Architecture
July 22, 2019

Lonsdale: The Shipyards – 2

The Shipyards – a mixed-use commercial development at the centre of the City of North Vancouver’s Central Waterfront – officially opened this weekend.  The commercial offerings (the restaurants, the boutiques, the Cap U extension) are still to come – but more importantly the public space that serves not just Lower Lonsdale (LoLo) but the whole North Shore is near complete.

The Shipyards replaces the bloodlessly named Lot 5 in the plan below – and the green-coloured Commons’ fulfils almost exactly the vision that informed the project from the beginning: a covered year-round public space big enough, at 12,000 square feet, to accommodate major events while still providing a flexible intimacy needed to give sparkle to what mayor Linda Buchanan calls ‘the jewel in the crown.’

What makes this space special (as designed by Dialog, among whose principals, Norm Hotson and Joost Bakker, were the architects of Granville Island) are not just what’s on the floor but also the walls and ceiling: a spectacular industrial legacy above, a retractable roof extension over the water park alongside, with galleries surrounding the space to the east and south.  The constant animation, with people looking down, up and across, moving around to capture views and Instagrammable moments both front and back, makes this space dynamic in three dimensions.

As was evident at the opening, North Van City is swarming with children, many being raised in high-density Lower Lonsdale.  This is their playground.  And for a community as outdoorsy and athletic as any in North America, the spaces have been programmed for their tastes: water parks, basketball courts, play spaces and especially a skating rink – hopefully spacious enough to be everything the failure at Robson Square isn’t.

Good design, which this has (even large washrooms!), isn’t sufficient to ensure success.  The space requires high-quality infrastructure – notably an excellent encompassing sound system and state-of-the-art lighting (it’s hopefully coming).  It must be surrounded by viable commercial operations – and uses beyond the commercial, especially cultural (which this has, with the Polygon Gallery and, soon, the North Van museum nearby).  They in turn need a large local population (which LoLo provides), frequent transit (hey, a B-Line in addition to SeaBus) and a modicum of parking.  There needs to be strong connections into the surrounding community (which the central waterfront still lacks to the east, is fractured by the Seaspan offices to the west and, to the north, the expanse of Esplanade). Finally, and importantly, a budget to support otherwise unprofitable activities and for long-term maintenance.

Well, not finally.  There is one important factor that any complicated project needs, especially one requiring long-term vision and continuity in the face of controversy.  That’s a political champion, with the support of at least a majority of the enabling councils over time and, ideally, senior governments.  And the Central Waterfront has had that in the person of past mayor Darrell Mussatto – who was there to rightfully celebrate the achievement of a vision that leaves a legacy for him and for the North Shore generally.

While the District Councils of North and West Vancouver remain mired in suburban pasts, their residents will at least have a place to come together for their mutual enjoyment – thanks to the leadership of a generation of leaders in the City who were able to leave behind the hope that North Vancouver would retain its industrial and ship-building glory on this site, and then moved on to build a new kind of commons.

 

 

 

 

 

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This topic is under the radar which is probably why most people are not more indignant that in a city that prides itself on being green, sustainable, bikeable and smart we have a very very dirty secret~we don’t separate out our liquid garbage.

Think of it~we separate green waste from garbage, we compost what we can, and we are all educated on what to put in the blue recycling box. But few  people know  what the implications of a combined storm and sanitary sewer are to the environment. It just sounds like something that is mundane and boringly municipal. But what it really means is that when a combined sewer overflows, it is spilling untreated excrement into Vancouver’s surrounding water sources.

When I worked as the health planner for Dr. John Blatherwick the City’s Medical Health Officer, the separation of the combined sewer system was the first thing to be further delayed in any civic budget process.  Back in the 1980’s it was assumed that the entire city would be under a separated sewer program by 2020. But in checking on the city’s website that goal has been pushed back thirty years with  “We are working toward the Province of BC’s environmental goal to eliminate sewage overflows by 2050″.

When beaches are closed due to high coliform counts there is a public level of indignation that we need to do something to stop that. And there is-by finishing up the installation of a separated storm and wastewater sewage system that keeps getting delayed for other priorities.

While some of the city has separated storm and wastewater sewers, the parts that don’t have catchment water and liquid waste travel to the sewage treatment plant in one sewer. If there is a big rain event, stormwater can overwhelm that single pipe system, which means that untreated excrement overflows into water sources like False Creek.

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It seems reasonable to jump on a 21st century transit link like Canada Line and expect that there will be some sort of free internet available for you as part of TransLink’s customer service. Last year I wrote about TransLink  announcing that free access to internet service was coming, and would be offered on SkyTrain, the SeaBus and on transit. Even better, “the TransLink Board approved the development of a strategy to provide washrooms on the system “over the longer term”. 

Of course there’s a bit of “cut and paste” internet service at the SeaBus terminal and on the SeaBus itself, and sadly TransLink says it will take six years for complete transit network coverage courtesy of their partnership with Shaw cable.

But across the Pond in Britain, Transport for London is way ahead of TransLink in their announcement of 4G mobile phone technology going live on the Jubilee line’s tunnels early in 2020, with a full rollout in the next few years.Currently London’s tube stations have cell phone and internet reception which is non-existent in the train tunnels. That will require 1,240 miles of cables being installed in the tunnels which is close to 2,000 kilometers of wire.

London’s underground transit tunnels are one of the last major public places in Britain without phone reception.I find it fascinating that Transport for London is providing the underground communications service as a public space amenity. But also being British, the Guardian ruefully observes that such cellular network availability creates “new challenges to commuter etiquette.”  

The Mirror reports that the proposed new cellular coverage has mixed consumer reviews.

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For some years now, the City has been approving the replacement of small plazas, originally incorporated into the design of downtown office buildings and open to the public, with infill development.  Now those projects are underway – notably at Hastings and Seymour, and here at Dunsmuir and Homer, which in 2009 looked like this:

The two-storey pavilion and surrounding plaza were part of 401 West Georgia, and were never much used.  Shadowed, windy, and even though windowed, presented a blank, bland facade to the street.  But the empty space at least gave breathing room for the adjacent Holy Rosary Cathedral.

Here’s what that looked like until recently, from the view at Richards and Dunsmuir:

Now that the infill building replacing the pavilion and plaza is almost complete, here’s the view a few weeks ago:

I suspect the architects thought they were being respectful while providing street continuity in this fast-changing part of east Dunsmuir.  But the result is a crowded cathedral and more blank glass walls.  There’s not even a chamfered corner that would have acknowledged the church.

We’ll hold final judgement until the ground-level frontage is complete.  But even though the original plaza will not be missed, the setback and breathing room for the cathedral most certainly will.

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July 17, 2019

Imagine being able to use a single app to plan, book and pay for all your transport services, across different modes. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is an emerging transportation concept that leverages technology and shared transportation – such as cars, bikes, scooters, and more – to provide mobility services.

The concept of MaaS started in Finland, where it now plays a key role in the national transportation policy.

What will it take to fully realize Mobility as a Service in Metro Vancouver? Join us for an evening of dialogue led by David Zipper and Catherine Kargas. David is a MaaS specialist and has been published in The Atlantic, Slate, Fast Company and WIRED. Catherine is a Vice President at MARCON where she specializes in transport electrification, vehicle automation, shared mobility and MaaS.

Wednesday, July 24

6:00 PM – 7:30 PM

Segal Business School – 500 Granville

Reserve tickets here.

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Quick, when you think of the entrance to Stanley Park, is this what comes to mind?

For many, this is their first impression: a parking lot.  But others are not noticing the asphalt – instead trying to navigate through one of the most congested points in the park:

For those renting bikes at Denman and Georgia, it’s even worse:

And only the sidewalks seem like a reasonable option:

In an ideal world, some of the parking lot would be assigned for bike rental, accompanying restrooms and services, with proper separation and sufficient gathering space.  But this is the domain of the Park Board.  And we should know by now, when it comes to cycling, the Board really doesn’t give a damn.

 

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Kevin Quinlan, who was working in the mayor’s office at the time of the Burrard-bike-lane blow-up, apparently saved files of the coverage, perhaps with the intent of doing what he does here – a delicious reiteration of how over-the-top most of the assumptions and criticism was at the time.  Here are excerpts from his Twitter thread.

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@KQ_VanCity

Guess who is 10! Happy birthday, Burrard bridge bike lane: today marks 10 years since the Burrard Bridge bike lane opened. Let’s take a casual bike ride back through time and look at the calm, nuanced media commentary that greeted the plucky bike lane in 2009.

Quick refresher: 6 car lanes on the Burrard bridge went down to five, to enable separated bike lanes to keep people from falling into traffic. Months of media hysteria that it would be a complete disaster. it would fail within days!

Political opponents tried to get ‘Gregor’s gridlock’ to become a catchy slogan (lasted about as long as ‘who let the dogs out’.) Radio pundits predicted Mayor and Vision would be trounced in next election. Nobody bikes! It rains! Social engineering! Radical green agenda! . On first day, morning commute had news choppers flying overhead. CKNW set up a live booth on Burrard at Drake to talk live to all those angry commuters stuck in traffic. ARE YOU MAD CALL IN NOW AND GIVE US A PIECE OF YOUR MIND NOW HERE’S A RADIO AD FOR ALARM FORCE. . The Burrard Bridge bike lane media commentary has aged really well. Vancouver Sun: BURRARD BRIDGE BIKE LANES DOOMED TO FAILURE. Not just won’t work: DOOMED TO FAIL. Like a curse. .

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A few more comparisons with the West End.

Here’s a West End minipark:

And one in the White City:

Here’s what it’s like trying to find a parking spot at night in the White City:

It’s way worse than the West End: the closest space from the image above was at least a kilometre away.  In the West End, it’s not as bad if you have a permit sticker – but didn’t see any residents-only parking in TLV.

Rico, in the post below, says that he prefers the West End: ” … to me the difference is not building form but tree cover along the sidewalks.”  And the West End certainly has some of the best street trees in the city:

But even in subtropical Tel Aviv, especially in the northern part of the White City, the streets are heavily treed:

While the White City is not as heavily landscaped and parked as the ‘Garden City’ planner Patrick Geddes intended, it still stacks up well against even as green a city as Vancouver.

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