Architecture
November 29, 2019

Burnaby Builds A City – 4

The conversion of Brentwood into a municipal town centre is really about the conversion of car-dependent development from post-war suburbia into the transit-oriented centres of today.  It’s the fulfilment of the regional vision that began in the 1970s.

This is the Grand Bargain in action, concentrating development on the brownfields: the asphalt parking lots, the obsolete industrial sites, the empty lots, all within walking distance of a SkyTrain station.  (Debate: Can the same thing happen along the Frequent Transit Network or even a light-rail line?  Or is grade-separated rapid transit – concrete, trains! – a necessity?)

 

The success of these station areas is unquestioned.  There is a lot more of them happening, a lot more to come, as evident at the next SkyTrain stop to the west – Gilmore:

Today:

Tomorrow:

 

The bargain so far has been a push to extremes: highrise sacrifice zones to protect the iconic single-family neighbourhoods (regardless of the number of units within those houses).

And it leaves untouched the vast stretches of Motordom in between the station areas:

Lougheed Highway at Gilmore, looking west

 

The City of Vancouver has taken the first steps to rezone the blocks just beyond the arterials and transit corridors for medium-density rental, and there are a few, but very few, examples where a whole single-family district has been rezoned, bulldozed and rebuilt (Moodyville) to offer the middle-missing choices for which there is general agreement of their necessity.

This region’s ability to plan, approve and build complexes on the scale of Brentwood makes us an urban leader, certainly in North America.  By comparison, here is Miami Worldcenter, said to be the second largest real-estate development in the US, next to Hudson Yards:

More commercial, denser (and eventually underwater) – but not that different from what we do in our distant suburbs.  Okay, way more jobs, highly desired in places like Coquitlam, but in form and size, it’s just another megaproject.

Just another version of Brentwood.

 

 

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From William Whyte to Jan Gehl, there have been many attempts to find the formula for great public spaces.  And we do have a good idea of what goes into them. And yet really great spaces remain illusory, or we’d have so many more.

Here’s the one soon to be opening at ‘Amazing Brentwood’:

This is only a segment of the main plaza, still under construction.  It can’t fail insofar as there is a SkyTrain station on the south and lots of appealing attractions in every other direction.  And it feels like it has the right proportions given the way the height and curve of the buildings frame the space.

As Ian Wasson observed, the developer and designers have used really fine materials to realize their vision.

There’s a fountain off-centre that occupies a good percentage of the plaza.  You can see it from almost anywhere, but you have to walk around it – like a cog in the elaborate machinery of humanity in motion.

As night it’s a place that plays with light – ostentatiousnessl well done.  Here are some shots taken from Skyscraper Page by vanman:

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You’ve seen this before:

It’s a 1975 sketch of “Cities in a Sea of Green” – the phrase that captured the intent of the original Livable Region Plan.  In Burnaby, they took it literally (see more in ‘Cities of the Future‘).

Brentwood is SkyTrain scale, amped up.  The combo of towers tightly clustered around a rapid-transit station, connected to a shopping centre and community services, also strikes me as Asian scale – characteristic of station areas in Singapore and Hong Kong, where the planning and design go back to the housing booms of post-war modernism.  These are the urban environments in which so many of us grew up before coming to Vancouver, and to whom the projects are now marketed.

This is West Pacific.

The towers, in particular, take us to new heights – not to everyone’s taste, but very much part of the Grand Bargain.  (For an analysis and prediction of the impact of Brentwood, here’s what I said back in 2014: “Brentwood growth could help maintain quality of life: Price”

As detailed on David Pereira’s blog, the architecture of Brentwood Town Centre also goes back to 1960s with its initial highrises and mall (and, oh yeah, used car lots).  Today, ‘Amazing Brentwood’ takes the cliche of the moment – stacked and angled glass boxes – to climb the slope to the north of the station and animate the many thousands of square meters.

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Burnaby at Brentwood has gone full urban.

This is the Lougheed Highway at Willingdon – one the signature crossroads of our region.  On the right, a massive mixed-use development called (awful name) Amazing Brentwood.

Ian Wasson at Burnaby City Hall gave me a heads-up:  Brentwood was ready for a walk-through.  And easy to get to – seamlessly connected to one of the most beautiful SkyTrain stations in the region.

At the same time Brentwood Mall was under redevelopment, the City rebuilt Lougheed into more of a complete street.  There are at least four modes of movement integrated but separate, with great materials, thoughtful landscaping and exciting urbanism in three dimensions.

We’ll explore Brentwood this week.  But here’s the judgment:

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When Councillors consider this report on November 26 – Rental Incentives Review Phase II – “to create new zoning districts for residential rental tenure, for use in ‘off-the-shelf’ rezonings for RS and RT zoned sites in low density transition areas that are on and near arterial roads and close to parks, schools and shopping areas”, they will:

(1) Instruct staff “to prepare the amending by-law.”

(2) Refer it to the City-wide Planning process.

(3) Other.

 

Sun reporter Dan Fumano reports:

Another change would allow four-storey rental apartment or townhouse buildings in “low-density transition areas” — defined as residential blocks within 150 metres from an arterial street. Some Vancouver neighbourhoods, such as Kitsilano and Mount Pleasant, already include many such buildings off of arterial streets. But the proposed change would open up many more parts of Vancouver to these buildings, including much of the less-dense southern half of the city, on both the east and west sides.

Asked if he expects some homeowners and neighbourhood associations might object to apartment buildings on side streets, Stewart said: “I think it’s something to digest. But all of us on council say we’re in the middle of a housing crisis, and if you’re in a crisis, you have to do something new.”

 

 

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Yes, another podcast on Vancouver, its times and its issues – this one from Courier columnist Mike Klassen.  He calls it Vancouver Overcast.

The name is not just a riff on the persistent grey weather conditions we endure here. My goal is to establish a channel where listeners can discover more about Vancouver and hear from some of its thought leaders.

News out of San Francisco:

PriceTalks did an in-depth interview with Jeff Tumlim this last March – lots of insights into Jeff and his thinking, especially relevant now that he will be helping to shape one of the world’s great cities.

 

 

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In the Grand Bargain that has shaped growth in Metro Vancouver for the last half century, brownfield sites have played a crucial role: Usually large in area, often under single-ownership, located near waterfront or transportation corridors, capable of being comprehensively planned without requiring significant displacement, offering the prospect of new amenities and connections while also triggering environmental clean-up, and, since separate from established communities, capable of accommodating density and development often unacceptable elsewhere. . While the City of Vancouver has been the location for many of the high-profile brownfield conversions in the last few decades, opportunities are emerging throughout Metro and in the province.  This webinar explores examples here and elsewhere in Canada (like the West Don Lands in Toronto, below) and how to achieve best results. . . PIBC 2019 Webinar #9 – Brownfield Renewal: Local Government as a Catalyst for Change . This webinar explores how local government can be the catalyst for the renewal of contaminated and derelict land.  Through a number of case studies, our speakers will share best practices and lessons learned that would be applicable to any under-utilized brownfield or waterfront site in the province.   Speakers will also discuss funding incentive programs available through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

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Carla Guerrera   CEO & Founder, 
Purpose Driven Development & Planning

Benjamin Koczwarski, Advisor, Programs Outreach
Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM)

 

November 27

12 – 1:30 pm

CPL Units: 1.5

REGISTER HERE

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When we think of our city as a whole, it is important that it sustains a strong sense of identity for the diversity of people who live here.

The recent City of Vancouver Arts and Culture Plan proposes actions for the incorporation of new approaches to both intangible and tangible heritage. For the purposes of ongoing cultural vitality, redress and equity, it also proposes integration of intangible heritage into the City’s existing heritage program which up to now has mainly focused on the preservation of buildings.

Our final talk for 2019 will look at the opportunity for how a new City-wide plan might carve out a larger role for heritage and integrate current heritage thinking into a wide range of the City’s social aims.

 

Michael Gordon – Former Senior Downtown Planner, City of Vancouver, Vancouver Heritage Commissioner

A year ago, City Council appointed Michael to the Vancouver Heritage Commission. Until 2018, he was Senior Downtown Planner for the City of Vancouver primarily focused on planning in the downtown peninsula and the West End.

 

Elijah Sabadlan – Heritage Consultant & Conservation Specialist

Elijah views heritage architecture as palimpsest in the continuing evolution of urban environments. As a Heritage Consultant with Donald Luxton & Associates, he provides heritage design and technical advice to the project team, from planning to construction.

 

Carmel Tanaka – Founder, Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour

Carmel Tanaka was born to an Israeli mother and a Japanese Canadian father.  Carmel’s pro-diversity stance and open door policy stem from valuing both sides of her heritage, which she describes as “Jewpanese”. This base provides Carmel with the ability to sensitively manage and effectively mediate challenging projects involving multi-generational intersectional groups with mixed political, religious and social opinions.

 

Kamala Todd – Indigenous Arts and Culture Planner, City of Vancouver

Kamala Todd is a Metis-Cree mother, community planner, filmmaker, curator, and educator born and raised in the beautiful lands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Skwxwú7mesh-speaking people, aka Vancouver.  She is the author of “This Many-storied Land”, in In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation (2016),  and Truth-Telling: Indigenous perspectives on working with Municipal Governments (2017) for Vancouver Park Board.

 

 

Thursday, November 28

7-9 pm

SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (SFU Woodwards): 149 West Hastings Street

Free, donations appreciated.  Reservations here.

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