Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

From Forbes — Light, Quick And Cheap:
The Big Shift In Urban Planning

Bryant Park from drug den to beloved meeting place.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the past, remaking cities has been the stuff of big visions. Think of Chicago’s Daniel Burnham, who declared, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood. Or Robert Moses, the public planning guru of New York City. Now, as cities across the United States try to rejuvenate themselves, there is a new mantra: lighter, quicker, cheaper.

Friday, October 25, 2013

From The Guardian — Cycle-Friendly Cities Also Need to Welcome Walkers

The steep decline in walking sits uneasily against the background of solid public health evidence on the benefits of walking. Bristol City council has set out the health benefits of walking which include reducing the risks of a range of health conditions including cardiovascular and respiratory disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and deaths from all causes. Walking also helps to counter depression and maintain wellbeing.

Walking is very obviously a health promoting activity that has failed to register on the radar screen of key decision takers. Read more: Cycle-friendly cities also need to welcome walkers | John Whitelegg | Local Leaders Network | Guardian Professional

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Encore: The Shuffle Demons
The Spadina Bus

Monday, October 21, 2013

Slow, Steady Progress on SketchUp

Photo: Hudson Bay Company, Granville St Vancouver 1935. 3D model drawn in Google SketchUp match-photo. Small breakthroughs in inferencing, arrays and components. There's been great value in getting hopelessly lost then starting over.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Charlie Rose Chats with Vishaan Chakrabarti and in The Globe and Mail
Alex Bozikovic on A Country of Cities

And @alexbozikovic in The Globe: Why we’re better off living in hyperdense cities built around mass transit - The Globe and Mail

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jeff Speck: The Walkable City

How do we solve the problem of the suburbs? Urbanist Jeff Speck shows how we can free ourselves from dependence on the car -- which he calls "a gas-belching, time-wasting, life-threatening prosthetic device" -- by making our cities more walkable and more pleasant for more people. Jeff Speck is a city planner and the author of "Walkable City." Full bio »

From Cities for People
Living Innovation Zones in San Francisco

It is in our common interest to create a city where quality of life is the key objective. We all have an opportunity as well as a shared responsibility to help the city to become an attractive place to live and work.

But what does it take to inspire private companies to invest effort and money in developing the quality of the public space? Over time numerous financial models for private investment and operation of public spaces have been tested – models for POPS (Privately Owned Public Spaces), BIDS ( Business Improvement Districts) , PPP (Public – Private – Partnerships) have all been implemented and many lessons have been learnt. Now something new is happening in San Francisco. The acronym for this new initiative is LIZ – Living Innovation Zones. They have been developed in partnership between San Francisco’s planning department, the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation MOCI and Gehl Architects as a spin-off of the three-year development of the Better Market Street project on Market Street in San Francisco. Read more: Crowd-funding Public Space | Cities for People

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

New York Times / National Film Board
Op-Doc: A Short History of the Highrise

This project, created for The New York Times Op-Docs, is part of the National Film Board of Canada’s continuing HIGHRISE project, an Emmy Award-winning multiyear, many-media collaborative documentary experiment. 

More at: NYT Op-Doc: A Short History of the Highrise | Price Tags

From Henriquez Partners Architects — Granville at 70th Project
'15 minutes to everything'

Michael Braun politely begs to differ with those who believe that living centrally can only be achieved in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

“When you think about it, Granville and 70th is 15 minutes to everywhere,” says the marketing director for Westbank. “Over the last two or three years, people are starting to see this as the centre of the universe.”

The “15 minutes to everything” concept is emblazoned over the project’s marketing materials, pointing out its proximity to Vancouver International Airport and Richmond, shopping at Oakridge Centre and on South Granville, entertainment downtown, and recreational opportunities at golf courses, equestrian clubs, and the parks and beaches of the city’s westside. Read more: Granville at 70th project '15 minutes to everything' | Henriquez Partners Architects

Thursday, October 10, 2013

From — A New Kind of Grocer Wants a Walkable, Bikeable Location

Green Zebra Grocery in Portland. Image: People for Bikes
Lisa Sedlar, a veteran of big grocery stores like Whole Foods and Portland’s New Seasons, is the owner of Green Zebra Grocery in Portland, Oregon — a smaller store she thinks is better scaled to meet shifting demands.

Green Zebra Grocery in Portland will cater to frequent, lower-volume trips by customers on foot or bike. Image: People for Bikes.  Michael Andersen has the story at People for Bikes. Read more: A New Kind of Grocer Wants a Walkable, Bikeable Location |

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nanaimo's South Downtown
Waterfront Initiative

Subject: S Downtown Waterfront Initiative Survey
Date: 9 October, 2013 1:20:50 PM PDT

Comment submitted earlier to your online survey —

Some preliminary thoughts — Early effort to build a public identity for the initiative — the new website, the boots on the ground fair that invited people to discuss the site while touring it, encouraging citizens to attend the (brutally early) committee meetings — is positive and welcome. I'd like to see this phase followed by one where the committee itself and its consultant move to a proactive role in educating people that to be truly successful in realizing the potential of this extraordinary site, there will need to be some discomfort inducing change in the way we have imagined and designed our city. More on this later but for now: I'm referring to dynamics such as Nanaimo's low population density and accompanying car dependency. A number of external factors impact the potential of the site and it's important (though generally in Nanaimo considered impolite) to air them in the earliest days of this process. For instance I'll draw attention to First Capital's Port Place blank wall and expanse of surface parking which has done probably irreparable harm to the Front Street streetscape and made a key piece of the site's interconnectedness puzzle a huge challenge. Also more later on connectivity. 

I'm still trying to get my mind around some of the complexities here. The combination of primary property ownership and rights of access in covenants and existing leaseholders are confusing me. Fascinating and full of potential but confusing. (See map).

While the City-mandated study area is quite rightly the entire waterfront area between the Snuneymuxw lands and the Gabriola Ferry (some say a at-least-broad-brush-stroke study should have been done as part of the 2008 Downtown Urban Design Plan and Guidelines), it's the City, Port and Provincial Crown lands north of the trestle bridge that hold short and medium term potential for redevelopment. Do I have that about right? And the redevelopment of this portion will require a shared vision with the Island Corridor Foundation and the Port Authority and will impact the existing leaseholders. Seaspan's right of access through the site holds the key to moving to the next step if I'm not mistaken. And in case this was all starting to look pretty simple, there is a memorandum of agreement between the City and the Regional District to locate a "transit hub" here. What exactly is meant by a "transit hub" in a sprawling City with a commercial highway running through its downtown scares the bejesus out of me. I see examples elsewhere of transit interconnections by design creating prosperous successful human scale urban "place". Time for an indication that we have some idea of how to do that here.

My initial focus will be the Esplanade and north waterfront connections. Key I think is identifying the characteristics and purpose of "precinct" here. Central is public space. Waterfront access is a primary opportunity of course but there's the chance to do something so much better than just a sea wall. Connected public squares and plazas connecting both at and to the waterfront and through the site. Connected and integrated. This is in general not something Nanaimo has done well. In terms of primary use, Nanaimo has long needed a downtown satellite campus of Vancouver Island University. As Gordon Price has pointed out one of the our biggest urban planning mistakes has been the remote isolated locations of university campuses.

A public sector education and training cluster here (ideally including the SFN) integrated with a convenient modern transit system (passenger ferry, light rail, inter city bus all included) holds much promise seems to me.

Meanwhile I'm re-reading Ken Greenberg's Walking Home about his experiences over his career working on many sites not unlike this one and close with this thought —

Who will break it to Nanaimoites that for any potential to be realized here there will be virtually no surface parking?

Frank Murphy
Selby St Nanaimo

Monday, October 7, 2013

From On the Commons
The Fall and Rise of Great Public Spaces

Opponents of Copenhagen’s first pedestrian street warned that people would abandon the area if cars were removed; now it’s the pulsing heart of the city. (Photo courtesy of Gehl Architects.) 

It’s a dark and wintry night in Copenhagen, and the streets are bustling. The temperature stands above freezing, but winds blow hard enough to knock down a good share of the bicycles parked all around. Scandinavians are notorious for their stolid reserve, but it’s all smiles and animated conversation here as people of many ages and affiliations stroll through the city center on a Thursday evening. Read more: 
The Fall and Rise of Great Public Spaces | On the Commons

Lewis Villegas on Oakridge —
"density without urbanism will add
sprawl and congestion"

Oakridge—Vancouver’s best suburban mall—is proposing towers in a BIG way. Adding density without urbanism will add sprawl and congestion. A subway stop by itself is not enough reason for towers. Oakridge neighbourhood lacks the mixture, number and quality of services and jobs available downtown in the only urban zone we have in the region. This is towerization at its worst! And the mistake is being repeated at Gateway minutes south on the Canada Line and elsewhere along our transit spines. Read more: The Towerization of NO-akridge | lewisnvillegas

Friday, October 4, 2013