is what appears to be a 66′ x 100′ corner lot with single dwelling converted into 4 smaller units at the intersection of E 22nd & Fleming. Before and after aerial views from Google Earth:
Street view shots:
Just up the street is a series of small infill homes on 50′ x 178′ & 66′ x 171′ lots. This is between Fleming and Maxwell just north of E 22nd. Before and After:
Maxwell St development Google Street View scene:
Interesting how the two middle units of the Maxwell Street development have no street frontage and are instead accessed from the laneway. There were no Google Street View images available for the Fleming Street development. Some interesting building typologies between single family detached and townhomes.
Caught a glimpse firsthand of the massive Bike the Night event on Saturday the 16th from my vantage point on 2nd Avenue near Quebec. My short video doesn’t do it justice, a truly colourful event for a wide range of ages with as you can see, huge participation.
The Daily Scot Bathgate reminds us that it is September and parents are wrangling their children back to school. At a time that active transportation and lessening car use is being vigorously pursued, Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi is reassuring parents that the Calgary transit system is just fine for kids to take to school. While Calgary does provide those distinctive yellow school buses for most students, children that may be farther away or going to particular schools are provided with a financial rebate to purchase a monthly transit pass.
There’s even a program called Bus Buddies where older students taking Calgary transit provide companionship and guidance to younger students taking the conventional bus. As the Mayor notes, “Calgary transit is committed to the safety and convenience of every passenger – particularly, our youngest passengers.”
Turn to Vancouver where a Dad who has led the way raising his five kids downtown in an apartment and blogging about it has been turned in to the Provincial ministry of Children and Family Services for allowing his four oldest children, aged seven to eleven to ride the transit bus together to school .
Adrian Crook’s “5 Kids 1 Condo” blog follows his life creating independence for his kids. That included, in this car free family, learning how to take the bus by themselves. As the National Post states: “In a letter from a ministry lawyer dated Aug. 2, Crook was told that a court would likely agree that his arrangement raises “protection concerns.” Arguably, a child moving around in the community exposes the child to at least the same level of risk as being home alone, if not greater risk.”
Now Adrian had spoken with TransLink, the local transit provider to ensure that it was all right for his kids to travel together to school on the bus unaccompanied, and found that their policy was that such independent travel was okay, as long as the parents were comfortable the children could accomplish the trip. But just like the Free Range Kids project reported in the Atlantic Monthly our society is designed to keep kids under control and indoors. Only 13 per cent of children in the United States walk to school, and a mere 6 per cent of kids between the ages of 9 to 13 play outside in any given week. Children and independence are two terms not spoken of in the same sentence.
It should be no surprise that this kids’ dad has launched a Go Fund Me page to pay for a legal challenge to protect the rights of responsible parents to choose the transportation method that best fits their family, without interference from the government.”
Is this one of those things that we will look back on and wonder why we didn’t allow kids to use the bus? How do single parent families manage? For children who are restricted to walking and biking, should independent transit use in the company of older siblings be part of their mobility plan to school?
Source: National Post
Even with sky-high land costs in the City of Vancouver not all developers are relying on multiple lot assembly in order to build mixed use projects. While traveling around East Vancouver you notice various multi-family developments making it work on smaller lots, some as narrow as 33′.
4376 Fraser Street
3401 Fraser Street
6555 Victoria Drive
3939 Knight Street
Simple but effective none the less. No doubt the metrics work due to the less desirable arterials when compared to the Westside, but nice to see some basic effort in materials and ornamentation. These buildings have more architectural interest than some of the newly proposed downtown condo towers.
If you have a chance stop by the pop up park at the corner of West 5th Ave and Pine Street in Kits, its a temporary space opened by the City in November 2016 promoting sustainability through recycling of materials and habitat creation.
A colourful mural symbolizes onsite efforts to transform the light industrial site to neighbourhood meeting space among meadow plantings benefiting bees and other pollinators.
More about the pop up pocket park here on the City of Vancouver website
Another new Parklet emerges in front of the recently opened Eastwood Bar and Grill and Pizza Carano on Fraser Street. Interesting to note The Eastwood to my knowledge is the only watering hole on Fraser and in the surrounding community. While having a Pint at the bar, patrons expressed their gratitude there’s finally a pub in the neighbourhood, complete with Trivia night on Tuesdays to boot.
Before photo from Google Earth below: