Adam Fitch commented on the post below, expressing doubt that we’ll end with a Haussmann-style boulevard on Broadway:

What is more likely to happen is that the areas immediately around the stations will be quickly redeveloped with clusters of 30-40 storey condo towers with a bit of chain and big box commercial at the ground level, ala Marine Gateway and Lower Cambie Village.

Perhaps something like what is emerging on West Davie in the West End:

Your basic Vancouverism – the style that transformed Downtown South in the 1990s: streetfront podium accommodating commercial uses, with separated towers above.

The model is essentially the high-density version of the ‘Grand Bargain’ – low-rise residential and slow-growth on the interior blocks, with a high-density buffer along the arterials (with the unstated class distinction that goes with it).  It’s a choice more likely to emerge from the Broadway planning process than a more simplistic consolidation of density in a few blocks around less than half a dozen station areas.

Irony alert: At the moment, a building-height-to-street-width ratio that might make sense on Broadway at roughly 100 in width feels more crowded and canyon-like on a street of 66 feet, even though the three-storey podium that creates the streetwall alleviates the impact of the towers.

It’s a variation on the development scale that has been allowed in the West End since the 1950s, evident elsewhere on Davie.

Or maybe it doesn’t really matter much.  So long as there is animation, transparency, sunlight and rain protection along the sidewalk, the height becomes irrelevant once we get used to it.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. I like the separated towers because they allow light to come down to the street, but also allow residents more access to light and views.

    The streetwall buildings like those in Paris rely on interior courtyards or lightwells to bring light down into the megablock. Those can be quite utilitarian (or unkept) looking.

    In Vancouver, The Duke on Kingsway adopts a similar streetwall and courtyard lightwell/atrium design. It has livened up the atrium with colourful Instagram-worthy doors but the architects have chosen to have the units turn their backs on the atrium instead of opening up to them (perhaps due to privacy or safety concerns). I’m not sure if the atrium space inside that building is as much of a benefit in the overall design as exterior space surrounding the building (and providing setbacks) might have been.

  2. Lightwell buildings do not work that well, I am afraid. Like you said, maintenance is problem.

    In Olympic Village in Vancouver, most of the buildings are c=shaped. Allows fairly high density mid-rise developments, with communal spaces that get used and maintained.

    Unfortunately, I am not sure that the block size along Broadway will accommodate that form. Maybe it will. It works in Olympic Village, and there is also development along lower Kingsway, lower Main Street and near ECUAD that is like that.

    Adam

  3. We recently spent six nights in a courtyard-facing flat in the Seventh Arrondissement in Paris. There were six individual buildings, each with seven to nine storeys with rear facades facing the courtyard. It was quiet and cool, a refreshing break from the heat and bustle of the big city. The ground plane was tastefully landscaped with a fountain, semi-mature trees and lush planting beds, and was very welcoming to residents.

    It is clear that urban design done well works. Formulaic design rules about hight-to-width are not an answer for everything.

  4. There is a profound need for an urban design plan for the Broadway Corridor. That would have to be so much more than broad stroke height-to-width impositions. It would include building massing, the extensive reorganization of pedestrian circulation, architecture, open space articulation, materials palettes, landscape treatment, public art and so on. In my opinion building height, though one of many considerations, is not as important as the treatment of the street at the human scale.

    The subway will bring tens of thousands more people to the corridor every day, but they will travel underground for all but the last block or two of their individual journeys, perhaps a little farther during breaks with their daily work, living and after-hours entertainment experiences. This will result in some obvious and strong reference points for design focus, and opens up some very cool opportunities.

    TransLink estimated that the subway will reach 320,000 boardings a day within ten years. Given their history of ridership estimates to date and the phenomenal recent growth in regional transit, that figure could be exceeded a lot more quickly. Thank the stars they won’t be driving cars.

    The first reference point: Broadway will in all likelihood be transformed into a very busy pedestrian corridor as the commuting patterns shift to much higher capacity rapid transit, its feeder buses and to walking and biking. The pedestrian must reign supreme in any planning and design exercise in this corridor as the car traffic is diminished and the express buses disappear.

    Response: Widen large segments of the sidewalks between Main Street and Arbutus. Remove sections of the curb lane devoted to street parking in favour of wider sidewalks interspersed with commercial loading bays and drop-off zones. Essentially liberate 1/3 of the road from cars. Bump out all sidewalks at all station entries, bus stops and intersections and crosswalks. Establish mid-block crosswalks in the entire Central Broadway section. Increase building setbacks where they dovetail with transit stations, primary intersections and cross-traffic bikeways.

    The second reference point: Further attention to wider sidewalks and increased foot traffic.

    Response: Focus more pedestrian infrastructure at the highest-trafficked points. For example, bumping out the sidewalks at station entries and taking the pedestrian open space into the adjacent private developments would help define protected three-sided courtyards. Afford more density to a developer who would create plazas and courtyards adjacent to stations and bus stops, and encourage them to provide large glass canopies over them for year-round use. Following through with responses in building massing and height with respect to the human scale, effectively resulting in a low-rise perimeter around each courtyard with towers that are set back from them significantly and spaced accordingly in a building massing plan. Courtyard cafes, restaurants and retail shopping at these points would animate and energize Broadway even more than its current continuous arterial retail sidewalks and offer more comfort from traffic noise that is possible form the sidewalk.

    The third reference point: Pedestrian open spaces, especially those that are semi-enclosed and protected from the elements, but also an entire widened pedestrian streetscape, could offer extraordinary responses for nodes, podiums and platforms for public art, special materials, unique tree planting themes, fountains and so forth, and could even attract the arts community and music venues to locate in the corridor.

    The discussion on Haussmann’s Paris misses a very important point: there are large swaths of Paris that are not touched by Haussmann’s levelling ego. Just steps from St Michel Notre Dame station and the Haussmann boulevards St Michel and St Germain are the tiny, one-lane and highly walkable lanes and streets of the Latin Quarter not six metres wide. They are full of a huge diversity in building width, height and use. They violate every height-width tenet expressed by egotistical planners, not to mention many zoning bylaws written in the New World, yet they are brimming with charm, dense urban texture and culture for everyone, including immigrants who run tiny street stalls or two-metre wide storefronts selling tourist T-shirts, kebabs, postcards, crepes and trinkets.

    This is just to demonstrate that not every planning exercise needs to eliminate the street culture that naturally evolves from diverse societies.

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