Architecture
January 7, 2021

Sam de Groot on the Central Waterfront

Regular PT commenter Sam de Groot linked to his blog – Dreams and Schemes – when referencing The Icepick, which largely ignored the Hub Framework intended to guide development.  So instead, he has some thought-through ideas for the the Vancouver Central Waterfront (the area between Centerm and Canada Place) worth posting here.

 

Sam: The railyards on the waterfront are an anachronism that beg for redevelopment proposals, and there have been a few over the years like a casino, stadium, bland office towers and transit hub. I started these ideas when the casino was proposed in the 90s, and I have revisited them over time. … My proposal is (to bridge) the railyards to connect downtown to the water (with) a triangular area ….

On this triangle I propose a tight grid of narrow streets around small blocks that get even smaller toward Crab Park. The park is expanded but directed inward.

Looking at the image above, the grade descends from downtown to the water at the right.

On the bottom chord of the triangle, the grade must be high enough to clear the railyards, and along the left chord of the triangle, the downtown grade is preserved to the northern point as the vantage point should be a bit higher than the wharves on either side. The Centerm expansion is assumed and shown in blue, and completion of the Harbour Line and removing the Seabus terminal is also assumed.

Lots more detail on Sam’s blog here – like this:

I have pencilled this in with narrow streets because this is essentially a pedestrian only precinct. ….  The shorter the buildings, the narrower the streets.

And this: Read more »

Friend of Price Tags and resident of Grandview, Gerry Stafford (who lives meters from the Broadway SkyTrain station) sends along a notice from the Grandview Wood Area Council – and a comment:

Gerry Stafford: Interesting the automatic assumption that everyone is against the towers at the Safeway site or indeed all towers.  I for one am ashamed that density around one of the busiest transit hubs in Western Canada has not evolved similar to Cambie and Marine or Brentwood.  Yes, this is counter to my personal interest but one sometimes needs to look at the bigger issue.

More on proposal in Daily Hive

The creation of dense pods around transit results in fewer vehicles on the road, but more to the point – with the inclusion of rental and non market housing it allows the poor among us the opportunity to live in a circumstance where obtaining work is feasible.  Those lucky enough to live beside a major transit hub, myself included, can get to most of the Lower Mainland within an hour’s commute by transit.

We need 21st century solutions to the current issues of pending gridlock and climate change.  Densification around our transit hubs is one of those solutions.

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It’s not looking good in New York:

In Manhattan alone, new car registrations rose 76% and in Brooklyn, registrations climbed 45%.

D’autre part:

Then came the coronavirus and a national lockdown. With practically no traffic, even non-urbanists like me suddenly realized how much space we’d given over to cars, and we envisioned these same streets as quieter, cleaner public spaces that could contain something else.

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April 1966 was a heady time in Vancouver~it was the year before Canada’s centennial year, and was the City of Vancouver’s 80th birthday. Oddly it was also the  80th anniversary of the so called “colonial” union between Vancouver Island and the mainland, and that’s what the  Provincial government wanted to celebrate.

At the time, Premier Bennett  of the Social Credit party had planned to create a “legacy public work” by building in secret a large water fountain on the north side of  what is now the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was still functioning in 1966 as the Court House. (The building became the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1983.)

The fountain with its very mod mosaic patterned floor and large spouts of water was truly an expression of the 1960’s. The fountain was supposed to be never turned off, and was designed by Alex von Svoboda who was an Austrian count that immigrated to Canada after World War Two.

Twenty years later, visiting  Architect Michael Turner, the  UNESCO Chairholder in Urban Design and Conservation Studies pondered at the UBC architecture school why a city in a pretty damp rainforest climate needed to have a large fountain continually spewing water. The fountain was plonked directly in what had formerly been a large gathering place for Vancouver citizens. The students in his class had no answers.

During the secretive construction of the fountain, the public space in front of the Court House was cordoned off by large wooden hoarding painted green and white, which just happened to be the colours of the Provincial party in power. The Berlin Wall had been constructed commencing in 1961 and the Mayor of Vancouver Bill Rathie wanted to ensure that everyone knew he was not responsible for the usurping of  this much used public space.

There was no love lost between the Premier and the Mayor.

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The Duke of Data at Simon Fraser University’s City Program Andy Yan suggested it first: if you have Christmas lights up on your condo railing or your abode, why not keep them up longer this year to get through the dark, dull, rainy part of each Metro Vancouver winter. No one will judge you, especially this year.

This idea of bringing in more light in the darkest part of winter is feasible too with the energy efficient outdoor lighting now widely used. And the idea of keeping Christmas lights up (or jazzing them up with colours that are not so directly Christmas festive) has been adopted elsewhere.

The City of Kitchener Ontario’s mayor Berry Vrbanovic is encouraging people to keep their Christmas lights up through January stating: “Seeing our neighbourhoods lit up with lights and decorations has been a wonderful way to feel connected as a community – I love the idea of stretching that festive atmosphere into the new year as we continue to get outside for safe neighbourhood walks and physical activity.”

And in Salem Virginia, residents are urged to keep Christmas lights up to honour the front line healthcare workers through January. This is part of a national campaign urging municipalities and organizations across the United States to keep Christmas lights up until January 31, and to spread the word on social media with the hashtag ##LightsUp4Heroes. In Colorado,the initiative is being embraced state wide.

There is also a historical precedent~in Great Britain, the feasting, decorations, Christmas cakes and puddings used to continue for a much longer period than what we typically do today, in tucking everything away by early January.

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Via historian and author Catherine Clement, Son of James with musician Shon Wong sings for many in his latest song on the YouTube video below filmed in downtown Vancouver. Mr. Wong is from a musical and performing family, and Son of James has performed all over Vancouver, San Francisco, Nashville, Memphis and Europe.

Son of James penned and performed their original hybrid Chinese Rock Opera “Tale of the Eastside Lantern” to a capacity crowd at CBC’s  Studio 700. You can read about this groundbreaking work in this Georgia Straight article by Alexander Varty. There’s more about Son of James at the band’s official website here.

 

 

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Curbs are being poured along Beach Avenue from Stanley Park to Hornby Street.

The City approved this permanent change from cones to concrete after a few months of consultation – albeit a ‘temporary’ permanent change, subject to the English Bay master plan currently under design by PFS Studio and Snøhetta.

 

These interventions also deal with some of the confusion and conflict resulting from this fast pandemic response in the spring when bikes were removed from the seawall.  Cyclists tended to ignore stop signals primarily designed for vehicle traffic – so now the crossings provide clarity, safety and a slowing down of two-wheelers.  (Hopefully eye-level signals for bikes will be installed where necessary.)

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A quote I don’t remember from “Death and Life of Great American Cities,” but, thanks to Farhad Manjoo at the New York Times, one worth repeating:

“Cities were once the most helpless and devastated victims of disease, but they became great disease conquerors …

“All the apparatus of surgery, hygiene, microbiology, chemistry, telecommunications, public health measures, teaching and research hospitals, ambulances and the like, which people not only in cities but also outside them depend upon for the unending war against premature mortality, are fundamentally products of big cities and would be inconceivable without big cities.”

 

For those who believe populous cities of massive density are, um, toast because of their pandemic vulnerability, one word:

 

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A shot posted by West End Journal, I presume from the Vancouver Archives:

At a glance you’d think – San Francisco.  But no, that little hill is on Chilco Street, up from Alberni.  Cars are backed up on Robson at the top of the hill.  The traffic cop is on Georgia, and a trolley is pulling out from the bus loop at the end of Alberni.

That’s the way it looked in the 1960s, when downtown office workers were heading home to the North Shore, trying to avoid the back-ups on Georgia.  The traffic was probably worse then, given how relatively little transit there was – and remember, the West End was still in a building boom.  This is why the West End had such a bad reputation in that era.  Concrete jungle.

In response to community concern, the NPA Council at the time approved a West End planning process, and by 1970s, the idea of traffic calming was born – possibly the first of its kind in North America.  Diverters, barriers and miniparks went in West of Denman in the early 70s, followed by a similar intervention East of Denman in the early ’80s.  (The myth is that the traffic barriers and parks were put in to discourage street prostitution.  But no, it had always been intended, depending on community approval for a local area improvement charge.)

Of course there were objections.  This was a War on the Car!  Traffic calming and parking fees and restricted parking – and not enough of it to begin with.  Not to mention the NIMBYism of West Enders cutting off through traffic on streets paid for by everyone (sort of).

Stupid councils went ahead and did it anyway.  Plus bike lanes.  And look what they ended up with.

One of the best urban neighbourhoods in the world.

 

This is what Chilco looks like now. (It’s where I live).

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The D. A Smith Furniture Company appears on Vancouver’s  Granville Street and moves into a “larger” premises at 931 Granville Street in 1911. Here is the Christmas advertising that was first used, with the admonishment

“Every year we notice an increase in the number of odd pieces sold at Christmas time. People are coming around to the proper idea of Christmas giving. If you feel you want to make somebody a present, why, be sure and give something that will be useful as well as ornamental”.

 

 

Even this early there is the start of a business association with co-operative Christmas advertising appearing in the Vancouver Sun in 1912 with gift suggestions for “Father, Mother, Wife, Husband, Boy, Girl and Baby”. All the suggestions of gifts were from local Granville and Hastings Streets businesses.

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