Re-designing from the bottom up: The City of Vancouver unveiled its new sign design for rezoning and development projects last week. The new simplified design is a response to the previous hard-to-read and overly technical signs. Meanwhile in other parts of the city, glitz and glamour are being favoured over simple design, with multi-million dollar homes and surreal hotels marking the horizon. And in Grandview-Woodland we have a radical new plan for redesign and redevelopment. This week we explore Vancouver's stylistic tendencies, ranging from the flashy and ornate, the clean and (not quite so) simple, to the contentious and complicated.
Luxury Living. The Vancouver Observer gives us a tongue-in-cheek take on the fanciest (and most expensive) houses in the city. And yes, those are home cinemas and private bowling alleys that you're seeing. In other multi-million dollar news, Trump Tower is coming to downtown Vancouver. The $360-million Georgia Street development will include a hotel complete with champagne lounge, spa, and banquet and conference centre. It's expected to be finished in summer 2016.
Clean Slate. On the other end of Georgia, removing the viaducts and streamlining the area between Chinatown, Gastown, Strathcona, and the Downtown Eastside, is beginning to seem like a better, and better idea to many, including Mayor Gregor Robertson. As a recent report remarks, "In every city's evolution there are rare opportunities to take bold city-building steps to advance the city's goals and livability or correct a past planning wrong. The potential removal of the viaducts provides an opportunity for the City of Vancouver to do both."
Riding in Style. And for something that is perhaps neither simple or flashy, TransLink is shopping around various options for funding future upgrades to Metro Vancouver's transit system. One idea is road pricing, which could mean anything from bridge tolls to charges for drivers based on time of day or location. Could road pricing be the simplest, most elegant means of funding future transportation infrastructure or is it a complicated solution to an equally complicated problem? Your thoughts?
Decision-Making Style. It looks like Grandview-Woodland will be going through a drastic redesign. As Charles Campbell explains for The Tyee, "The Grandview-Woodland Community Plan calls for a radical remake of the area around the Broadway SkyTrain station: a possible 36-storey building on the Safeway site behind the station, towers up to 22 storeys in "transitional" zones including the area between 11th and 12th avenues near Commercial Drive, and more high-rises up to 26 storeys between Broadway and 7th towards Woodland." But for Campbell (and many others), the question remains: Who decides?
At the MOVeum:
June 26 - Upcycled Urbanism Volunteer Orientation night
July 6 - Curator’s Talk & Tour Foncie's Fotos w/ Joan Seidl
July 13 - Upcycled Urbanism: A Design+Build Project for Everyone - Granville Street Build Day
[Image: Expo 86 Georgia Viaduct and Saskatchewan pavilion, 2001. Photo courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, 2010-006.517]
This week in MOVments we explore some of the recent narratives, numbers, and neighborhood games top of mind in the ever-present world of Vancouver real estate. We have the on-going and multi-layered tale of gentrification in the DTES, some new research that tackles the oft-cited cause/effect relationship of of foreign-buyers driving up condo prices, a playful chronicle of one conceptual artist selling the smallest pieces of real estate in the history of Vancouver, and an online game that tests your knowledge of local city neighborhoods.
Pidgin Protesters. By now, you've probably heard about the protests happening outside of a newly opened restaurant called Pidgin in the Downtown Eastside. Anti-poverty activists are arguing that the intrusion of another high-end restaurant in the neighbourhood means that there is not only less space for low-income housing or organizations providing community services but that it is also disrespectful to the culture of the community. On the other side of the argument, people like city councillor Kerry Jang see the mixed nature of the area as a positive and restaurant co-owner Brandon Grossutti sees his efforts at hiring DTES residents as a path to a more integrated community. And while we're on the subject, check out a couple other perspectives that range from accusations of a kind of reverse NIMBYism to biased media coverage of protestors.
The Myth of the Foreign Buyer Boogeyman? Chances are that if you've lived in Vancouver for any length of time you've also heard about the people who come from overseas to buy up our real estate, drive up prices, and then leave the residences vacant. This Globe and Mail piece suggests that there may be less truth in the story than we previously believed. Although exact statistics are tricky to obtain the article states that "2012 figures from Landcor Data Corporation show that only 0.2 per cent of people who bought residential properties in Metro Vancouver last year are currently living outside of the country" In other words, hardly enough to drive the market. The article also says that many foreign investors are in fact also residing here, coming from China and other countries in order to support their children's educations.
Cube Living. Looking for some affordable real estate in the city? Then look no further than artist Alex Grunenfelder's Cube Living project at 221A Artist Run Centre. Last week, Grunenfelder was selling one cubic foot units of space to interested buyers for as little as one dollar. In this interview for The Tyee Grunenfelder explained the project: "I'm not necessarily advocating living in smaller spaces," he says of Cube Living. "It's about looking at the discussions that are happening around all of this, and maybe looking at things from a different point of view, and also trying to project, where is this going? Where is this process of urban densification going to end up?"
Know Your 'Hood. And finally, get to know your Vancouver neighbourhoods with this cute little app (helpful for the next time that you buy real estate?).
At the MOVeum:
March 3 - Design Sundays: Upcycled Urbanism March 7 - Special Curator Talk & Tour: A Clandestine History of Contraception March 10, 17, 24 - Design Sundays: Upcycled Urbanism
This week's MOVments is all about the bottom line: money, moola, coin. Well, not exactly. After all, when is business ever really just about business? News of W2's near-eviction from the Woodward's building, TransLink money problems, and falling housing prices, has us thinking about the social and political change that necessarily accompanies fiscal shifts (and vice versa) in our fair city.
City of glass. Sometimes loved, sometimes maligned, glass towers are cheap to build and make up most of the landscape in Vancouver. However, new building codes and concerns about energy efficiency and aesthetics are driving the evolution of these buildings.
No-fun city. Mark Lakeman from Portland’s City Repair Project says that risk-adverse planning is stifling free expression and citizen engagement.
Protest. Council passed a new bylaw regulating public protest this week, legislation that some argue will not stand up in court.
Ransack the toolbox. In search of solutions to the growing affordable housing problem in Vancouver.
No casino. After much public debate, the proposed Edgewater Casino expansion was voted down by Vancouver council, stating that a larger casino would not fit Vancouver’s brand.
Taller buildings in Chinatown. Council has approved height increases for buildings in Chinatown but some are still concerned about the potential for gentrification and real estate speculation to drive out low-income residents.
Aww, it’s a mini Vancouver Special!
Image: conceptDawg via flickr
Sne’waylh (teachings). There are only 10 remaining fluent speakers of the Squamish language. Orene Askew is trying to change that with her current affairs radio show on Co-op Radio. She begins each segment with a language lesson and invites important people from the First Nations community to speak.
Why rent when you can own? That’s what many small retailers are asking themselves. Rental rates for retail space in Vancouver are rising, forcing many businesses, even profitable ones to close or move to other areas. In response to this gentrification, a growing number of small businesses are purchasing their retail space.
Rest in peace. This week marked the passing of Vancouver historian Chuck Davis. Tributes are pouring in for a man who spent the better part of his life researching, writing and educating about Vancouver’s history.
Olympic Village. The developer of the Olympic Village has gone into receivership and the City of Vancouver has taken over the management and sale of the properties and some other assets.
Hungry. Food bank usage is rising across Canada and people are now visiting at the highest rate since 1997.
Mount Pleasant. The new Mount Pleasant community plan was released, outlining priorities that include affordable housing, encouraging, pedestrians, cyclists and transit, and improving public space for events and activities.
Photo credit: Cindy Goodman, for Vancouver Courier
Processed food. An article in the Tyee tackles the problem of local food processing infrastructure. While a few companies are producing consumer products from BC grown produce, over the past 30 years the food processing industry has consolidated, leaving BC with a lack of capacity to process local food products locally.
Cultural capital. Vancouver was named a 2011 cultural capital of Canada by the Department of Canadian Heritage and is to receive funding to support celebrations for it’s 125th anniversary.
Office space. The recession seems to be driving companies back into the downtown core. Vacancy rates for office space downtown are dropping, while vacancies in other municipalities are climbing. Telus is constructing the first new office tower downtown in nearly a decade and other companies are relocating due to the proximity to transit and other amenities.
Jericho wharf. There is a debate raging as to what to do with Jericho wharf. It was originally built as part of a seaplane base for the RCAF but is now unused and is in bad disrepair. While there is a case to be made for it’s heritage value, it provides a poor environment for juvenile salmon and other marine life.
The price of development. A new report by the David Suzuki Foundation puts a price on farmland and undeveloped green spaces in Metro Vancouver. The report is intended to promote the densification of land that has already been developed by calculating the benefit to society that undeveloped land has.
Image source: Elizabeth Bruton via flickr