Reflections on a busy waterway. A warm departure from the usual green glass and concrete.
The always-insightful Guest has a comment worth bringing forward:
(The plaza’s) success will depend on whether it is programmed with any frequency.
If there’s nothing going on, as others have noted, it’s just a big empty space.
The paving is rather busy – but is softens the vastness of the space.
The white pavilion looks better at night and provides a bright spot on the darkened plaza. The tynes on the roof provide an interesting play of light at night when walking on the other side of Howe (Nordstrom side), with the curvey side interweaving with the straight Howe side.
It’s certainly different than the North Plaza as it existed before the age of protestors.
I remember office workers lying on the grass during lunch breaks.
People in Canada have become used to the fact that a lot of our public realm often does not include a washroom. Price Tags Vancouver is using the Canadian term for that room that includes a toilet and a sink. This room is called a “rest room” in the United States, but it serves the same purpose-it’s a place that all humans need to use, and use more frequently as humans get older. So why have we not been installing these necessary facilities, especially near our rapid transit or heavily used bus corridors, especially for an aging population that relies on transit as a major mode of transportation?
Kudos to the City of Vancouver’s Seniors Advisory Committee who are pushing for TransLink to install accessible public washrooms in all new stations, and in the Millennium Line Broadway Extension. As Glenda Luymes outlined in the Vancouver Sun the lack of washrooms even drew the ire of the Raging Grannies who were in town to protest something else a few years back, but developed a special song about the lack of rapid transit washroom services. They sang that song in front of Waterfront Station.
Seniors’ Advisory Committee Chair Colleen McGuiness stated “It’s beyond short-sighted not to put them in. Loneliness and isolation are a concern for seniors, and a lack of public washrooms on transit routes is a factor in that.”
Oddly enough the renovated SkyTrain stations on the Expo line have space and are prepped with plumbing for washrooms, but TransLink won’t be reporting on washroom availability until next year. Issues will include the cost of maintenance, security, and sanitation. But if Edmonton, Toronto and Paris can provide washroom facilities at some stations, surely Vancouver can as well. You can take a look at this older copy of The Buzzer that provides a chart of which transit systems have washrooms. This TransLink newsletter from 2011 also asks “I’m curious what Buzzer readers think about the issue. Is adding more washrooms to the system important to you? If so, how do you think they should be implemented, and by whom?”
Years (arguably decades) in the making, Courthouse Plaza is finally finished. And it looks like this:
Love the stonework, hate the wooden benches. And then there’s that white pavilion – about which few will be neutral.
So what do you think? – as a design, as a public space, as the definitive gathering space for the city. And as a name. Can we do better than ‘Courthouse Plaza’?
From Michael Alexander:
So a bunch of us rode across the Burrard bridge going north. After months of construction, workers are busy removing the fences and barriers on the east side, and the fabulous new bike lane and pedestrian walk is just opening.
As I cross the intersection with Pacific Boulevard, for some reason I drop my chain, so I’m standing there wiping my greasy fingers on the only thing available — the top of a traffic barrier– when a grizzled worker walks up and hands me a paper napkin.
Flabbergasted , I just look at him and say thank you so much. And then I think about the riding experience we’ve just had, and I say, “You guys have done such a fabulous, fabulous job on this project.” And he says, “Well, everybody wants a fabulous job and they all want it done immediately.” and I said, “I can be very patient about about this because I know that really good work takes time and thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Then I joined my friends at Musette Caffé, the cyclist coffeehouse two blocks up Burrard, and over delicious Cortados, we talked about what fantastic public works Vancouver does, compared to other North American cities.
Unlike the item below, this is worthy of comment:
Leaving aside the merits or otherwise of the Beedie proposal at 105 Keefer, the two-to-three decision definitely puts the role and authority of the Development Permit Board in question – in both the court of public opinion and perhaps the courts.
The DPB was a creation of the TEAM council back in the early 1970s. It was devised as a way to de-politicize the permit approval process by moving the authority to approve major development projects under existing zoning from a political council to a panel of four (at that time) of senior staff.
The Vancouver Charter allowed a degree of ‘discretion,’ unlike in other municipalities, that introduced a degree of subjectivity in matters of design and even density, in order to encourage architects and developers to consider the context and neighbourliness of their buildings.
The board also had a group of advisers, drawn from the design and development professions, in addition to staff architects, that contributed to the analysis and provided recommendations. Projects eventually had to jump through many hoops: public meetings, advisory boards, review panels, staff analysis, negotiations, revisions, and finally the DP board itself, at which time presentations from the public and the developer could be heard.
The process itself ensured that projects rarely made it to the board unless they had a reasonable chance of success. Suggestions for ‘prior-to’ conditions could then be added, requiring some additional tweaking of the design, but those would be adjudicated by the Director of Planning who could then give final approval.
A few things to note: councillors were not involved. Indeed, they would typically refer those who approached them with complaints, whether developers or neighbours, to the board process without their intercession. It was considered inappropriate for councillors to even be in the room at the time the project was being reviewed, regardless of the degree of controversy.
If a project was so controversial that a political consideration was believed to be appropriate, the board could refer the project to council for their ‘input’ – while the board still retained the decision-making responsibility.
The board only reviewed ‘major’ projects. Applications for small projects, like houses or even small buildings, would be considered by the Director of Planning.
But – and this is critical – all projects had to be legal under the existing zoning. The board could not venture into areas that required a rezoning. Indeed, the application would never even be streamed into the DP process. Likewise, council was responsible for all policy which framed the review process itself. The board could not apply criteria which had not in some way been authorized by council.
So that takes us to 105 Keefer. And as Andy Yan noted, this also takes us into new territory. From The Sun:
Urban planner Andy Yan said the rejection is significant for historic neighbourhoods like Chinatown. Design is no longer the only criterion for the permit board; the context must also be considered.
“In this case, we’re talking about (the development’s) fit in an existing site, which has tremendous historic and architectural juxtapositions,” said Yan, director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University. …
“Yan thinks the rejection will have a broader impact.
“I think it’s saying we’re going to have to change the site-ism that occurs with development in Vancouver — site-ism being defined that developments only pertain to the site. It talks about how we need to begin to consider context towards the social and cultural surroundings of developments. Some may be very straightforward, others are far more complex, as in the case of Chinatown.”
That is a profound expansion of the responsibility of the Development Permit Board. The question is whether it’s even proper for an unelected board to consider ‘the social and cultural surroundings’ – particularly when they become another way to address, argue and fight the most important questions of policy that affect a community and the city. Or further, another way to politically contest those issues which democratically must be the purview of elected representatives. Or further, another way to fight those politicians.
And that’s worthy of a lot of comment.
Vancouver Park Board, via twitter, tells us that they have approved the concept design for a new Jericho Beach Park Pier. The pier has been in that location in one form or another since 1942. The current version is 40 years old, dating back to 1977.
Next steps — detailed design, costing and funding. If this all works out, look for work to start in 2020, completing in 2022.
Jeff Olson, a retired urban designer for the City of Vancouver, submitted this “idea on the pathway to housing affordability.” We’re pleased to post this in its entirety (lightly edited), since Price Tags welcomes considered essays on topics relevant to our readership.
The essential feature that distinguishes the following urban development concept from current urban-design practice is the elimination of the street as we currently understand it. This act results in the elimination of the car and truck as a dominate feature of the urban environment, along with the disappearance of surface and underground parking.
The elimination of the street allows us to treat the ground plane as a public pedestrian space upon which we can toddle, shuffle, walk, jog, run and dance or otherwise move using our feet. Or a variety of old inventions: the little red wagon, the baby buggy, the wheel chair, and the bicycle in all its various manifestations. Then there are all the new inventions: the power unicycle, the hoover board, the skateboard, the inline skate, the Segway, the senior’s four-wheel power scooter, and the power wheelchair, etc.
All of these inventions have common characteristics: they are tiny by car standards, generally designed for the transport of one person, with the exception of the Dutch Bicycle and the very lovely bicycle built for two. Additionally, they can be accommodated on public transit or stuffed into elevators – an important feature of their utility.
All of these machines appeal to our basic human nature: the joy to be found in motion, an experience we know from the time of conception, one that brought gleeful smiles and cheerful giggles as our fathers joyfully tossed us in the air and caught us as infants and toddlers. Surely there is something very basic and human in these instinctive acts. We fly downhill on skis and snowboards, we fly across water on surf boards, sometimes pulled by sails or parachutes. We ride the thermals on sail planes and hang gliders and, when we reach old age, we jump out of airplanes hanging by treads for happy birthday celebrations. This is the cycle of life celebration.
The neat thing about all these wheel contrivances is that they are so humanizing. These wheelie things place people in active space with other people where courtesy matters – greetings and smiles. The bicycle is the most common and ubiquitous of all these machines: a social facilitator, a wonderful motion experience and a machine to be celebrated. Welcome to Bicycle City.
Brian Gould sends along a terrific video of the spankin’ new-old Burrard Bridge from the point of view of people on a bike.
Note that each shot has a matched “before” inset from October 2015. Some of those “befores” make me anxious just watching them.
Herb Auerbach, real-estate development consultant and author of “Placemakers” responded to this piece in the Sun on the Arbutus Greenway by Cheryl Chan:
“PLANS FOR ARBUTUS GREENWAY LACKS VISION AND IMAGINATION”
For over 10 years I have urged the City of Vancouver to recapture the Arbutus Right of Way from
CP Rail who I believed then, and believe now, that once they ceased running trains on it they were obliged under the Transportation Act to cede the rail right of way to the Crown.
So I was pleased to learn the City had finally acquired the right of way but was disappointed to learn that they had to pay for it. I was also glad to hear that the current installation of a pathway and bike lanes is temporary and plans are afoot to permanently enhance what is now dubbed the “Arbutus Greenway”
So I went by Point Gray School to view the results of the “Design Jam” and speak with a number of the City representatives there.
I found little inspiration, and was further disappointed to learn that the project is in the hands of the City’s Engineering Department and not the City Planning Department. When I asked, “why not the Planning Department?” I was told this is just a narrow strip and has little effect on the abutting property. Of course it has effect on the abuttifng proiperties, and the Planning Department should be taking the lead on a project of this magnitude and import.
I was also disappointed to learn that the City has not given up on the idea of developing a portion of the Greenway to generate income , and I was further disappointed to learn that the City deal only transferred the CP right of way to the Fraser River and not all the way to Steveston. The whole approach to dealing with this extraordinary opportunity to create something unique and grand, seems lacking innovation, inspiration, vision and imagination.
Imagine a vintage trolley car (not rapid transit) running from Science World to Steveston (and not just Granville Island as it does now or to the Fraser River as planned) and the positive impact it would have on points along the way and the attraction it would have for tourists, and like the street cars in San Francisco would pick up and transport commuters along the way.
Imagine this right of way planted with 10,000 cherry trees and walking or riding along it and under them when they are in bloom.
Imagine the Greenway having special illumination, walkable and rideable by day and night, with points along the way for cafes where folks can rest, meet and converse.
Imagine a design which is the product of more imagination. …
The planning process moves along with documents and another open house about this 21-acre (8.5 hectare) site in the heart of Vancouver. What you read here (or see there) is likely to contain strong hints about other developments by this same group. Namely, the 92-acre Jericho Lands.
November 2 2017, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
VanDusen Garden Floral Hall, 5251 Oak St, Vancouver
City Planning Background: HERE (10.4 MB PDF).
Owners’ Info (including 3 conceptual site plans): HERE (18.4 MB PDF)
Several things caught my attention, first from public input at the previous open house events, as captured in the City Planning Background PDF (above):
Housing types: families, seniors, rental were top of the list
Transportation: Pedestrian focus, limiting motor vehicle traffic, improved transit connections. (A Canada Line station at 33rd & Cambie is still visible as a “Future Potential Station”. Hardly very reassuring).
Design new public streets to prioritize people walking and cycling over motorized vehicles. The site will be comfortably and safely accessed by people of all ages and abilities. Traffic will be highly calmed, with routes designed for vehicles heading to homes, shops, services and deliveries on the site, rather than for travel through.
Protect important cross town cycling routes from increased vehicle turning patterns. Maintain an efficient north-south cycling route on Heather Street that provides a safe environment for cyclists of all ages and abilities.
Cyclist routes through park space will be designed to enhance the cyclist and park user experiences, while maintaining efficiency for commuter cyclists.
From the Joint Venture Partnership Document (MST Partners-CLC) PDF (Above):
Potential for “attainable housing” (for essential services providers and Nations members).
Three conceptual site plans: starting on p14 HERE. There are larger site views, perspective (massing) views and specialized plan views on parks, mobility and land use. Here’s a taste of the concepts: “Gathering”. Note building heights up to 18 stories, some retail, childcare, cultural centre and park land. This is unlikely to be a car suburb full of McMansions, but rather a densely-populated site, integrated into the Cambie corridor’s transit-oriented Oakridge Municipal Town Centre (see City document, pages 6-8).
As usual, click either for a large slideshow view of both
At the weekend’s “Design Jam“, 100 residents of Vancouver, from all ‘hoods and oodles of demographics, volunteered their weekend to thinking about the future Arbutus Greenway. People travelling on foot, people travelling on bikes, people relaxing, people playing. Lots of ideas. Nature, history. And streetcars.
And likewise, the project team gave the volunteers BACKGROUND on light rail generally, and some early thoughts about the Arbutus Greenway’s light rail.
Clearly, there is a fundamental need to put light rail (a.k.a. “streetcar”) on the Arbutus Greenway. It’s a contractual thing. But in some places the Greenway is only 15m wide, and a typical streetcar requires 4 m per direction, leaving a too-narrow space for all the rest that the Greenway should be. So what to do?
As usual, Kenneth Chan of Daily Hive Vancouver has written a detailed account of the discussion material.
Preliminary conceptual designs show that the municipal government’s non-finalized, preferred route for the streetcar segment between West 8th Avenue and West 16th Avenue will take the northbound direction tracks off the Greenway and onto the northbound curb lane of Arbutus Street. The southbound direction will continue to run on the Corridor, next to the pedestrian and cycling paths.
Click to enlarge the illustrations.
Attracting a flock in Sunset Beach Park.
Irony Alert: the barrier fencing – an addition that most heritage advocates and others feared – became the needed justification for the restoration of Burrard Bridge’s best heritage feature.
More backstory: Burrard Bridge was over-designed – at least for its time. Since it was being built during the Depression of the 1930s, it could have justifiably been much more utilitarian.
But its origins were in the late 1920s, as another recommendation of the Bartholomew Plan, where the bridge would be a gateway to the west side, to the downtown and, from the water, to False Creek, even though that was still an industrial basin. As a public works project, it was a chance to make an optimistic statement about the city.
So Sharp and Thompson, architects, were commissioned to come up with something special in the Art Deco styling of the time, with abundant references to the emerging metropolis of the West Coast, its nautical history, and subtly, a homage to the soldiers of The Great War, some for whom, like Major J.R. Grant, the bridge’s engineer, it was still a recent and personal memory.
Given the view to English Bay, even the concrete balustrades were designed so that at a certain speed for automobiles, the railings would seem to disappear.
Don Luxton, the heritage consultant, recognized the obligation to be rigorous in meeting heritage standards for such a singular engineering and architectural work, even at additional cost. The balustrades had to be completely rebuilt, and testing for the new ones was extensive. Three different precast concrete companies were commissioned. Details had to be consistent with the original design, with a high level of finish (even ironically the original rough finishes in the form work, done with wooden planks.)
But there was no budget for the concrete posts and lamps that decorated the balustrades and provided pedestrian lighting. Still, the bridge as much as possible would be restored to its original look … until those concerned with suicide prevention convinced council that barrier fencing (known as ‘means prevention’) should be added to the bridge. The proposal horrified some, who could see that such a structure would profoundly alter the look and feel of the bridge deck. Council, after hearing concerns but sticking with the requirement for a barrier, told stakeholders to come back with a design all could live with.
The first schemes were not good. “We hated all of them,” says Luxton. “Guantanamo” was the description of architect Roger Hughes on the Urban Design Panel, dismissing the idea of a long horizontal fence of metal bars. Without some vertical breaks, there would be no relief, no rhythm against the skyline.
But there was a solution: if the original posts supporting the lamps were added, the fence itself would not dominate so much. And so the money was found to do so.
Luxton gives credit to James Emery of Iredale Architecture, the architect on the bridge project, with doing a masterful job of making the fence work. He designed the lightest, most delicate structure that could possibly work, even though it was a challenge to construct because of its very lightness. (The bars, for instance, are set far enough part to allow cameras to get a clear shot.)
The result in the end was better than everyone thought it would be. Some even believe it’s part of the original design.
The third season, heritage blackberries, afternoon sunshine.
The Greenway, in Vancouver’s third season, hosting a trio of giggling school kids.
And no, it’s not cookin’ down those heritage blackberries
Instead, it’s a multi-day workshop to move closer to a “… clear and detailed design . . .” for the Greenway. Two open houses will bring the public into contact with the background material (19-page PDF) being used by the 100 volunteer “Arbutus Champions” and project team.
The Champions will work over the weekend, and then — a big public Reveal to see what they came up with.
All held at:
- Point Grey Secondary School, room 109, access from north parking lot, 5350 East Boulevard, Vancouver
Public Open Houses:
- October 28: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- October 29: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
The Big Reveal:
- October 29: 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Come to VanDusen Gardens’ Floral Hall and see three preliminary concept plans for this 21-acre site at 33rd and Heather St in Vancouver. In some ways, this development is likely to be an introduction to the bigger one at Jericho. More thoughts on that HERE.
Saturday, October 28, 2017
11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
VanDusen Garden Floral Hall
5251 Oak St, Vancouver
Thursday, November 2, 2017
5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
VanDusen Garden Floral Hall
5251 Oak St, Vancouver
Big questions: transit orientation (plus support for Cambie & 33rd Canada Line station), affordability.
The plans are based in part on public input from these earlier open house events.
The design material will be posted, apparently, to this site after the first open house finishes.