Art & Culture
January 3, 2020

Back to the 1990’s: The Rise and Fall of the Coffee Shop Transit Muffin

With thanks to Duke of Data Andy Yan for the reference, here’s a memory for those of a Certain Age that were taking transit in Vancouver in the 1980’s and 1990’s. At that time, the city seemed to be covered with ubiquitous places where you could get muffins, most near transit hubs. Muffin shops also carried coffee, not the fancy stuff of Starbuck’s creativity but the kind that came straight out of a glass carafe, and usually had the consistency of caramel.

Karon Liu in the Star wrote last spring about the muffin trend, stating that “the bar (was) set by Toronto-based muffin chain Mmmuffins (full name: Marvellous Mmmuffins). In the chain’s ’80s and early ’90s heydays, almost every Canadian mall had a location that offered a rotating menu of flavours. Everyone had their favourite: some liked the cornmeal muffin, others peach bran, while my mom loved the seldom-seen pineapple muffin…”

Marvellous Mmmuffins started in 1979, was franchised, and peaked in the 1980 to 1990 years. By 2019, what was once a bevy of stores had shrunk to only two with one of them, the Second Cup, picking up on the new trend towards espresso and specialty coffee.

It may seem a weird trend now where people are careful about ingesting carbohydrates , but in the late 1980’s Liu observes that the muffin had the three ingredients necessary for the  “yuppie” (“Young Urban Professional”) lifestyle.

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The New York Times published a wonderfully interactive perspective on “A Decade of Urban Transformation” – the changes in the American urban landscape (with enough applicability to much of urban Canada), as seen from above.

 

Vast new exurbs have been carved from farmland, and once-neglected downtowns have come to life again. The tech industry has helped remake entire city neighborhoods, and it has dotted the landscape with strange new beasts, in data centers and fulfillment hubs.

The Exurbs Boom Again

At the beginning of this decade, for a short period after the housing bust, it looked as if the exurbs were over. Housing construction and population growth there ground to a halt. Briefly, central cities and denser suburbs were growing faster than exurbia. But the exurbs eventually boomed again, a pattern we can see in rings of new development around most major metro areas in this map, especially in the Sun Belt:

For more images:

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Planning for Non-Planners: What You Need to Know About Community Planning

What you’ll learn

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Describe key objectives of the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy and other region-wide initiatives
  • Explain the basic process and structure of urban plans and policies in municipalities
  • Identify the tools planners can use to influence development of communities

3 Thursday evenings: March 2, 9, 16

6:30–9:30 p.m.

SFU Harbour Centre

Instructor: Eric Aderneck, VP Planning and Development, iFortune Homes Inc.; Industrial Land-Use Planning Consultant

Register now

 

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Andy Yan, our  very own Duke of Data and Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University shared his discovery of this dated gem from 1966. Filmed just two months before Walt Disney’s death, the YouTube video below describes Mr. Disney’s next big project.

Walt Disney of Disneyland fame had read a few of the old classic books on planning and had decided to make EPCOT~the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow~ as a way to get industry working on innovation technology that would support the people living in the experimental community. You will see Mr. Disney holding up plans that look more like amoeba swimming around, with a bit of Buck Rogers streamlined arty design.

Of course you just can’t go and repurpose a town to create an experimental community, so Disney bought 47 square miles of swamp in the middle of Florida, got permission to create his own municipality, and made plans for 20,000 residents to live there. Just like Apple’s headquarters everything was circular with plans showing businesses in the centre of the proposed town and residences on the suburban perimeter.

The video below is cringe worthy for several reasons,  with the drawings looking strangely similar to  Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities and the Radburn Plan. Walt Disney was basically building a new town where he planned that workers and industry would live in harmony and commute by monorail and “PeopleMovers”.

With Walt Disney’s death in 1966, the more conservative Disney board morphed EPCOT into a series of international pavilions and steered away from the creation of a new community.

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I have been writing about Leading Pedestrian Intervals  (LPIs) and spoke on CBC Radio this month about why this innovation should be adopted everywhere.

For a nominal cost of $1,200 per intersection, crossing lights are reprogrammed to give pedestrians anywhere from a three to ten second start to cross the street before vehicular traffic is allowed to proceed through a crosswalk. There are over 2,238  of these leading pedestrian crossing intervals installed in New York City where their transportation policies prioritize the safety of walkers over vehicular movement. New York City had a 56 percent decrease in pedestrian and cyclist collisions at locations where LPIs were installed. NACTO, the National Organization of City and Transportation Officials estimates that LPIs can reduce pedestrian crashes by 60 percent.

Since 75 percent of Vancouver’s pedestrian crashes happen in intersections, and since most of the fatal pedestrian crashes involve seniors, it just makes sense to implement this simple change to stop injuries and to save lives.

There has not been much political will in the City of Vancouver to adopt Leading Pedestrian Intervals, and there are only a  handful in the city. Kudos to the City of Surrey’s Road Safety Manager Shabnem Afzal who has tirelessly led a Vision Zero Plan (no deaths on the roads) and has been behind the installation of Leading Pedestrian Intervals at over seventy Surrey intersections.

As reported by CBC’s Jesse Johnston, Leading Pedestrian Intervals  “allows pedestrians to establish their right of way in the crosswalk.”

Quoting Ms. Afzal, “”It puts pedestrians into the crosswalk far enough to make them more visible to drivers. We normally implement them around T-intersections where there may be a potential for conflict between a vehicle and a pedestrian…It is a no-brainer really that we have to try and protect those most vulnerable road users. Especially given that it’s low cost and we can implement LPIs anywhere where there’s actually a signal.

Kudos to Surrey and to Road Safety Manager Ms. Afzal for getting this done.

When can we expect the same kind of response  from the City of Vancouver?

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Amidst the Australian bushfires – an image too sad to seem real:  a firefigher and a koala, watching their forests burn next to a vineyard.

Apparently it is all too real. From a Guardian blog:

… the photo was taken at Lobethal on Friday while protecting homes. Two koalas wandered out of the bush seeking assistance.

“Up behind us there were a couple of houses under threat so we were working to protect them from ember attack and the firefront and they stepped out of the bush seeking help,” he said.

Adams said it was common for koalas to seek help from firefighters in these situations. The koalas were given water and moved to a safer location. Firefighters lost track of them and they were eventually forced to pull out of the property.

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In Building a Resilient Tomorrow, Alice Hill and Leonardo Martinez-Diaz have put together a superb primer on responding to the impacts of climate change. …

Particularly gripping is chapter 9, which focuses on relocating people in harm’s way. For years, the issue of displacement and relocation was something of a taboo subject in international climate debates, both because it is so sensitive and because solutions are not readily apparent. …

“Of all the hard lessons in this book, managing climate migration may be the hardest,” they argue …  “[t]he earlier we start, the easier, and less costly, and less traumatic building resilience will be.”

They don’t need to use the future tense anymore.

From the New York Times – Among the World’s Most Dire Places: This California Homeless Camp

 

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Surely an offense to the homeless who seek shelter in the parks or, especially, the golf courses that serve only a handful of the elite.  And they’re annuals!  Every year, another wasteful, expensive insult.*

 

*To quote Chris Keam from below: “The problem with irony is that it now has about as much power as swearing on TV. Overdone and out of gas. Sincerity is the new cool attitude to have. I thought we all knew this by now, but what do I know?”

 

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It glitters!  It spins!  It outrages!

Click here to see the Chandelier spin.  Whee!

Since it was hung under the Granville Bridge, Spinning Chandelier has appalled those who deem it an insult.  Like Melody Ma:

How did such an insensitive piece of public art come into existence? Did no one at the city of Vancouver anticipate the outrage that would follow?

… It’s like letting the McDonald’s golden arches be the emblem of a city. …

One spinning chandelier to remind us of the inequality in the city is more than enough. It’s time to review the public art process before it produces another obscene structure …

Whether it’s puritans or progressives who are condemning an artwork as obscene, watch out.  Mediocrity is waiting in the wings.

And we happen to have an ideal comparison with two works by one artist: Rodney Graham, who actually created the obscene Chandelier, chosen by the developer, and another piece you’ve probably never heard of, chosen by the kind of process that Ma favours:

It was a commission for the Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program, and it is, if I may be harsh, one of the most mediocre works on one of the most opportune sites in the city: the entrance to Stanley Park.

The work takes its title from a series of photographs … which documented a series of ‘incorrectly’ assembled toy glider kits… And the park, of course, is a place where children and adults may very well play with glider.

It would at least be appropriate next to a children’s play space.  So how about we do a switch: put Graham’s work near a playground and replace it with the statue of Lord Stanley, arms spread wide, welcoming “people of all colours, creeds and customs” at the entrance to the park.

Except, of course, this dead white male colonialist wouldn’t pass the trauma test.  Nor does the Chandelier, according to Mitch Speed in another scathing indictment in MoMus:

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Vancouver has the highest density of artists per capita in Canada. But they’ve lost nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space in the past decade, while their median rental rates have increased more than 65 per cent. The Eastside Culture Crawl Society, alarmed at the increasing conversion of light industrial buildings to condos, produced A City Without Art?, a report that documents artists’ displacement, and calls for no net loss of existing spaces, plus more non-profit and community ownership, and other strategies.

Meanwhile, The City of Vancouver has committed to addressing our acute cultural space challenges in its Culture | Shift plan, and has recently opened 10,800-square-foot purpose-built artist production facility Howe Street Studios, with much more promised.

Can it deliver? Can it stop conversions? Will more artist space mean less city housing?

Our guides for this conversation are Eri Ishii, formerly evicted painter, and Director of Portside Studios and the 901 Artists Cooperative; Cheryl Hamilton of ie: Creative, and a third speaker to be confirmed.

 

Thursday, January 16

12:30 PM

SFU Vancouver Harbour Centre – 515 West Hastings Street

Free Event | Registration is Required

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