January 10, 2016

Dead space for a living city.

I was watching an older SFU video last week on The Melbourne Experience.
… and one of the most interesting things to me was when Rob Adams mentioned that the vibrant Melbourne laneways are not an old thing, just like Granville Island, they are a thing of the 70s, which has become fundamental to the character of the city.
Vancouver has some of the world’s most expensive property values, yet nearly 50% of the ground level building frontage is forgotten, doomed at best to be avoided, dedicated only to waste and maybe graffiti. How is that a good use of space?
Last year, there was a great article about how Seattle wants to ‘Melbourne-ize’ its’ laneways Seattle’s Future Alleys Look Like Paradise 
Nord Alley (SvR Design/Olson Kundig Architects)
Yes, there are a host of logistical issues to overcome, but all have been overcome by other places, and seriously, as valuable as land is, how can there NOT be ‘gold in them thar alleys’?
My friend Patrick Chan send me a few more examples from his Asian travels (below) … I acknowledge it might not work for every alley (a parkade can’t easily have its entrance adjusted), but I have to think that many people share my girlfriend’s view of alleys – she is scared of them – do re really want people to be scared of ~50% of a city’s streetspace?
I-PhonePix(2014-04-26) 312
A lane from Hong Kong… In the mornings a little van (kind of a Mr Bean type van) comes to deliver stuff. During the day this lane is shut.

I-PhonePix(2014-04-26) 318
A commercial streets narrower than our 20′ lanes, also from Hong Kong.
I-PhonePix(2014-04-26) 581
Patrick added this closing thought:
I would say you can find it in lots of places, and it’s simply the “derp” mentality keeping it from arriving in Vancouver … people just believe “that’s not how we do things here.”
Well, there’s plenty of Rad Shit out there … lets do some here!
(if only because, seriously, how can it not be a good idea to monetize the space)

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  1. A topic worthy of further discussion. Many Vancouver commercial lanes offer great potential. And while laneway housing has become popular, soon we should build mews style laneway townhouses and yes apartments. (West End plan allows apartments)

  2. Vancouver’s best example right now is Blood Alley – built in the early 1970s – between Abbott & Carrall Streets – also contains a wide plaza for the building facing Cordova Street. This was supposed to be the start, but as is frequently the case, numbers 2-n never got built. Gas Town is ideal for these. The West End is ideal as well. Maybe the lanes could be mazed as well in the process. Lanes are now through-ways in the West End.

    1. Post

      I’ve noticed there are a number of downtown blocks which would seem to require little to convert also … it would make sense to radiate from some starting point, whether somewhere downtown or gastown … or both. In some ways, Yaletown has some of this, but still, the feeling is certainly different than Melbs.

  3. I believe there was some serious discussion about this at City Hall when Sam Sullivan was mayor but I haven’t heard much in recent years. Perhaps Vision isn’t interested in ideas promulgated by the NPA?

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