COVID Place making
January 6, 2021

Bad News, Bonnes Nouvelles

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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Ian Robertson found one solution in Paris.  From Euroactiv:

In Paris, as in many European cities, the number of cars is declining, which is leaving a vast amount of underground car parks empty. With its start-up project called “La Caverne”, Cycloponics is reclaiming these urban territories and using them as a way of growing plenty of organic vegetables. …

At Porte de la Chapelle in Paris, the two have set up a 3,500 m2 urban farm located underground, in a former car park. …  Gertz and Champagnat responded to call for tenders from Paris, whose empty car parks were squatted by consumers and crack dealers. It’s been more than two years now since ‘organic has replaced crack’, and about fifteen jobs have been created. …

 

 

Small packets of water-soluble, sterilised and packaged straw are hung from floor to ceiling, and the mushrooms grow through tiny holes. Everything is calculated to ensure their optimal growth. The air is saturated with moisture, the endives grow in the dark, and the mushrooms get a few LED lights.

But the car park has definite advantages over the limestone cavities usually used to grow mushrooms, as there is a permanent and precise control of the weather, as well as better thermal stability. …  Farming in car parks also makes it possible to better resist the climate crisis. Parasites and other insects, for instance, are rather rare in the subsoil, even if endive tubers and straw bought outside can also be vectors of diseases, such as sclerotinia, which destroyed part of this year’s endive harvest. …

“In Paris, as in many European capitals, people no longer have cars, there are too many parking lots, especially in the poorest districts. But we also visited unused car parks on the Champs-Elysée. It would be possible to do something about it!” according to the entrepreneurs.

Full article here.

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As noted below, the Expo Line, which opened in 1985, has transformed the corridor along which it runs, especially at many of its station areas.  In that same time, nothing much has happened along Central Broadway.  Some of the blocks between Granville and Broadway seem curiously untouched since the 1970s.

The blocks between Granville and Burrard have some of the widest sidewalks in the city – and some of the least active street life.

This block from Burrard to Cypress has never had street trees, for no apparent reason:

At six lanes, it feels more like an urban highway than a streetcar arterial.  This is Motordom 2.0 – a redesigning of the city for the car and truck.

Because of the width of the road at six lanes and the height of the buildings at one and two storeys, there is no sense of enclosure, no ‘village’ feeling.  The Broadway subway offers the chance for a complete reordering when the train comes through  – a case where higher heights and densities will actually give the street a more ‘European’ feeling.

A classic example is in central Paris, where the ratio was set by Baron Haussmann in a 1859 degree that determined the height of the buildings as a function of the width of the street:

Six lanes allows five storeys, plus mansard roof (and no doubt higher storeys than our nine to ten feet for residential).  Even without street trees, it works.

 

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From Marilyn Rummel (via Tim Pawsey):

This has knocked me off my feet. A video from Paris compiled from footage shot from 1896 – 1900 by the Lumiere brothers who were by and large the inventors of the moving picture (and their last names WERE Lumiere!)

A Canadian, Guy Jones, has made it his mission to restore old bits of footage he has found. Superb!! And of course he has plenty more besides this one, but I can’t imagine anything topping it.

 

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Tim Davis, a Portlander and occasional PT commenter, also publishes urbanistically interesting posts – like this one on comparative densities of Paris and other cities.  I’ve included links to some of the original Price Tags (pdf files) that provide additional perspective.

1. The land area of Paris *includes* the gigantic bookend parks whose combined area is *six times* the size of New York’s Central Park. And if Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes were removed from Paris, the city’s density would jump to nearly 66,000 people per square mile.

2. Vancouver’s absolutely dreamy West End has a density that just ekes out that of Paris (by roughly 3.5%).

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If you’ve ever been in the western part of France, you may have visited Renne. And if you’re a foodie traveler or coffee lover, you might very well have had coffee at the Joyeux Cafe, a highly rated stop on Trip Advisor. (A second Joyeux Cafe recently opened in central Paris.)
The food and the service are lauded, but there’s something else that makes this cafe special — most of the waitstaff and kitchen staff have some form of cognitive disability, Down syndrome, or autism.

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