Thursday, June 16, 2011
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
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
LISA ROCHON: CITYSPACEAi Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern... by vernissagetv
Subject: Jane's Walks
Date: Thu, 12 May 2011 12:27:01 -0700
From: Frank Murphy
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
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
Square 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.
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.
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.
Could Supermarket Parking Lots Become Public Squares? Or be Re-designed as Great Public Places in Other Ways?
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 MCIPDirector of PlanningCity of Nanaimo
From: Frank Murphy [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
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.
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 [mailto:email@example.com]
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, 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.
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 RuttanM A Y O RECS/hpProspero: DP613/DP614ec: Council MembersAl Kenning, City ManagerDouglas Holmes, Assistant City Manager and General Manager, Corporate ServicesAndy Laidlaw, General Manager, Community Services
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.
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.