Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Proposal — A Recycled Shipping Container Public Market for Nanaimo's
Pioneer Waterfront Plaza

As a project for my online SketchUp course I'm looking at Nanaimo's Pioneer Waterfront Plaza, a Port Authority property designed by local architect Ian Niamath. If design elements alone could make a great public space this plaza would be quite wonderful. The entrances to it are dramatic and thoughtful. Pattern in the surface hardscaping align to a circular fountain. The concrete and landscaping treatments echo Erickson and Oberlander.

But, in fact it is almost totally deserted all but a very few days a year. It's the top of a 2 level parkade on the waterfront. About at grade to the downtown streets to the west. The east side is part of Nanaimo's most loved public space, where the shops and cafés (there's even a tea room) and the float plane terminal edge the harbourfront walkway. This seawalk extends past and through the working harbour — commercial fish boats, pleasure craft, serious ocean going sailboats, bubble boat ferries put-putting across to the islands in the harbour and Puget Sound mini-cruise ships (The Port Authority is in the process of leasing the harbour to a private firm, a 30 year lease and neither the NPA or the proponent seem to have, at this point, credibly addressed any of the local opposition to the plan. Some background.)
My configuration for a public market on the site has 14 charter vendors in recycled shipping containers, 6 10 foot and 8 20 foot. I'm suggesting the Port and the City of Nanaimo build a canopy over the site and supply utilities. The core vendors would include the small merchants who left the inner city or have disappeared entirely in cities such as Nanaimo where large national corporations have been permitted within the planning parameters to locate in remote areas only accessible by car. (That the crazily expensive infrastructure that facilitates this business model amounts to a subsidy is best left for another post perhaps.) These would include the butcher the baker and probably not the candlestick maker, but you get my point. The fish stall, cheese specialties, coffee and tea. And of course fresh produce. The 1 day a week market and the craft market for cruise ships that now use the site can be accommodated as well. All participants would benefit from the traffic generated by their fellow vendors.

I think the idea warrants research and a feasibility study and for these reasons:

● The repurposed shipping containers offer an economical way to expand existing small enterprises. I'm suggesting that these be purchased by the vendors and that they commit to a lease of the space for a period of time.
● The cost sharing between local small business people and the Port and the City is beneficial and has the potential to add up to more than the sum of its parts.
● The containers offer the important ability for the individual vendors to put their small satellite shops into lockdown, effectively stopping almost all expenses in times of reduced or no revenue.
● It may be practical to remove the containers during the winter months making the businesses quite viable and sustainable from busy summer months revenues.
● The contribution to the enhancement of walkable community-building downtown can't be overestimated. Lots of lip service to "place making" but the public market "walks the walk". Local government providing a public market that supplements other forms of commerce in our towns and cities is the norm in most of the world.

And a SketchUp animation (set resolution to HD for better results):


Frank Murphy said...

Facebook photo album here.

Frank Murphy said...

This has now been sent out into the world to seek its fortune. It has been told it needs to find a champion to fulfill its destiny. It knows it can't come back and sleep on my couch. I wished it good luck and hit send:

Subject: Fwd: A project looking for a champion...
Date: 9 April, 2013 4:58:07 PM PDT
To: YPN Secretary
"sasha.angus@investnanaimo.com Angus" , DNBIA , bdumas@npa.ca
Cc: iniamath@shaw.ca, Wally Wells , Dave Witty

A proposal for a Public Market at Pioneer Waterfront Plaza. VIU Urban Planning prof Pam Shaw says "Wonderful! We need gathering spaces in Nanaimo." Former downtown BIA ED Matt Hussmann says he knows a project like it in Washington DC that's been "completely successful." Practical, modest, doable. Deserves further study. Needs a champion: NEDC? DNBIA? NPA? YPN?

A Proposal — A Recycled Shipping Container Public Market for Nanaimo's Pioneer Waterfront Plaza

Frank Murphy

Frank Murphy said...

Update April 23: The Young Professionals of Nanaimo will be looking at this at an upcoming board meeting. The CEO of the Port Authority has responded saying the NPA is "always interested in talking about new initiatives and in particular the Port’s walkway area." Chamber of Commerce past-president Wally Wells has offered support and help. I haven't heard yet from the DNBIA or the NEDC.