Wednesday, June 29, 2011

From the Buzzer Blog:

inter // states from Samuel Cockedey on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Makeshift Metropolis

Ideas About Cities
Scribner, 2010

Re-positions Jane Jacobs' insights within the 21st century dynamics of technological innovations, market forces and global economic realities.

Particularly useful case studies of successes and failures. Modi'in in Israel by Moshe Safdie. Touches on prospects for small city "university towns" -- the Santa Fe effect.
The flashy star-chitecture phenom of the last few years causes him too much concern. They build enough ROM renos like Libeskind's in Toronto and this problem will go away on its own.

Globe review here.

Excerpt on attempts to establish shopping malls in downtown settings --

Shopping malls in the suburbs thrived because shoppers could easily drive to malls and park nearby. Urban shopping malls cannot supply the same convenience: drivers have to navigate congested city streets, and parking garages are neither convenient nor free. Moreover, suburban malls are self-contained -- there isn't anywhere else to go -- whereas urban malls are surrounded by scores of competing stores, restaurants and other attractions. As a result, the financial record of urban shopping malls has been checkered. Researchers Bernard Frieden and Lynne Sagalyn suggest that while urban malls may be profitable for lenders (who incorporate high risk premiums) and merchants (since sales per square foot in urban malls are generally high, at least on the lower levels), they are not always profitable for developers, since the up-front and operating costs are much higher than in the suburbs. Nor have urban malls had the hoped-for effect of rejuvenating downtowns. Instead, the marketing strategy of grouping national name-brand stores in clean, hospitable environments had drained pedestrian and commercial life from nearby streets. The Gallery at Market East. a multilevel in downtown Philadelphia, for example, is full of shoppers, but adjacent Market Street, once the city's chief shopping street, now attracts only discount merchants and dollar stores.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Port Place Mall Redevelopment Fly-over

There seems to be an effort made here to make this thing look even worse than the end result may be.
The north area of the site -- the area the developer assured Council would include infill 2nd storey residential units -- is now referred to as "under development" and will almost certainly be behind unsightly hoarding for the next few years.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Profile of Architect Gregory Henriquez

Frances Bula
Vancouver Magazine
Members of the media walk on ceramic seeds, during the launch of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" at the Tate Modern in south London, on October 11, 2010. - Members of the media walk on ceramic seeds, during the launch of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" at the Tate Modern in south London, on October 11, 2010. | LEON NEAL / AFP/Getty Images


Ai Weiwei: Planting originality, reaping Beijing's fury

From Saturday's
Globe and Mail
Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern... by vernissagetv

Email to Mayor and Council May 12, 2011

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Jane's Walks
Date: Thu, 12 May 2011 12:27:01 -0700
From: Frank Murphy

To: Mayor&Council

Mayor Ruttan --

The recent Jane's Walks across Canada in honour of the work of urbanist
writer Jane Jacobs reminded me I wanted to contribute a couple of quick
thoughts to issues and projects currently in front of you and your
Council colleagues.

They fall under this general umbrella: Nanaimo faces no greater
challenge than that presented by its large land mass and low population
densities and compounding this problem resources and amenities are
thinly dispersed and not effectively integrated into their immediate

To see what I mean, stand in the parking lot of the small shopping
centre at Dufferin Crescent and Boundary Avenue. Note how Nanaimo
Rregional Hospital is buffered from the neighbourhood by lawns and
parking lots, sending a message to the neighbourhood: we're not really
part of you. Note how the streetscape has been conceded almost exclusive
to the car. Note the low quality poorly placed apartment buildings
surrounded by parking lots. To the pedestrian it's a hostile
environment. The neighbourhood has no centre, little public space and no
amenities to speak of.

I live on Selby Street, across from the E&N Train Station. I very much
appreciate the neighbourhood's mix of commercial, office and residential
uses. It is walkable and has something of an anchor in its Fitzwilliam
Street shopping street. The new Immigrant Welcoming Centre has just
opened down the street, new rental housing has been built in the last
couple of years. Not everyone in my neighbourhood is happy about the bus
exchange being located on Prideaux, but I'm fine with it. I return from
my morning walk and see people arriving by bus and heading to work at
the tailor shop or the restaurants or offices.

This neighbourhood has been informed that the City with the Province
will be building 40 units of "assisted housing" on Wesley similar to
that proposed for the Hospital neighbourhood. There has been no outcry
here, granted the proposed site is not as contentious. This
neighbourhood is better able to absorb a project like this. The lesson
has been learned in other cities that if you want a neighbourhood to
accept projects like social housing, sometimes you have to first fix the

The lesson has also been learned in other cities that you have stop
making the planning mistakes that lead to the problems in the first
place. Which brings me to your decision to proceed with the City Hall
Annex without public discussion or neighbourhood consultation, and most
importantly in my view, without a comprehensive plan for the Quennell
precinct. Both of these projects bringing millions of dollars of
development and opportunity to this site, but are placed helter-skelter
and amount to another opportunity lost to integrate public capital
projects into their surroundings to the benefit of all involved. This
particular site offers opportunities that would be the envy of every
small city in the country. There are strong ownership positions here by
both the City and the Province. The School District has maintained a
presence here and a private trade school is currently using the
facility. The precinct includes the Law Courts Annex and the City-owned
Franklyn Street gym. Imagine the redevelopment of Quennell Square as the
subject of a country-wide Design Competition, as other cities have done.
Imagine incorporating into this precinct a strong element of education
and training, designing and incorporating the supporting infrastructure
and encouraging the location of private and public education facilities
into this block. Critcal mass where we now have this growing economic
sector, for one example, spread thinly throughout the city. Where we had
dislocation we start to see integration and cross-fertilization. The
site would probably include some public space perhaps the entire site
designed around a central zocolo creating a very desirable, diverse,
residential neighbourhood as well.

While these ideas are hardly radical and are being tested daily in
cities across the country, they are not prominent here. I've never
understood this because anytime I've had a chance to talk with the
professionals in your Planning Office, or sat in a meeting of your
Design Advisory Panel or had a chance to chat with local architects or
for that matter developers, it's ideas like this they discuss. I've
never understood why they don't champion these ideas and why they don't
feel they have a responsibility to promote them and educate both Council
and the public at large in how fundamentally important they are to
reaching our goals to be a healthy, prosperous, inclusive city.

Frank Murphy

Urban Nation: Why We Need to Give Power Back to the Cities to Make Canada Strong

September 16, 2010
This excerpt from Urban Nation: Why We Need to Give Power Back to the Cities to Make Canada Strong offers some suggestions for the badly needed reform of municipal government.
The author is Alan Broadbent, Chair of the Canadian Maytree Foundation, which identifies itself as “committed to reducing poverty and inequality in Canada and to building strong civic communities.”
Among the Maytree Foundation’s initiatives is Ideas that Matter which is based on the wide-ranging ideas and principles of Jane Jacobs. Here’s background on the book: Maytree Policy in Focus newsletter. And these highlights:

Political Parties – Most cities in Canada do not have a party system. Adding a party system could help local officials articulate policy, and make the system more comprehensible to the electorate. It could also make consensus easier to obtain because of party discipline – but this is a double-edged sword. If party discipline is too strict, it could prevent a diversity of opinions from reaching council, or limit the influence of local councillors.
Mix of Ward and City-wide Councillors – In Vancouver, councillors are elected city-wide, and the electorate votes for their top 10 candidates. In most other cities candidates are elected by a ward and only mayors are voted city-wide. There are pros and cons to both approaches. A mix, where some councillors are elected to represent local issues, and others are elected with the views of the entire city in mind, would likely result in a stronger city government.
Stronger Mayor – Canadian cities are governed by a “weak mayor” system. In most cities, the mayor is the only member of council elected by the entire city. Once elected, they have to negotiate with the councillors of each district or ward. While this arguably provides more opportunity for individuals to have their views expressed through their councillors, it also make it difficult to pass city-wide initiatives.
In cities like New York, London or Chicago, the mayor has substantially more powers than the councillor, and the office has a budget for staff that mirrors that of provincial and federal ministers. They can make appointments to key council committees and senior positions in the public service. They can also prepare annual plans and budgets, subject to approval of council.

The Design Advisory Panel's Role in City Decision Making

May 30, 2010
Before I report on the Thursday Design Advisory Panel (DAP) meeting at which the revised Port Place Mall redevelopment plans were reviewed, some impressions of the advisory committee system itself.
The DAP is made up of volunteers appointed by Council and as its Terms of Reference explains they are chosen from the fields of architecture (2), design, and landscape architecture, in addition to a City Heritage Commission representative and 3 at-large members.
There is a lot of talent sitting around this table. These are volunteers offering their expertise to help the Planning Department work with developers and to evaluate andadvise on projects that require development permits. The Panel meets on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month and meetings can last 3 hours or more.
I've had the impression for some time that the advisory committee system isn't operating as it was originally intended. I wonder – and will try to get both City officials and members of these committees to tell me if I'm off base here – if what was to be a useful addition to the decision making process hasn't deteriorated into something co-opted and even exploited by City Hall. Certainly when a project comes to Council it isn't said that the advisory committee reviewed it and had comments, it's said the committee approved the proposal. And this – it's my contention – has been used to move forward projects that City Staff and Council were in favour of while shifting the responsibility for the decision to the advisory committee. I don't see in the DAP's Terms of Reference for instance that it is called on to approve applications but to provide advice:
In this context, these Terms of Reference identify a mandate for the Design Advisory Panel. The mandate is an invitation to the City's design community to become involved in moulding on-going developments to meet the unique urban design environment of Nanaimo. The Design Advisory Panel’s primary objective is to review Form and Character Development Permit applications and provide advice by way of recommendations to staff in its negotiations with applicants.
An example of this is in Mayor Ruttan's response to my request to consult architect D'Ambrosio on the Port Place Mall redevelopment plans.
The review of these applications has been underway for a considerable amount of time, with one application currently approved and all been considered by the City’s Design Panel on several occasions. I have been advised that both Staff and the Design Panel are recommending that Council approve the developments as proposed.
More to come on the details of the meeting itself which had in addition to the Port Place Mall application, 4 other items on the agenda.

Could Supermarket Parking Lots Become Public Squares? Or be Re-designed as Great Public Places in Other Ways?

April 21, 2010 From Vancouver's Wendy Waters' terrific blog All About Cities. She links to a piece on by Neal Pierce who takes a fresh look at supermarket parking lots, conceived in the post WWII expansion period but now find themselves in a very different world. Take a fresh look at the Port Place Mall redevelopment from this perspective.

Email Thread with Planners Noble, Tucker re Mayor's Memo: Port Place Mall

From - Wed May 26 13:20:25 2010
Date: Wed, 26 May 2010 13:20:24 -0700
From: Frank Murphy
Thanks for taking the time to explain this to me Andrew. I appreciate it.


On 26/05/2010 11:52 AM, Andrew Tucker wrote:


You are incorrect. The development permit for 9 Nicol Street (DP613) does not require Council approval. It meets the requirements of the Zoning Bylaw with only one minor variance (which is less than 50% of the required standard). The required building setback is 4.5 metres fronting Nicol Street. The proposed building siting is 2.3 m. (7.58 ft.) from Nicol Street. The proposed setback variance is less than 50 % of the bylaw standard so the DP will be signed off by the General Manager of Development Services.

Section 920 of the Local Government Act provides the statutory authority for the issuance of DPs including the option for Council to delegate its authority. Development Permits (DPs) are not like rezoning applications where a change in use or density is requested. Instead, the legislation for DPs does not require any public process in their approval and stipulates that DPs can only address the general form and character of the proposed building and not particulars of exterior design and finish. Case law has confirmed that the discretion of Council is extremely limited with regards to DPs and that Council cannot refuse to issue a DP for design elements.

Under the City’s delegation by-law (Bylaw 7031), the General Manager of Development Services is delegated the authority to approve the DP. The process by which this occurs is that, following acceptance by the Design Advisory Panel, the application is posted for 5 days in the Councillors’ office for their review and information and then signed off by the GM Development Services. Approximately 64% of all DP applications received by the City are approved by the GM of Development Services following posting.

I trust this clarifies the processing of development permits for you.

Andrew Tucker MCIP
Director of Planning
City of Nanaimo


From: Frank Murphy []

Sent: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 11:09 AM

To: Gary Noble

Cc: Jeremy Holm; Andrew Tucker; Ted Swabey

Subject: Re: Mayor Ruttan's memo

Thanks Gary --

I want to be sure I have this right. No need to reply on this unless I'm incorrect that:

Your are referring to DP000613 at 9 Nicol Street. It will require Council approval before it can proceed.

- Frank


On 25/05/2010 8:44 AM, Gary Noble wrote:

Good morning Frank,

This project has been reviewed and accepted by the Design Advisory Panel. We are awaiting Min. of Environment (MOE) approval under contaminated site legislation. This should be available shortly. With MOE approval the project will be posted for Council review and approval.

Gary Noble MCIP


From: Frank Murphy []

Sent: Sunday, May 23, 2010 1:26 PM

To: Gary Noble; Ted Swabey; Andrew Tucker

Subject: Mayor Ruttan's memo

Hi Gary -- Can I ask you to clarify for me something in Mayor Ruttan's reply to my request re consulting architect Franc D'Ambrosio on the Port Place Mall redevelopment and rezoning applications?

The Mayor's memo states that, "The construction of the Commercial Rental Unit on 9 Nicol Street can proceed to construction as soon as the owner would like to start." Does this application not require Council approval? Has it been approved by Council at this point?

Thanks --


Email follow-up to Mayor Ruttan: Port Place Mall Redevelopment Plans

Thanks, Mayor Ruttan, for your reply to my request to seek the input of architect Franc D'Ambrosio, author of the award-winning City of Nanaimo Downtown Urban Design Plan and Guidelines, as you review the Port Place Mall redevelopment applications. A quick follow up if you'll permit me.

redevelopment of a site of such importance especially to residents of the city centre and south end neighbourhoods.

Your detailed note helped me understand better a number of the complexities involved in these applications. In honesty, though I'm unable to understand how it could be detrimental to you or your colleagues on Council to include Mr D'Ambrosio's perspective in your decision-making on the

I can tell you – while at the same time I urge you to contact Mr. D'Ambrosio directly – that he has voiced concerns about the redevelopment and rezoning applications.

He has also cautioned me to be respectful of and sympathetic to how difficult and complex these decisions can be for City Councils and Planning Departments. There's a number of conflicting interests at work and it falls to you folks to make the best decision possible.

Among Mr. D'Ambrosio's concerns is this redevelopment proceeding in the absence of a comprehensive plan that includes the future redevelopment of the waterfont lands to the immediate south of this site.

An auto-oriented mall that one might find in suburban neighbourhoods risks segregating this site from the charming winding European-style street grid to its immediate north. There's such an exciting opportunity here to take a great step forward in the planning and development of our downtown.

I have great respect for the investment being made here in our downtown by First Capital. I continue though to wonder if this shopping mall model is in their or the City's longer term best economic interest . Is the highest and best use for this site an expanse of “free parking”?

You refer in your memo, Mayor Ruttan, to “...the interconnection of Terminal Avenue and Front Street with a new access road has formed a fundamental starting point for the redevelopment plan...” Perhaps you could ask Planning Staff to clarify this for me. Are we establishing here a privately owned road? Are privately owned roads good public policy?

Lastly, some anecdotal feedback on how important this site is to Nanaimo residents and how involved they feel they've been able to be in this process. The 3 neighbourhood associations that represent the thousands of shoppers that frequent Port Place have expressed concerns re difficulty finding information and opportunities to provide input, as well as reporting large numbers of queries from their members. Also on the new website NanaimoCityHall blog (You may not be eager to accept feedback from a blog. They have not in general distinguished themselves as sources of reliable, objective information, though we have higher aspirations for this one.) by far the highest readership and number of links clicked has had to do with the Port Place Mall redevelopment applications.

I will, as you suggest, continue to follow this process with great interest.

Mayor Ruttan's Reply to Request to Consult Architect D'Ambrosio on Port Place Plans

May 10 ,2010

I want to acknowledge receipt of your email and request to retain Frank D’Ambrosio for a third-party review of the Port Place Mall redevelopment plan.

As you may or may not know, the redevelopment plan includes the following applications:

1.Rezoning to permit a high-rise residential tower (application received: 2009-Jun-02).

2.Development Permit to authorize the construction of a freestanding Commercial Rental Unit on 9 Nicol Street (application received: 2009-Jun-02).

3.Development Permit for the overall mall redevelopment plan (application received: 2009-Jun-02).

This is an extremely complex redevelopment plan, especially given the owner’s attempt to accommodate existing anchor tenants (i.e. Thrifty Foods, London Drugs) and the practicality of retaining significant on-site infrastructure, such as the above-ground parkade. The owner has made a concerted effort to balance the needs of the tenants and existing infrastructure against the City and provincial policies and regulations in the creation of the redevelopment plans.

Many trade-offs have been made by the owner to address elements of the City’s downtown Urban Design Plan and View Corridors policies, and to deal with provincial access requirements. In particular, the interconnection of Terminal Avenue and Front Street with a new access road has formed a fundamental starting point for the redevelopment plan and goes a long way to addressing the “de-malling” of the site.

The review of these applications has been underway for a considerable amount of time, with one application currently approved and all been considered by the City’s Design Panel on several occasions. I have been advised that both Staff and the Design Panel are recommending that Council approve the developments as proposed. It is my understanding that the overall development permit application and rezoning application will be ready for Council’s consideration in the near future. The rezoning application, in particular, will allow for input from the public, as part of the Public Hearing process. The construction of the Commercial Rental Unit on 9 Nicol Street can proceed to construction as soon as the owner would like to start.

We are extremely appreciative of the owner’s vision for the mall and their commitment to the City’s downtown redevelopment. I am confident that both Staff and Council’s Committee system have provided the necessary evaluation and adequate review process for this project.

I am not supportive of a third-party review at this time. The application has been through a full and proper technical review and it is time for Council to consider the merits of approving the application as presented. Thank you for your interest in this project and I would encourage you to keep involved as Council considers the owner’s request for rezoning and development permit approvals.

John Ruttan
Prospero: DP613/DP614
ec: Council Members
Al Kenning, City Manager
Douglas Holmes, Assistant City Manager and General Manager, Corporate Services
Andy Laidlaw, General Manager, Community Services

Email re Port Place Mall to Mayor Ruttan; Council; Planners Swabey, Tucker. May 10, 2010

Mayor Ruttan
Nanaimo City Councillors
Director, Planning Andrew Tucker
GM, Development Ted Swabey

I am an enthusiastic fan of your award winning document Downtown Design Guidelines. (The Planning Institute of BC's 2009 highest honour) This plan and its guidelines approved and adopted by Council were to serve as a "living" document that was to be implemented when redevelopment was initiated in the downtown core.

I've been following with interest the opportunity that's arisen to work with the property owner (First Capital Realty Inc.) on the redevelopment of the Port Place Mall property. I appreciate the fact that this property owner has made a considerable investment in our city, having purchased the strata ownership of the commercial space in the Port of Nanaimo Centre and holds other Nanaimo commercial properties including Longwood Station and a portion of the Terminal Park shopping plaza. I'm sure you agree that the chance to redevelop a site of this key importance to the City might come along once in 25 years. It's so important for all concerned, including of course the developer, that we get it right.

I recently inquired as to the status and timelines of the redevelopment and rezoning applications and Director, Planning Andrew Tucker informed me that they are on hold as the proponent wishes to make alterations to both sets of plans already submitted. I also asked if Victoria architect Franc D'Ambrosio whose firm authored the Downtown Design Guidelines had been brought into the process of these redevelopment and rezoning applications. Andrew replied that Mr. D'Ambrosio was not currently under contract with the City and had not been consulted.

It occurred to me that I could approach Mr. D'Ambrosio and ask his thoughts. To my great pleasure Mr. D'Ambrosio was willing to discuss this. I found him to have a sincere and knowledgeable interest in the success of our downtown and a unique and detailed appreciation of both its problems and its potential. He wondered if, given the delay in these applications, it isn't time for a sober second thought.

With respect, and as formally as is possible using this channel, may I request that architect D'Ambrosio be approached by Mayor Ruttan and/or Director of Planning Andrew Tucker for his uniquely well-informed input into the development of this key site?

Thanks in advance for your attention to this.

Email to Planners Swabey, Tucker Apr 26 '09

Andrew and Ted - Can you tell me -- or tell me how I can find -- the status and the timelines of the Port Place Mall redevelopment? It's sparking a lot of interest on the new blog NanaimoCityHall. Also, can you tell me if there's been feedback on the development proposal from Franc D'Ambrosio's firm in regards to how it does or doesn't reflect the approach recommended by the Downtown Design Guidelines?

Have a look -- It would be great to hear from you on the blog.

Thanks -


Email thread with Planning Director Andrew Tucker in response to my questions -

Thanks Andrew – This is helpful and appreciated. I have a number of questions — a number of them no doubt of the dumb variety — and I don’t want to scattergun them at you. Is there, in the interest of not taking up a lot of your valuable time, someone I can ask for instance -

Who sits on the Design Advisory Panel? Who Chairs it? How can I access agendas and minutes? I see on the City website its schedule of meetings for 2010. Are its meetings as I assume all City Panels and Committees and Commissions are, open to the public?


On 29/04/2010 9:47 AM, Andrew Tucker wrote: > Frank,

There are currently three applications in stream for the Port Place Mall and the adjacent property located at 9 Nicol Street. The details of all three applications are available on the City’s website using NanaimoMap under the Development theme. > The Development Permit (DP) application for 9 Nicol Street is for a two storey stand alone commercial building with access from Esplanade and Nicol Streets. This application became delayed as the applicant sought to resolve access issues with the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure. The City supports a right-in/right-out off Esplanade and a right-out only onto Nicol/Terminal. > The DP application for Port Place Mall is for the first phase of redevelopment which includes demolition of the western portion of the mall to create a private road connection through the mall property to the Gabriola Ferry and the creation of a “High Street” with a two storey commercial building along the northern edge of the street. > Both DP applications have been considered by the City’s Design Advisory Panel (DAP) and recommended for approval. The applicant has advised that they are wishing to make modifications to both sets of plans already submitted so we are awaiting revised plans before determining if the application will require reconsideration by the DAP. If the modifications are substantial then the applications will go back in front of the DAP before consideration by City Council. > The Rezoning application is to facilitate the longer term redevelopment of the site. The longer term vision put forward by the property owner is for increased residential components along Cameron Road and on the SE corner of the site. The Cameron Road is proposed as an 8 storey building whereas the SE corner of the site is proposed as a high rise tower in accordance with the Downtown Plan. Given the applicant’s desire to make modifications to the plans submitted to date, this too will await revised plans. > With regards to Franc D’Ambrosio, he was the consultant for the City’s Downtown Design Guidelines. He does not have any ongoing contract with the City to provide design advice and has therefore not commented to the City on the development proposals. > Andrew Tucker Director of Planning City of Nanaimo

Port Place Mall Redevelopment

April 18, 2010
My take: the developer has been given clearance by the Planning Department to entrench a suburban shopping mall in the heart of our city core floating in a sea of parking stalls in return for pretty pictures of medium density urban housing for which there is no market and which the developer is under no obligation to ever build. The safe, walkable, diverse life at the sidewalk level is not the Planning Department’s to give away. It belongs to the people of the city whose interests are not represented when the developer and senior city staff and the majority of Council gather to dream and scheme. One of the fundamental principles of the Downtown Design Guidelines concerns surface parking. It states clearly:On-site surface parking is to be eliminated. It has to go above ground or underground. Expanses of surface parking kills healthy walkable neighbourhoods. It’s simple: no vehicles parked between a building and the street. And we begin to restore our human scale streetscape. Let’s tip the scale slightly in favour of the pedestrian instead of the car.

Port Place location plan2

Port Place location plan1

Here’s what the Downtown Design Guidelines has to say about this precinct which it refers to as Harbour Park – (emphasis mine)

This study area makes up most of the Harbour Park precinct and forms the south gateway to downtown. It is close to the waterfront and both the Protection and Gabriola Island ferries. Higher density development, including tall buildings, is appropriate in this area.


Recommend 3 m front setback / build-to line. Allow 8 storeys for projects (or tall buildings as permitted) with underground parking at key landmark locations (see Design Guidelines for Tall Buildings). Roundabout feasibility and design will require Ministry of Transportation input.

1. Create transit exchange at the centre of the development. This is an opportunity to create an excellent shared roadway (see Urban Design section).

2. Create pedestrian plaza oriented toward waterfront. Improve linkages to waterfront walkway system, ferries, and the Commercial Street area.

3. Create dramatic gateway view from Nicol Street with single lane or double lane roundabout at Terminal Avenue with water feature or other sculpture incorporated into the design.

4. Create single lane or double lane roundabout at Front Street as landmark northeast of the development.

5. Mixed-use development with ground floor retail and residential or offices above. Six to eight storeys with service lanes between buildings. Buildings define street edge and create landmark for South Gate down Nicol Street.

6. On-site surface parking eliminated. Off-site parallel parking incorporated into streetscape. Potential underground parking, access mid-block towards Cameron Road.

7. New development along Lois Lane and Terminal Avenue to complete street edge definition and frame South Gate.

8. Port Way comprehensive development. Ground floor commercial with residential above. Define edge of Front Street and create axis into the new central plaza.

In general, here’s the Design Guidelines on parking:

Vehicle Parking

Underground parking is preferred. Surface parking, if necessary, should be located at the back of the site. On-site parking in front of a building, is not permitted.

• Shared driveways are encouraged to minimize interruption to the pedestrian realm. • Parking lots should be visually screened from bike pathways and sidewalks by way of walls, fences or landscaping. • Surface parking areas should be divided into sections with landscaped dividers between every 4 to 6 spaces. In addition to providing shade, a canopy of trees through the lot will help break down the scale of large surface parking areas and screen them from high level views.

• Above grade parking structures should provide habitable space along the perimeter. • Locate parking accesses away from pedestrian entries and intersections.

What do you think? If you think a suburban shopping mall floating in a sea of parking stalls doesn’t contribute to a human scale, pedestrian-friendly downtown, let the Planning Department and City Council know.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nanaimo: the Cultural Capital of Canada (!)

From NanaimoCityHall blog May 26, 2010 at 2:06 pm

An area I’d like to see developed on the blog is in the general area of what can be broadly described as “culture”. It came to mind recently when I was reading the Daily News report about the consultants report to the new Economic Development Commission (Nanaimo needs an identity if it wants to grow, economic consultants say). It occurred to me that the question to ask is how can a modern little city have lost its identity? Do they think identities are something that can be thought up by committees?

What’s called culture in Nanaimo is a top-down affair funded mostly by City Hall. Remember the “Nanaimo: Cultural Capital of Canada” embarrassment?

Here’s what you have when you have a healthy organic cultural scene: ferment. A rich, interconnected scene cross-pollinating. I’d suggest it’s part of a broader problem here and in similar cities which are the result of planning decisions made over the last several decades that tend to separate us — where we live, from where we work, study and interact. You recognize it immediately when for instance you might find yourself in a “College Town” where the campus wasn’t built out in the suburbs, the downtown didn’t go into the kind of decline we’ve seen here; cafe’s and galleries and theatres are a part of the every day life of the locals, not contrivances designed to charm tourists. The irony being of course that tourists are more charmed by the authentic than the contrived (San Francisco, Halifax come to mind).

Comments here

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Recommendations from PNAC Bizarre

Nanaimo News Bulletin, April 7, 2007 To the Editor, Re: Community plan review process questioned, March 29. This approaches the bizarre. The Plan Nanaimo Advisory Committee, while the Official Community Plan 10-year review is ongoing and while economic and environmental impact reports are not yet complete, has gone on record as opposing Plan Nanaimo tenets such as downtown densification – no condo towers on Stewart Avenue and no destination golf resort at Cable Bay. It has, however, embraced enthusiastically a Woodgrove, urban sprawl-style, automobile-dependent development outside the Urban Containment Boundary south of the current city limits. If this committee is a friend to Plan Nanaimo, imagine what its enemies must be cooking up. Frank Murphy , Nanaimo

South 'Gateway' More Like a Wall

Nanaimo News Bulletin, April 24, 2007 To the Editor, I attended the OCP 10-year review Infill and Densification Workshop with Ann McAfee, past co-director of the City of Vancouver planning department. McAfee, as she was recounting how important the leadership role played by elected city officials was in the successful revitalization of Vancouver neighbourhoods, asked if there were any civic politicians in attendance. There weren't. I understand this process is primarily to hear from the public on issues pertaining to Plan Nanaimo and I also understand that the atmosphere of rancor and vitriol where there should be robust discussion and debate must be tiresome. But there is a real need for leadership from our elected officials at this point in the process. When the dust settles in many small cities going through this period of change and renewal, I think these will be the standards by which success or failure will be judged: Did we learn from the past? Did we take the bold steps to reign in sprawl and densify our downtown cores? Did we innovate? Were our new projects stand-alone entities or were they integrated into their neighbourhoods? Were elements like public transit woven into each new project? Did we stop planning and designing for the automobile and start planning and designing for the pedestrian? Did we understand the new economy we will increasingly find ourselves in? An economy of creativity, education and training, innovation. It seems to me we're poised to score highly on these points. We have the opportunity to create a healthy, sustainable little city. It starts with the continued densification and critical mass of mixed uses in the downtown core. Massive, sprawling projects such as the Snuneymuxw First Nation and Northwest Properties South Nanaimo Lands proposal outside the Urban Containment Boundary will set back downtown revitalization ' and therefore the economic and cultural health of the entire city ' for five, 10 even 15 years. This welcome and exciting investment in our city should be redirected into the downtown core and existing south Nanaimo neighbourhoods. The regional shopping centre envisioned by this project is the revitalized core of the city. The 'gateway' to the region described in the South Nanaimo Lands proposal is more accurately a wall. Frank Murphy, Nanaimo