Tangential Vancouverism: Projects for Vancouver’s Urbanism explores the potential for new “urban extensions” to be tenably designed as vibrant constituents of city life in Vancouver. Read on »
In Vancouver, the public discussion around densification and architectural design is often limited to the form and height of proposed new developments. Less attention has been given to understanding what makes a neighborhood feel like a neighbourhood and what creates a connection between people and the place they live.
The starting point of our inquiry is: As neighbourhoods grow and change, how can design support and enhance the tangible and intangible qualities of place that people have come to value?
Around the globe urban migration is on the rise and will have specific local impacts. In Vancouver, it is anticipated that approximately 56,500 more dwelling units of various sizes will be required to accommodate 130,000 more residents over the next 30 years. Vacant tracts of land for additional housing are no longer available and new residential development will more often occur by densifying existing neighbourhoods.
Public dialogue, in regards to densification, is heavily focused on the form and height of proposed new developments. Less attention has been given to understanding what makes a neighborhood feel like a neighbourhood and; what creates a connection between people and the place they live?
Resident feedback suggests, in addition to major public facilities such as parks, schools, community centres and branch libraries, residents may also value design projects or interventions that support local businesses and expand opportunities for social interaction.
To understand what people value about their neighbourhood, we referred to a mapping project for Grandview Woodlands and Douglas Park in Vancouver. YouMap Vancouver was conducted in 2008 by the Vancouver City Planning Commission and SmartGrowth Advisory Services. Residents participated in on-site workshops, neighbourhood walks and on-line mapping exercises to identify neighbourhood assets, strengths, weaknesses and needs.
Key findings of the project included:
“Community interaction is a key feature or benefit of neighbourhood elements that are considered an amenity. Whether spaces and places are publicly or privately provided, the opportunities they provide for community interaction were often cited as their primary amenity, regardless of their specific function (restaurant, library).”
“(neighbourhood amenities) combine both facilities and services provided by the City, and also by a neighbourhood-oriented private sector. Any perceived risks to the neighbourhood-oriented private sector can be seen as a threat as great as the potential closure of a public amenity”
LocalSocial seeks to amply and consolidate existing civic programs, infrastructure and spatial conditions to create micro-hubs of social and economic activity. The implementation of these ideas does not rely on full-scale redevelopment of neighbourhoods. Rather the proposal works within the existing urban fabric and also can accommodate future growth.
Mobile Businesses & Services
When older neighbourhoods undergo significant development, small local businesses are often priced out of the area due to higher retail rents.To encourage the retention and development of new small businesses, we propose the City expand the food cart program to include businesses and services. These neighbourhood-oriented mobile businesses could include retail shops for clothing, books, or local produce, or repair services for bicycles, small appliances or electronic items. Mobile services could also provide interim public services. For example until a neighbourhood library is built, a bookmobile could temporary provide partial library services.
Outdoor Open Space
We propose encouraging the provision of outdoor open space through changes in zoning regulations that would support wider building set backs, and by creating pedestrian zones where small streets or alleys intersect with busy commercial arterial roads. Locating mobile businesses adjacent to these outdoor open spaces would allow for increased foot traffic around the businesses and help animate the space.
Power and Water Supply
Currently most food carts and temporary outdoor events rely on gas generators for power. To reduce the noise and air pollution, we propose combining the parking meter with a BC Hydro smart meter and a power outlet. Businesses or organizations with an account could swipe a card and access power on a pay- as-you-go basis. A similar metered device could also provide access to water.
-LocalSocial is intended for established neighbourhoods which will undergo significant changes in the next thirty years.
-Connect open spaces with existing street networks (i.e. no dead end plazas).
-LocalSocial is intended to be located on commercial strips. Often commercial zones are perceived as the “heart” of a community and are the ideal place to situate microhubs for neighbourhood activity.
-To accommodate mobile business in parking lanes, locate LocalSocial sites on wide roads.
-Create LocalSocial sites where a lane or small street intersects with a commercial street. If adjacent lots are amalgamated and developed, seek increased sideyard setbacks to increase the area of the open space.
-Create mid-block pedestrian passageways between larger new developments that connect the commercial street through to the rear alley or the next block. Widen part of the passage to create an urban plaza.