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MOVments: Surviving the City, Reality TV, and E-Commerce

This week we look at the economic realities and struggles of big business, small business, and "anti-business." From the uncertain fate of the The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, to the changing landscape of independent bookstores in the city, and the meta-reality of the DTES anti-gentrification conflicts, we're exploring what it means to survive and succeed in Vancouver's economic wilderness.
 
Saving The Centre. Many in Vancouver's arts and culture scene are looking to the City to step in to save The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts. The Centre is set to be sold to the Westside Church after struggling with economically viable programming as a large-scale venue. Will The Centre survive as an art space? We'll have to wait to find out.
 
Struggling to Sell Books. Francis Bula explores the economic ups and downs of Vancouver's best-loved independent bookstores of the past and present in this recent article. Some of the culprits behind slumping sales are easy to identify - the rise of e-commerce to name one - but others are more surprising (and more Vancouver-specific). She also examines stores like Kidsbooks and Pulpfiction Books that are surviving and thriving against some pretty bleak odds.
 
Reality TV Gets Real. Did the reality presented in the television show Gastown Gamble contribute to the current anti-gentrification protests in the DTES? Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones of The Atlantic Cities seems to think so. The show follows Mark Brand's journey as the socially-conscious owner of Save on Meats. As Hinkes-Jones says, "For many of the at-risk locals whom Brand has hired, he's a legitimate hero. But there's also little doubt the show's subject — the renovation of a historic Downtown Eastside business to make it more appealing to upscale customers — is exactly the sort of effort that's caused much of the distrust among the protesters."
 
And On a Not Entirely Related Note...it's Bike to Work Week! Check out this neat initiative co-produced by Vancouver is Awesome with Penny Smash funds. Definitely some of the most fun you'll have getting to work in the morning.
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Shelves at Pulpfiction on Main. Photo by Richard Erirksson via Flickr]

MOVments: Sunshine, Get Togethers, and Outdoor Fun

 
In celebration of the coming fine weather (it's coming, we promise. See?) we are offering a pared down round up for the week, leaving you ample time to see some buskers (or not), sit down at a cafe, and perhaps visit with your new co-housing neighbours.
 
Busker Idol. A new regulation has instituted a rigorous audition process for buskers wanting to perform on Granville Island. Some people are (understandably) upset.
 
Cafe Culture. This neat exploration of the socio-economic factors surrounding the placement of Vancouver's independent cafes will get you thinking about what it means to sip coffee in your own neighbourhood and beyond.
 
Living Together. Vancouver City Council recently gave the go ahead to Vancouver's first co-housing project. The residential units featuring shared kitchens and common rooms will go up on East 33rd near Victoria Avenue.
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Granville Island busker. Photo by Stephen Rees via Flickr]

MOVments: Knowing Your Neighbourhood

This new series from Inside Vancouver inventorying Vancouver neighbourhoods got us thinking about what it means to live in a city with distinct, geographically and socially defined communities. But as this week's stories reveal, our neighbourhoods are also fluid, permeable, shared spaces. Read on for a look at close-quarter living in Surrey's new micro-lofts, the new neighbours being brought together at the revitalized Chinatown Night Market, and a potentially major shift to a very central neighbourhood: the VAG's possible move from Robson to Cambie. 
 
Micro Communities. Micro-suites that are being called "Canada's smallest ever condominums" are now up for sale in Surrey. The smallest units are 297 square feet and can include space-saving features such as murphy beds and built-in storage units for an extra cost. Speaking to the Province, Charan Sethi of Tien Sher developers, highlighted their shifting model for apartment living: "We have to start thinking about what the next generation wants...[They want] a pad of their own that they can call their home. They don’t entertain at home ... their dining room is actually restaurants.” Just how these tiny condos might affect the ways we interact with each other, inside and outside of them, remains to be seen.
 
Mixing it Up at the Night Market. Tannis Ling of Bao Bei restaurant and current managing director of the Chinatown Night Market has a new vision for the long-standing cultural institution. She hopes that by incorporating vintage clothing booths, Rain City Chronicle storytellers, hip hop karaoke, and other acts and vendors the summer market will attract a "wider demographic": “Chinatown is Chinese, but there’s so many different neighbourhoods in the area. There’s no reason why we should appeal to strictly a Chinese audience where there’s all those other kinds of people around.”
 
New Neighbours for the VAG? City Council is meeting with members of the public today regarding the potential move of the Vancouver Art Gallery to the corner of Cambie and Georgia, currently the site of a parking lot. There has been ongoing debate surrounding the move with critics skeptical of the gallery's ability to raise funds for the move and operation of the new building. For more information on the issue check out the complete recommendation report here. Whatever the outcome, using the site as anything other than a parking lot makes sense to us.
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Chinatown Night Market, 2010. Photo by claydevoute via Flickr]

MOVments: The Talented City

There's no doubt about it, Vancouver is a tremendously, ridiculously talented city. From clever computer engineers, to ground-breaking artists, to innovative entrepreneurs the city is chalk full of people who continue to shape and define our communities in unexpected ways. This week's MOVments takes a look at some of the benefits and repercussions of being such an accomplished city.
 
Virtual Brain Drain. Social media giant Facebook is setting up a new temporary development office in Vancouver and will be hiring 150 of our best and brightest to staff it. Good news, right? Yes and no. As Alex Wilhelm argues over at The Next Web, Facebook may be perfectly positioning itself to snag our talented developers: "In short, Facebook is hoovering up smart kids, and stashing them in Canada until it can transfer them to one of its offices in the United States, such as its headquarters in Menlo Park."
 
The Art of Recognition. Some recent news in the BC art world has hit us very close to home: George Norris, the artist behind the iconic crab sculpture in front of the MOV, passed away in Victoria on March 12. Although Norris' work can be found across the province, he was under-recognized during his lifetime. As his friend, artist Gordon Miller told the Province: "He was probably the most unrecognized and unappreciated talent in BC. He was an incredible artist that never tooted his own horn." Fortunately this isn't true across the board: Vancouver artist Rebecca Belmore has just won one of the prestigious Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts. The $25,000 award recognizes Belmore for her career achievement as a multidisciplinary artist.
 
Waldorf-Rickshaw Mega-Team. Owners of the Richshaw Theatre and Waldorf Productions have joined forces to purchase and renovate Fox Cinema, the former porn theatre on Main Street. Plans are to re-open the theatre in the fall as a space for everything from live music, to djs, to comedy depending on what kind of liquor license the team is able to obtain. Great news for anyone mourning the loss of the Waldorf Hotel venue (or just excited about having more innovative multipurpose spaces in the city).
 
Visualizing (Un)Affordable Housing. Finally, with spring on its way and the temperature on the rise, here is an extremely effective "thermal" visualization of the city that literally puts Vancouver's most/least affordable neighbourhoods on the map.
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Rent Heat Map courtesy of rentheatmap.com]

MOVments: Monstrous Bridges, Beastly Public Art, and Scary Economics

 
Happy 2013, MOVers! We hope you all had a warm, cozy, and cheerful holiday season ... because that's all about to come to an end. The new year has us confronting a monster (bridge), a bizarre beast (in the form of a poodle sculpture on Main), and the demise of an East Van cultural space (R.I.P. Waldy). Not to mention the economic fallout from the end of the NHL lockout and fears surrounding a new megapub in the Olympic Village. But don't be frightened, gentle readers: on the flip side of these changes and challenges there are opportunities for innovation, evolution, and what we can only hope will be constructive dialogue.
 
Killer Bridge? John Metcalfe over at Atlantic Cities makes the argument that the Port Mann Bridge is out to destroy its human creators (or anyone who crosses its path) pointing to the ice that it threw down on drivers on December 19th. However, it looks like there's plenty more blame to go around: according to this opinion piece from The Tyee, Transportation Minister Polak put the blame on drivers themselves for a January 3rd crash. We suppose one could also blame insufficient de-icing and poor road-condition forecasting. Killer bridge or no killer bridge, let's all just be careful out there.
 
Poodle Party. A new seven-foot poodle sculpture at Main and 18th is causing a little bit of controversy. As the Vancouver Observer reports, at least one resident is confused about how the public art piece, which was sponsored by the city and TransLink, is meant to represent the neighbourhood. Martin Stoakes complains that "Instead of hiring an artist from the neighbourhood, they hired an artist from Montreal who after walking up and down the street decided a poodle was the best reflection of the community." Check it out in front of the new Shopper's Drug Mart and decide for yourself. 
 
Street Economics. One of the most commented-on pieces of news coming out of the city last week was the closing of the financially troubled Waldorf Hotel. As soon as the press release came out, Interneters of all ilks began eulogizing the East Van cultural institution while bad-mouthing the condo developers who purchased it. See what Mayor Robertson had to say about it here, and why there may still be hope for an arts and cultural hub in the area. Another piece of economic news that we hope won't come true? Proposed higher fines for sleeping outdoors and illegal vending aimed at the homeless.
 
Is Hockey Bad for Business? Don Cayo at the Vancouver Sun says yes. He explains that the end of the NHL lockout may actually have a negative impact (albeit slight) on the city's economy: "The reason is, when you think about it, pretty obvious. When people can't spend their money on pricey sports tickets, they spend it on other stuff instead." And a large portion of the money going towards those pricey tickets is ending up with players and owners who are less likely to spend it in the city right away. So go ahead and get excited for the return of hockey, just don't get that excited.
 
Trouble Brewing. Lastly, some residents of the Olympic Village are protesting the opening of the CRAFT Beer Market in the Salt Building, claiming that it will devalue real estate in the area. Worries range from traffic congestion to increased night-time noise and rowdiness. We're hoping that if the project goes through, "rowdiness" will translate into "liveliness" or - even better - "vibrant nightlife." 
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Port Mann Bridge under construction, 2012. Photo by Ken_Lord via Flickr]

MOVments: On Missed Opportunities (and Finding New Ones)

This week a shout out to a beloved, but long gone butcher shop on Granville got us thinking about instances where the city missed a chance to preserve its social institutions and foster its creative forces. From saying goodbye to a car-free block downtown to a long-awaited report on the Downtown Eastside missing women, there are certainly plenty of things to ponder on the current social and political horizon. However, these do not just represent some missed opportunities, they also offer chances to reflect, critically analyze, and move forward from where we are now.

Block 51. It looks like the pedestrian-only block adjacent to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Robson Street will revert back to its former incarnation as a transit and traffic artery in the city. As the Globe and Mail reports the public space provided by Block 51 has been very popular over the summer but as the winter has set in, it has become much less animated, leading to the decision to open it to traffic again. While this may be the end of a central gathering place in the vicinity for the time being, the city has recognized the vital importance of these kinds of spaces, identifying other areas on Robson, Granville, and Hamilton as potential permanent gathering places.

Missing Voices. Commissioner Wally Oppal has submitted his final report on the investigation of the missing women cases in the Downtown Eastside between 1997 and 2002 and as the Georgia Straight reports, it will be made available to the public in mid-December. However, some have already pointed out some flaws. Kasari Govender of West Coast LEAF stated, “This inquiry was a missed opportunity to include the voices of marginalized women, of marginalized communities, and those who were directly impacted by the subject matter of the inquiry. It perpetuated the very problems it sought to alleviate,” But as the reaction to the report has already shown, many legal organizations, non-profits, and media outlets seem to be poised to continue the conversation, critically reflecting on the ongoing discrimination against women, Downtown Eastside residents, and sex-workers in the city and making their own recommendations.

Dude Chilling Park No Longer Quite So Chill. In case you missed it, Guelph Park in East Vancouver was briefly renamed Dude Chilling Park last Thursday. Artist Viktor Briestensky installed a sign with the new name after being inspired by a sculpture of a reclining man that inhabits the park. As the Province reports, Briestensky's goal was simply to promote intergenerational dialogue using humour. And although the sign was removed early Friday morning, it appears that Briestensky has partially succeeded; an online petition calling for the official renaming of the park is creating quite the buzz online, especially among Internet-savvy Vancouverites. Only time will tell if this ends up being a missed opportunity or an exciting example of art being used to reinvigorate an underused social space. You can check out the petition here

At the MOVeum:

November 28 - Evolving Geographies of Immigration in Vancouver: History and Horizons
December 6 - Curator's Talk & Tour with Viviane Gosselin
December 8 - Love You Forever Tattoo Parlour

[Image: James Inglis Reid Ltd. business card for the Granville Street butcher shop. Museum of Vancouver collection, H2004.12.32]

MOVments: Cohousing, Kingsgate Mall, and Predicting the Future

This week the Illustrated Vancouver blog posted an artist's vision of the Museum of Vancouver building from 1966. Of course when it actually opened in 1968, the museum looked just a little bit different. Unsurprisingly, Vancouver's landscape of shifting expectations is no less visible today. If we look around the city we can find plenty of predictions that haven't turned out quite as we'd anticipated. Read on for some contemporary adjustments to how we might be living, shopping, and doing business in the future.

 
Moving in Together. Chances are that most of us didn't expect to be living with roommates past our 20s (alright, maybe our early 30s). Even the word "roommate" can conjure up negative memories of messy bathrooms and passive aggressive notes. Well, Vancouver Cohousing is providing a different framework for shared living, one that incorporates values like sustainability, community building, and intergenerational bonding. As the Vancouver Courier reports, a cohousing fair last night (November 19) aimed to educate people about a living strategy which organizes separate units around a central shared space used as anything from a communal dining room to a playroom for children. There aren't any cohousing communities in Vancouver at the moment but it looks like we can definitely expect increased interest around the subject.
 
Kingsgate & The Class Divide. For years, what is arguably one of the weirdest malls in the city has provided an eclectic neighbourhood with an eclectic assortment of stores. Now with the new Rize development in the works across the street, Kingsgate Mall is set for redevelopment as a mixed use residential and commercial complex. It's clear that both developers and residents are anticipating a shift in the climate and culture of the neighbourhood, one very much connected to tricky issues of affordability and gentrification. For more on these contentious topics, The Atlantic Cities website recently put out a fascinating article exploring growing class division in the city. As the author Richard Florida suggests, our expectations of "Lotus Land" are quickly diverging from the lived reality: "Even the city widely recognized as the world’s "most livable" cannot escape the growing class polarization of our increasingly spiky and divided world."
 
Social Venture Award. Finally, two Vancouverites may be changing expectations around what it means to do business here. Carol Newell and Joel Solomon of Renewal Partners, a venture capital firm, have just been inducted into the Social Venture Network’s Hall of Fame. Newell and Solomon have invested in businesses like Happy Planet juices and the Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (SPUD) to fulfill their mandate of providing a seed fund for socially aware start-ups. Currently, their Renewal 2 Investment Fund is also giving out larger sums to companies like Seventh Generation, encouraging growth of already established businesses. Congrats, guys!
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Kingsgate Mall sign, 2007. Photo by Greg McMullen]

MOVments: Hipsters, Homelessness, and Hard Cash

This week we take a look at two prominent socio-economic groups in Vancouver, hipsters and the homeless, as well as the hubbub around the future of a downtown heritage site and an entrepreneurial experiment in Chinatown. What links these seemingly disparate stories together? Well, for one thing: money. Whether it takes the form of jobs/joblessness, government funding, the real estate market, or investment capital, cash (or lack thereof) is at the heart of MOVments this week. 
 
Get a Job (You Dirty Hipster). So by now you've probably seen or heard about the BC government's new, and by most accounts, misguided, "Hipster is not a full-time job campaign." The ads, which attempt to use humour to encourage young people to seek employment, have backfired according to a representative at the Canadian Federation of Students in B.C.: “It shows how this government is disconnected from reality when they insist there’s no money to invest in post-secondary and then they spend money telling us it’s all our fault.” The price tag for the campaign: a whopping $604,000. 
 
Public Perceptions of Homelessness. You've also probably heard about the Angus Reid survey that was published on October 4, which gauged the city's understanding of issues around homelessness. Notably, the survey revealed that one in four Vancouverites personally knows someone who is, or has been homeless. As well, more than half of the respondents viewed homelessness as a "major problem" in the city. However, when it came to stepping up with solutions in their own neighbourhoods, survey takers were a bit more evasive. The Globe and Mail chalks it up to our tendency towards NIMBYism. To get an idea of the complexity of the issues and what kind of activities took place during Homelessness Action Week, check out more of the media coverage here and here
 
"Taj Mahal with Elevators." The Canada Post building property is under threat of becoming the next site of “high-density, mixed-use residential development” downtown. The building, which Heritage Vancouver has put on its current "endangered sites" list, is valued by heritage advocates as a modernist landmark. However, as a recent report from the property broker states, "This site is one of the few remaining development properties that can accommodate large format retailers seeking locations in Vancouver’s downtown peninsula,” thus making it particularly attractive to developers. 
 
Big Innovation in Little China. Meanwhile, over in Chinatown, a new small business accelerator is helping local startups develop their products, marketing strategies, and well, just plain experiment. Devon from the Chinatown Experiment sums it up like this,"It’s a space for entrepreneurs to test run their ideas in a low cost/low risk environment. This manifests itself in the shape of retail pop ups, micro tradeshows and creative events. We are located at 434 Columbia St." As the Vancity Buzz piece explains, this little experiment is providing a real service in a city where high rents and cost of living can have prohibitive effects on small businesses. 
 
Budget Cuts to Coast Guard Stations. And finally, many are still mourning the closure of the Vancouver Coast Guard station. Proof? This poignant little film from The Tyee site.  
 
At the MOVeum:
 
[Image: View of the General Post Office at 349 West Georgia Street. Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 780-56]

MOVments: On Urinals, Vertical Living, and Liminal Spaces

This week we're getting liminal, exploring the edges of what we consider public and private, indoor and outdoor, and social and solitary. From the Great White Urinal, rooftop (and indoor) gardens, and designs for more social living, this instalment of MOVments is playing and engaging with Vancouver's in-between spaces.

Great White Landmark. Since the early 1970s, the corner of Granville and Georgia has been dominated by what some claim to be the "ugliest building" in downtown Vancouver (nicknamed the Great White Urinal for its large, white, windowless exterior). But not any longer. The plans for a new building designed by James Cheng were revealed yesterday. The new development will see Sears leave its long time home and a new Nordstrom's department store open in the heart of the city. Some city planners are hoping that the modern, glass building will help connect the feel and aesthetic of Robson Street, Robson Square, and the Vancouver Art Gallery to the rest of the downtown core. As architect Michael Heeney told the Globe and Mail"One of the reasons Robson dissipates and loses its energy is because of that block."

Gardens in the Sky. Another new addition to downtown Vancouver? The first "urban vertical urban farm" in North America. Alterrus Systems is building a garden that will run on hydroponic technology and is expected to produce more than 150,000 pounds of leafy green vegetables and herbs annually. And yet another leafy answer to Vancouver's density dilemmas? Gorgeous rooftop flower gardens like this one featured in Forbes magazine. The owner of the house, Nick Kerchum seems like he has the right idea when it comes to gardening: his flowers are completely self-sufficient, and don't need to be watered or pruned.

Growing Up, Growing Together. In response to a recent Vancouver Foundation survey that looked at the increasing loneliness and isolation felt by many Vancouverites, architects Bing Thom, Michael Heeney, and Andy Yan, have written a manifesto that calls for more community-oriented urban planning in our city. Their piece is chalk full of quotable quotes around the need for creative responses to our evolving skyline: "Higher density residential living is ultimately unsustainable if the end result is simply the construction of gated vertical suburban communities in the sky." And the shortage of public spaces that encourage dialogue and promote comfortable interactions between strangers is an undercurrent throughout. Drawing an intriguing parallel, Thom, Heeney, and Yan bring attention to the in-between spaces that may need some tweaking, "Before (and probably long after) Facebook and Twitter, public spaces and streets were the original social network and, once in a while, this network could use some upgrading." On the other hand, sharing space on the streets may take some getting used to, as illustrated by this little story about recent food cart feuding.

Business Time. And lastly, Toby Barazzuol, chair of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association and upcoming Interesting Vancouver speaker, explores the intersections between business and community development in this fantastic opinion piece from the Vancouver Sun.

At the MOVeum: 
September 19 - Opening Night - Object(ing): The art/design of Tobias Wong 
September 20 - Built City @MOV: Urban Evolution, Retold 

[Image: 700 Granville Street, west side, 1981. City of Vancouver photo, CVA 779-W02.16]

 

MOVments: Growing Up Fast

We here at the MOV just discovered that Vancouver has two of the 10 largest green roofs in the world. This article on the history and logistics of green rooftops got us thinking more broadly about our tendency towards stacking, extending, and expanding in the city. From condo culture to mall expansions, this week we're exploring the direction of growth in Vancouver, and more often than not, we're looking up, way up. 
 
Living in Isolation. It seems like we can hardly get through an instalment of MOVments without running up against the ever-present density debate. This week, Gordon Price's blog featured a fascinating segment of Walrus TV which compares contemporary condominium developments to what Northrope Frye described as the "garrison mentality" of isolated, early Canadian pioneer settlements. Necessary viewing for anyone interested in the cultural challenges of condo living. 
 
Rethinking Affordable Housing. The winners of the City's re:THINK Housing competition will be announced next week on July 30. The competition was designed to bring the general public together with architects, planners, and non-profits to discuss bold, creative, affordable housing solutions in Vancouver. With any luck, there will also be some ideas around how to combat the isolating effects of high-rise developments.
 
Growing Pains. There are some who think that crowd-sourcing won't be enough, and that Vancouver is at a planning turning point, in need of drastic (and de-politicized) change. Lance Berelowitz asks some tough but timely questions in this opinion piece about the direction of the City's planning strategies. As he says, "The city needs a forward-looking, comprehensive plan. We need to come to grips with what kind of city we want to be; with chronic housing unaffordability; with a city of increasing haves and have nots; with transit underfunding and transportation conflicts; with the challenges of intensifying our land uses and densifying our limited residential land base..." Definitely food for thought.
 
Mall City. Already one of the most successful shopping centres in Canada, Oakridge Mall at Cambie and 41st is set to expand upward and outward. A proposal has been made to develop the mall into a small city, complete with parks and community bike paths. Defying the trend of declining sales at American malls, Oakridge, with customers streaming in via the Canada Line, seems to be uniquely positioned to take on such a project. 
 
Stacking It. And finally, have you ever wondered about the story behind the towers of books and chaotic floor plan at MacLeod's Books? This profile on owner Don Stewart is a fantastic read. 
 
At the MOVeum:
 
[Image: Green Roof at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Photo by Harry2010]

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