Business & Economy
May 13, 2021

The Post-Pandemic Seasonal Restaurant

Here in the Gilford Street minipark in the West End, there is a restaurant – once the fabled Delilah’s (ask your older gay friends), now Robba da Matti – that has expanded their footprint (and their ceiling) to create something more enticing:

Even as they keep their airiness, they are also becoming more formal, more an extension of their indoor space.  Eventually more permanent.  Restaurants capable of creating outdoor rooms will have two year-round options based on the seasons – outdoors in good weather, where landscaping will be as mood-shaping as the interior design.

Expansion into the public realm will of course raise an issue.  How much should be privatized or made special purpose?

In the case of this restaurant, the expansion of the patio originally occurred where the space itself was little-used and didn’t block any walk-through option.  Now it has doubled.  Has it added vitality and helped keep a business alive – or is it an incremental intrusion and a concerning precedent for our public open spaces?


UPDATE: Dominic Brown commented below: “I think you’ve used a photo of the mini-park across Haro from the space in question, that shows a fellow relaxing in a big burgundy-coloured hammock under the cherry trees. That was me. I miss that place.”

You mean this one!


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Did you know that there is still one natural salmon bearing stream left in the City of Vancouver? That is on Crown Street south of Southwest Marine Drive, and you can see it as it goes through Musqueam Park. Fish that have used this creek are Chum, Coho and Cutthroat trout.

This stream and its location is also important, as it is next to the Musqueam First Nation, and Crown Street is also a major entrance to the Nation.

Even two decades ago the City of Vancouver had a surprising percolating font of innovation in the most unexpected place, the Engineering Department. There visionaries like Doug Smith of Greenways (who now heads up the Sustainability Department) and David Desrochers who was manager of Sewer Design stewarded new approaches to managing streets and stormwater. They believed that work could be done in a different, more ecologically sensitive way, and looked for opportunities to test new materials and work in their projects. One grumpy conservative engineer at the city  said that both of these individuals should lose their engineering accreditations for their innovative approaches. But that most certainly  did not happen, instead both Mr. Smith and Mr. Desrochers created work that garnered international attention and awards. And no one talks about the grumpy engineer.

David Desrochers along with  Wally Konowalchuk and Jonathan Helmus had been looking for a place to experiment with a more ecologically responsible way to innovate on  the standard street curb and gutter.  Crown Street with its proximity to this important  salmon stream  and  to the  gateway of the  Musqueam First Nations lands was chosen.

The work on Crown Street between Southwest Marine Drive and 48th Avenue was approved in 2002 . In 2004 funding of 1.18 million was approved with $545,000 being the city share of the cost. Other funding came from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities,($593,350) with the remainder from the Musqueam First Nation and through a Local Improvement Program initiative cost shared with residents.

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Friend of PT Sam Khany: “Look at this artfully done interim plaza in a unique part of our eclectic industrial lands with neighbourhood serving shops (Ontario at both sides of Fifth) – amplifying our greenways with nodal plazas that traffic calm and create a place for gathering:”




PT: We’ve had a full year of the pandemic, and innovated our way through last spring and summer with bikeways, slow streets, streeteries and patios.  Now we know what to expect, and can raise the bar. By end of summer we won’t be going back to some pre-pandemic use of our streets, even as the virus recedes.

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A few things noticed on bike this last weekend – like the first poppy on the Arbutus Greenway:

Thank you, Michael Alexander.

Or a new streeterie on the Richards Bikeway – perfect place to see and be seen:


And another new patio.  Well, an expanded one, as Maxine’s replaces Musette, the bike-themed cafe on Burrard Street.  At least they’re both French.



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The Daily Hive has posted renderings of the proposed SkyTrain stations along the Broadway line.  What a disappointment for such highly public infrastructure that will be with us for generations – especially compared to its predecessors along the Millennium Line (right), whether exterior or interior.

Budgets?  Surely if there’s a place to spend money on bold design, it’s for such public places.  Especially when compared to other cities of similar size like Stockholm that aspire to high urban quality.

The stations on the whole aspire to nothing more than the mediocrity of the Canada Line – another disappointment that was rationalized by budgetary limitations and an urgent deadline.


Seriously?  This looks more like a rendering to illustrate the volume into which the actual building must fit.*

The Urinal School of Interior Design.  (At least there will be public restrooms in the stations.)

Not sure what the red boxes are for – but that is literally the only colour in any of the renderings other than the signage.

This is surely the greatest disappointment: the station that will serve one of the pre-eminent art and design schools in Canada.

We can only hope the students will rebel against the blandness and use the spaces for some guerilla artistic urbanism:

Yes, there is art to come in all the stations – but that is no excuse to treat the architecture itself as a blank palette.


*Update: Andy Coupland in the Comments below notes that, indeed, that is pretty much just a volume rendering, representing the building that will rise above.  The station, however, seems fittingly mediocre.

Update: A friend noted that this is not just about aesthetics.

Are all the stations going to be the same design with an identical colour/material palette? Not only will that be banal but it will also make for an orientation challenge with six identical-looking stations in sequence, and possibly 10 to 12 when it gets to UBC.

A commenter mentioned Toronto’s original stations as a negative example but at least they varied the tile colours to assist in station recognition and orientation. Are we going to start off not having even learned the importance of that? Canada Line is repetitive but at least it has a variety of side, centre and stacked-platform stations, so that helps orientation, even subconsciously, despite the bland materials and poor signage.


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The British Royal Horticultural Society has released a science paper that shows that hedges can mitigate air pollution if they are planted with the right plant. And that plant turns out to one that’s pretty familiar, the humble “cotoneaster franchetti” or Franchets’ Cotoneaster. And here is how you say it: it is  either “Cotton Easter”, or “Cot Tony Aster”. Both are used.

To improve the air and to improve human health it is twenty percent more effective than other cultivars in absorbing pollution. The head research scientist, Dr. Tijana Blanusa states:

“On major city roads with heavy traffic we’ve found that the species with more complex denser canopies, rough and hairy-leaves such as cotoneaster were the most effective. We know that in just seven days a one metre length of well-managed dense hedge will mop up the same amount of pollution that a car emits over a 500 mile drive.”

The cotoneaster has hairy leaves that trap airborne particles and could mitigate some vehicle pollution by being planted near high occupancy roads.

Last December I wrote about  nine year old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who lived near the  major South Circular Road in southeast London.She died in 2013 after many asthma attacks and seizures requiring hospitalization.

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Take a walk on the Fraser River Trail Greenway which is the perfect thing to do on a brisk spring day. You can start at the south foot of Blenheim Street, and you can go west where the private Point Grey Golf Club has worked with the City to create a publicly accessible trail along the Fraser River.

There was one section of the Fraser River Trail Greenway south of the Point Grey Golf Course that was inaccessible due to a large stream embankment. The Simpson Family in Southlands who had lost a son in an accident in the armed forces chose to honour his memory and paid for the public bridge which is accessible to walkers, rollers, cyclists and horse back riders. You can continue on that trail that proceeds west through the ancient territory of the Musqueam First Nation, and that trail joins up to Pacific Spirit Park at Southwest Marine Drive.


But let’s say you choose to go east on the City of Vancouver’s Fraser River Trail which was approved by Council in 1995. There is a footpath on city public lands, and you then can follow the Fraser River beside the city’s McCleery Public Golf Course. It’s a wonderful walk beside the Fraser. And then you run into this:

And there is the obnoxious, anonymous signage:

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This year the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival has again shifted nimbly during the pandemic  to provide marvellous virtual offerings of dances, haiku, and virtual walks during their annual great springtime event.

Originally planted in Stanley Park as a gift from Japan after World War One,  cherry trees do remarkable well in the Vancouver microclimate. In the 1960’s  the use of smaller scale trees was popular  in the city. That included flowering crab apple and plum trees to augment existing and new cherry trees which provide a visual spectacle every March and April.

I have written before about the cherry blossom festival and also about the unnamed street in East Vancouver that gets inundated each year by dinosaurs, costumed admirers, weddings and others for the chance to get photographed under that street’s ceiling of blossoms.

This year here are some images from a westside walk in the Quesnel neighbourhood. The backlanes here are windy and hard to navigate through.  And in those backlanes a few surprises. Look at the image below.

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Thursday, April 15

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. PDT

The SFU Vancouver Lunch ‘n’ Learn series hosts a two-part virtual series on the future of the downtown waterfront on Thursday, April 15th and Thursday, April 29th (Noon-1pm).


The downtown waterfront – the area surrounding the Waterfront Station – could well be the most important and most exciting urban redevelopment opportunity in Canada. Much of the land lies “in waiting” as either parking lots for cars or for freight trains. The Waterfront Station, with its 50,000 passengers a day, is the ideal nexus for what could be a creative renewal of this important area.

The first session on Thursday, April 15th (Noon-1pm) is designed to raise the profile and awareness of the array of opportunities: future transit needs for the City/Region, the role of the historic Waterfront Station, cultural and educational opportunities, walking/biking, public space, tourism, and office and commercial business.

Sarah Ross, Director, System Planning, Transportation Planning and Policy, Translink

Larry Beasley, former city planner, author and international consultant on urban design

Norm Hotson, prominent designer and architect, helped design Granville Island

Gil Kelley, former General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability, City of Vancouver


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Will Covid permanently change how cities use open space? Will they keep the changes – like patios, slow streets and pop-up bike lanes – that were made in response?

According to this report, maybe not – at least in the States:


In a summary from SmartCities:

Parks and open space took on increased value last year as residents sought fresh air while social distancing and stay-at-home orders were in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus. And cities responded by closing certain streets to vehicle traffic, including in parks, to help cyclists and pedestrians move about safely and to encourage more outdoor dining at restaurants.

But desire to make those changes permanent appears to be low: just over a third of respondents say they plan to keep the new space allocated for outdoor dining, while only 6% said they plan to make changes like widened sidewalks, new bike lanes and closed roads a permanent feature of their cities.

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