September 15, 2007
Can A Shopping Mall Save Griffintown? Find Out At Pecha Kucha Night - Tuesday Sept. 18th
Recently, Quebec developer Devimco partnered with Toronto-based RioCan to build the suburban Quartier Dix30 “lifestyle centre,” a drive-in power-centre big-box shopping mall located in a greenfield development at the intersections of Highways 10 and 30 on the South Shore.
Devimco is now working with the City of Montreal to push through a similar $1B development near the Peel Basin section of the Lachine Canal. The Gazette’s Mary Lamey reported that a parcel of land west of the Bonaventure Expressway and south of Ottawa Street, comprising 18 hectares, was to be developed. By my rough estimate, that would seem to indicate it will be sited on the former Canada Post sorting plant, but also possibly combined with other land adjacent to the Peel Basin itself. Reportedly, Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire are to be anchor tenants. Essentially, it’d span an area from Guy to Peel streets.
A suburban mall at the feet of two of Montreal’s central boulevards, in the middle of Griffintown and adjacent to Old Montreal, ignores both the “retail DNA” of Montreal and the history of a proud neighborhood. It’s anti-urban, representing low density and sprawl, and there is serious doubt that it will contribute positively in terms of built space, eyes on the street, and other issues.
Even if there is a residential tower attached, as the current proposal includes, it’s still likely going to be a lot of cheap car-dealership-style sheds separated by acres of parking lagoons… It’s an odd decision in a neighborhood that is moving towards drastically increased residential density and good urban design, and which is likely to be enhanced by the Harbour Commission’s plans to demolish the elevated portions of the Bonaventure Expressway to create a pedestrian-friendly urban boulevard and tramway links. With Peak Oil on the horizon, are big-box malls of national chain retail even viable, anyway?
We — being Stephanie Troeth and yours truly, AJ Kandy — are proposing an alternative, urbanist vision for the project in a quick six-minute presentation at the upcoming Montreal Pecha Kucha Night, Tuesday, September 18th at the SAT, starting at 8:20pm. We hope to see all of you there, and for those who can’t attend, we’ll be republishing it online with narration, background articles and links, and providing tools for action and discussion.
In the meantime, interested citizens should get in touch with the Sud-Ouest borough mayor’s office about an upcoming series of public consultations on the project.
Originally posted at Urbanphoto.
Posted by aj_kandy at 2:41 PM
Signs your neighborhood is hip
When Hot Hot Heat shoot their video in a storefront just down the street from you…
Posted by aj_kandy at 2:35 PM
April 22, 2005
It's strange how often we romanticize aspects of America that we blithely destroyed because there was money to be made. And it's even more strange that having destroyed such things, we replicate them shoddily, and market them as antidotes to the very psychic emptiness that made the real things seem worthless.
For instance, Bush and his creatures trumpet precisely those ideals of small-town life that his actual policies are destroying. The idea that we are a nation of caring families, or cooperative communities, doesn't withstand the slightest critical examination. But the concept of family and community - of belonging - remains eminently marketable. It's as though we've been locked in a bare cell, and are comforting ourselves by imagining the ineffable perfection of Platonic beds and chairs.
In America's smaller towns, neighborhoods have been destroyed and businesses torn down, only to be replaced by chain businesses that offer a cheap imitation of the community values they ruined. "Old-fashioned" qualities - such as conscientious workmanship - are promoted in cavernous, dismal buildings that were made cheaply, out of shoddy materials, by people whose emotional investment in their work was at a bare minimum. Lovely Victorian buildings are torn down, to make way for some gigantic drab enclosure where faux-Victorian gaslights are sold. Our neighbors are driven from their houses and scattered to the four winds, so that chain stores can arrive and proclaim themselves our "good neighbors."
Whatever you consider the human spirit to be, our official culture has stopped making an effort to appeal to its kinder or saner aspirations, or to please it with anything more profound than the numb familiarity one feels when entering a Starbucks or a Wal-Mart...which is really just an adjustment to diminished expectations.
Perhaps our diminished expectations explain some of our strange bitterness towards the rest of the world. We work harder and harder, and pay more and more, and get less and less, but it's almost as though we defend our lifestyle all the more fiercely because of its very shabbiness. For if this is success, who could survive failure? If this is profit, who could bear loss? The closer we come to outright failure, the less we want to admit it.
Posted by aj_kandy at 4:51 PM
February 28, 2005
Power vs. Energy
The always-insightful James H. Kunstler notes that without cheap energy, America isn't the "world's most powerful nation," in fact it's totally at the mercy of others.
Salient point: without oil imports from friendly-ish nations like Saudia Arabia, Venezuela and others, the US has exactly four years of oil left based on its current -- and rising -- rate of consumption.
Right now, the US consumes 25% of all oil produced. In real numbers, the States will burn through 20 bn of the estimated 80 bn barrels that will be produced worldwide today alone.
Posted by aj_kandy at 9:37 AM
January 4, 2005
The Economics Of Sprawl
Sometimes you have to marvel at the human capability for living in denial.
In June 2004, National Geographic was the first mainstream magazine to put Peak Oil on the cover, with its story The End Of Cheap Oil. They put up an online feedback forum as well. I popped in to take a look.
There were dozens of people offended by a single quote from a suburbanite security mom who praised her Hummer H2’s capacity to crush other vehicles; universal disgust with the tax break for light trucks, urging that it be eliminated and given to hybrid cars instead.
Hardly anyone broached the question: “Why do we drive so much?”
No-one in America, even the nominally environmentally-aware readership of National Geographic, seems capable of even contemplating life without cars, much less moving into denser cities or towns.
It's all well and good to say that hybrid cars are a solution, but relatively simple changes in urban planning such as zoning ordinances, and federal and state tax incentives, would do a lot to spur positive, anti-sprawl development that would remove the need for daily 100km commutes altogether.
Currently, new housing starts are seen as a leading economic indicator, but when you look at the larger picture, it represents "growth" in the same sense as "cancer." Here’s why.
For every new low-density development of McMansions evenly spaced on 1-acre lots, water, utilities and other services must be extended, not to mention roads and highways. That means that, like a spider plant that over-reaches in search of sunlight, these "shoots" will also be the first to die off in a drought, be it of oil or water. To continue the metaphor, traditional dense cities are more like the hardy, compact cactus.
This becomes especially important in the hyperdeveloped Southwestern US, where political battles over water diversion between Nevada, Arizona and California seem to presage actual armed conflict, as they have in the developing world.
In the rush to the suburbs and now to the exurbs, we’ve also paved over our best farmland. This is a long-term strategic mistake, because without cheap oil as both energy and fertilizer, we're not going to be importing Chilean salad greens; we won't be able to reliably grow grain to feed cattle, so we won't be eating much meat anymore either. Industrial farming, more akin to strip mining, is practically dead as a doornail anyway due to the depletion of aquifers for irrigation, and the subsequent salinization of previously arable land. (Don't get me started about pesticide runoff...)
And yet we encourage this suicidal cycle through boneheaded zoning policy, agribusiness policy and tax codes. It is currently more expensive to build high-density infill in most cities than it is to plop out lines and lines of prefab houses in the exurbs. So, perversely, family farms vanish and instant cul-de-sac developments appear. Family values indeed.
This confluence of myopic thinking further exacerbates the erosion of the tax base from cities; increased costs are then incurred to needlessly replicate civic infrastructure like schools, emergency response, water purification and sewage treatment, hospitals and the like, which already existed in city and town centers.
Unless we want our cities to all become like Detroit, then in order to grab back that revenue, the solution is either politically-dangerous forced municipal mergers -- or to change the system with incentives to promote denser urban development and disincentivize sprawl.
Some posters on the board, continuing the head-in-the sand theme, complained that they weren’t getting enough new highways for their tax dollar, saying increased European-level gas taxes would force them to use mass transit with “the great unwashed.” (Seriously -- Is there a lack of soap in the US? From watching TV it certainly seems like a lot of people don’t use conditioner…but I digress.)
These folks, who will endlessly debate the economic reasoning behind their God-given entitlement to tax cuts, never seem to register that their hard-earned tax dollars largely go to fund highways that promote diminishing returns -- hardly fiscal sanity.
From a technical standpoint, adding highway capacity only ensures larger traffic jams, with virtually no time savings. It increases load on ancillary communities and services. Increased air pollution has an effect on health, one that we are now beginning to see with a spike in childhood asthma cases and allergies; this has a cost on the public purse as well. Time wasted in traffic jams means billions of dollars in lost productivity per year.
Yet no-one demands that we impose real-cost accounting on the Viagra-like practice of constant road enlargement.
A recent Maisonneuve article by Ottawa city councillor Clive Doucet points out that adding just two lanes to seven kilometers of highway in that city cost $67 million; if the land had had to be purchased on the market, it would have cost an additional $25 million per kilometer. A single traffic intersection signaling system costs $150,000 to purchase and install, and nearly $45,000 a year to maintain.
By comparison, the entire budget for other Ottawa civic infrastructure -- parks, community centres, pools, skating rinks, and day care, serving 800,000 people -- is merely $19.3 million.
As Doucet notes, "No one blinks at these prices, but God help the mayor who tries to build a new library."
It doesn't have to be this way. Cities do not have to look like Houston (skyscrapers surrounded by 1-story big-box malls and highways). We do not need the 401, or more Decarie Expressways.
Cities can look like Amsterdam, Venice, Manhattan, or even Montreal, whose populations can get along perfectly well without any cars at all. (Heresy!)
The money saved could be spent on more important things -- beefing up social security, public healthcare, education, and mass transit -- and we'd all be breathing cleaner air, too.
July 5, 2004
Fobo in SODO
The ever-astute Nick Currie (aka Momus) notes in today's post the rise of Faux-Bohemian, or fobo, districts as a byproduct of "progressively-minded city councillors and real-estate salespeople," and how we have a love-hate relationship with such soi-disant "hipness." Here, he's writing about Barcelona:
"I knew the Calle Doctor Dhu was the epicenter of charismatic hipness because I'd found a reference to it on a Japanese website, and the Japanese always seek exactly this 'creative yet safe' sort of neighbourhood. You'll find them in the contemporary art museum bookstore. And there they were, indeed, at MACBA and CCCB, the two major galleries the City of Barcelona has placed in the teeming, multi-ethnic Raval district, the twin turbines of a quite conscious urban regeneration effort.
How many times do we hear of some rising urban area that it's funky, young, happening and vibrant, that there are lots of little art galleries, skateboarders and chic bars there? How many times do we arrive, breathless and expectant, in said area to see guys with baggy-ass jeans and carefully messy haircuts with something going on at the back leading expensively cute dogs through the streets? Skateboarders, graphic designers, street artists? We hate it, and we love it. We want to be a part of it, and we want to be indifferent to it, way ahead of its codes and modes. We want to live there, and also say we've lived there longer than the montebanks and arrivistes who now despoil it. We want to monkey, in other words, with the binary real / fake. We want to say that this area, even when constructed, as in Raval, by an elightened city council, is real, or, if not now real, was once real, and, if not now real, then bad and getting worse.
My abject confession recalls an essay I wrote back when I first arrived in New York, Fobo. Fobo is faux bohemian. As the fauxhawk is to the mohawk, so Fobo is to the Bohemian. A threat, and a guilty secret. In the essay I said I was hoping to find 'an apartment in an area which was once funky but is now just expensive, which was once creative but is now plastic, which was once a place of production (studios) but is now a place of consumption (boutiques)'."
Which kind of makes me think of this whole Canal area, now touted as being superhip (when it's really mostly industrial mixed with condos and old-fashioned poverty). The real-estate agents call it the Canal District now, easier to say and fewer negative connotations than St-Henri, Little Burgundy, Pointe-St-Charles, Griffintown. Maybe we should invent our own name for it: SODO, for SOuth of DOwntown. Or SODOM, if you want to add Montreal to the end of it.
To be paired with GMRA (the Greater Montreal Real-Estate Area), naturally.
July 4, 2004
New Jersey Boucherville & Laval
Today I visited
New Jersey The South Shore.
Now, before y'all get yer britches in a twist, yes, there are truly lovely places on le rive-sud like Old Saint Lambert and that bit where Blork lives, which are entirely sane, livable, normal places for humans.
But today we went out way, way, way past the cozy mazy subdivisions of Longueuil, Brossard et al and went straight for the jugular: Boucherville.
Namely, the new hyperdevelopment outlet mall that features an Ikea the size of Dorval Airport, a Structube, a soon-to-open Winners, La Vie En Rose, etc. etc. -- all in all, a tawdry, tarty roadside attraction that must have been virgin forest, or at least married-with-children farmland, a mere decade ago.
The "mall" itself is rather like that one up near Blue Bonnets - a collection of decorated shedlike outbuildings amid a square kilometre of Parking Lagoon (© James Kunstler) in between the Moonbase Alpha office parklets, refrigerated warehouses, and the sanitized shed / animal death camp (take your pick) of Olymel's meat-packing facility. An exotic-bird pet store on the way there proclaims itself "TWIT PALACE" in 9-foot-high letters.
There is no neighborhood to speak of near this store. Not for several miles at least. No sidewalks anyway.
The presumably local residents that shop at this Ikea really, really, really do seem more New Jersey than Manhattan - trés "bridge and tunnel crowd," as my LA friend Eric would say; inhabiting that alternate reality where Marisa Tomei c. My Cousin Vinny is a style icon and the House of Pain (BOOMshalockalocka!) look for guys never really went away. I saw one happy couple who were creepily twinlike: same Tevas, same cargo shorts, same sleeveless shirt, same ponytail right down to the length. Buy in bulk and save, I guess.
That being said, the service at this outpost of ubersuburbia was golden-retriever friendly; a local kids' soccer team was helping to bag items, all the lanes were open and we got through swiftly. Even the item-pickup zone was high-tech, with an airport-like "arrivals" monitor. Take note, Montreal Ikea.
As Mrs. Westexpressway got the char, I watched with some not unlargely misanthropic amusement as several good sub-burghers stared at their handful of flatpacked items, touchingly trying, and largely failing, to fit them into their Carlsbad-Cavernous SUVs. To be smug about it, we who had had Lego and aptitude tests as children had our entire office cubicle system packed into Thumbelina The Trusty Tercel* and whisked ourselves away towards the louche pleasures of the Lafontaine Tunnel.
Not that long ago we made a trip up to
New Jersey Laval to visit the flagship store of Fly, the French furniture chain (featuring $8 M of your money invested by Desjardins. Hoo boy.) In case y'all were wondering, it's not so French -- most of the suppliers are local -- and not so fly. Most of the stuff is literally the same as Structube / Dixversions / Pier 1 Imports, and even the most Ikea-like items were poor copies thereof. We saw dozens of things that were almost nice if the designers hadn't decided to hit them with the Ugly / Poor Quality / Cheap Materials bundle of sticks.
That fleeting experience notwithstanding, it was the surroundings itself that amazed me. Fly is an anchor store in a new avenue of MegaStores, designed to look like a quasi-urban gated neighborhood crossed with a Hollywood backlot. It's next to the Cosmodome space-camp, which itself is getting an eponymous subdivision next door. All of this of course not situated in a town per se, but amid other commercial developments clustered around freeway exits. For miles upon miles upon miles. This is not a "city." It's a glorified rail switching yard, and to say that is an insult to rail switching yards.
What are we doing? No, really. I thought we were a distinct society. I want Quebec to be a distinct society, and the Montreal metropolitan region to be the jewel in the crown. So why does so frigging much of the area around here look like US 1 outside of Princeton?
I mean, not to open any sort of culture war here, but what really differentiates Quebec from any other large Eastern seaboard state, aside from language, poutine, a delayed spring thaw, and hydroelectricity?
Same strip malls as Saint Catharines, ON. Same fast food fry-pits. Same car dealerships. Same cars. Same highways, same subdivisions, same farmland plowed under to the consumer credit death spiral.
We are smarter than this; Quebec spent 30 years developing its own parallel institutions so that we could control our destiny. So why do we go and make the same boneheaded planning mistakes and fall prey to the same get-rich-quick franchise schemes that everyone else in North America does?
*The gas-sipping Toyota Echo actually, but that wasn't very alliterative.
May 14, 2004
The End Of Suburbia
Tipping you all to this new documentary by Toronto filmmaker Gregory Greene which opened last month in Toronto and is on the festival circuit at the moment.
Greene's credits include work for Bravo's Arts and Minds, documentary series for MuchMusic and more. Hosted by VisionTV's Barrie Zwicker, The End Of Suburbia: Oil Depletion And The End Of The American Dream is the documentary I was seriously considering making on my own.
The 78-minute film examines the subject of Peak Oil through interviews with leading urbanists, scientists and authors including Kenneth Deffeyes, Colin Campbell, Peter Calthorpe, James Kunstler, and more.
Find out more here. And you can purchase the DVD online via PayPal (or cheque) for just $24.95: they're encouraging screenings for groups of up to 50 people. Anyone interested in seeing it? I'll get a copy and we can find a place to watch it and have a discussion.
January 7, 2004
Gentrification and the Faux-Bombardiers
Why is gentrification such a dirty word?
James Kunstler wrote quite eloquently about the misguided politics of anti-gentrification activists in his book The City In Mind. In an interview with the right-on Christian Science Monitor, he said:
"If you're against gentrification, you're saying, well, we don't want the well-off to come up and fix up this property in the city. Are you simply going to say, the well-off have no business fixing up urban property at all? Are they morally restricted to living somewhere else? Where is that somewhere else? The suburbs? Because that's where they are."
So now that our faux-bombardiers have our attention, I'd like to know: what exactly do they want instead of condos? And more importantly, why?
Michael Moore has a great chapter in Dude, Where's My Country? -- a facetiously dreamed Socratic dialogue between himself and his future granddaughter, in an energy and resource-starved post-oil future. "People left the cities to live in suburbs because they didn't want to live next to people that were different from them," he patiently explains to the puzzled child and to We, the Readers.
Well, isn't that what the anti-condo activists are saying? "We don't want your kind next door?"
Postwar tract suburbs are commonly derided as "cookie-cutter," "boring," "soul-crushingly dull," "whitebread," etc ad infinitum. Well, doesn't that sound like a description of life in a Modernist social housing project like Les Habitations Jeanne-Mance? (Substitute "no bread" if applicable.)
Suburbs and housing projects are both ghettoes: each a perverse mirror of the other, based on the unstated assumption that these two groups - people with and without money - cannot and should not live intermingled.
Look at Beaconsfield: somewhere around Walpole Avenue or Windermere Park, let's say. A land of three-story ranch houses, mock-Tudor manors, and split-levels. It's affluent, and you can guess that everyone is pretty much of the same educational level and professional cadre. There might be a wealthy barber in there somewhere, but mostly it's professionals, business owners and executive types. In short, people next door are pretty much Just Like Us.
Closer look: there are no places of work, shops or services within walking distance, unless you want to take your life in your hands and cross the railway tracks and the highway to dart southwards into Beaconsfield village. There are no cafs or restaurants, unless you count the takeout Chinese place in the one-story mini-mall down by the service road.
There is precious little access to green space. There are few places for young people to go. There are no places, no monuments or boulevards, period - just endless avenues of other people's houses, with the occasional postwar school/factory complex. You'd be hard-pressed even to find an actual stretch of sidewalk.
If you don't drive, bus service is pretty sad. People must drive, isolated in their plastic bubbles from the environment, and from each other. House prices are high, but when there's no more oil they won't be worth much.
Compare with St-Henri: corner of Notre-Dame and St-Remi, let's say. Several blocks of three-story red-brick and aging greystone flats. A few condo units are going in. But walk for several blocks and you'll be hard-pressed to find a new apartment building that doesn't have an "SHDM" plaque on it like some sort of scarlet letter.
This is the area of Montreal with the highest concentration of social housing other than Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. The SHDM flats are in OK, if depressing, shape, but the ones that aren't city-owned are slowly falling to bits: some nearby buildings have roofs and walls that sag, with widening cracks between the bricks.
Literally all the ground-floor retail in the neighborhood is papered over, boarded up, gone away, save a brave little corner coffee bar and, of course, that hardy perennial, le depanneur. Elevated highways loom overhead. Railway lines run a little too close for comfort, after which Notre-Dame becomes strictly industrial. There are a few places of work nearby: garages mostly, along St-Patrick - but precious few shops and services.
Things get better as you move closer to Atwater, but that's due to... you guessed it - gentrification.
So what's the solution?
I think it's perfectly possible for government and the private sector to work together, to create viable mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods instead of "warehousing the poor" in rows of SHDM flats, or projects like Les Habitations Jeanne-Mance, which depresses an entire area by unnatural selection, which conversely, encourages the flight of middle-class capital to the suburbs, creating an artificial, unsustainable "wealth bubble."
People of small or moderate means should never be displaced, and planners must work hard to ensure that "Monklandization" doesn't price people out of their own neighborhoods.
But gentrification done right is a good thing.
Maybe it's the stigma of the "g" word. Well, let's call it "smart growth" instead.
Ideally, there's shouldn't be any "hot neighborhoods" with "trendy shops" - every neighborhood should be a really great place to live and work, to own and to rent, to shop and enjoy a public social life, with space enough for everyone, of every ability.
The real issue is perhaps not urban-infill condos in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve -- but rather, overcoming the objections of demerger-obsessed sub-burghers in order to create suburban infill: turning the West Island from conurbations of one-acre house farms into higher-density, but viable towns and cities.
Posted by aj_kandy at 8:42 PM
August 15, 2003
Montreal is an Un-Car City
It seems one of the basic variables of Montreal, a declarative statement in our urban programming, is not-car. At our best, we are a city of villages, as I found in that recently reprinted "Pignon sur rue" series of booklets about various Montreal neighborhoods (available through Renaud-Bray). Not Levittown ant-farm housing developments, connector roads and strip malls. We're genetically walkable, bikeable, public transitable (if only they'd fund the damn thing).
Anyone else? Send me your permalinks!
Posted by aj_kandy at 6:26 PM
July 30, 2003
Community Bike Programs
Isn't it about time Montreal had one of these?
Posted by aj_kandy at 4:06 PM
July 25, 2003
Government to Cyclists: Drop Dead
Great article by Katharine Mieszkowski at Salon.com (click Free Day Pass to read:)
For every bike commuter who proudly pedals to work under the mantra "one less car," Congress has a message for you: Get back on the highway where you belong, burning fossil fuel like a real American. That goes for you, too, you traffic-hazard pedestrians.
Fresh out of subcommittee, a new congressional transportation appropriations bill will entirely eliminate some $600 million worth of annual federal funding for bike paths, walkways and other such transportation niceties in fiscal year 2004.
Never mind the political fallout of U.S. oil dependency on the Middle East, or the fact that the average mileage per gallon for new cars and trucks in the U.S. is at its lowest level in 20 years. Members of the House's Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies know that what America needs now is fewer bike paths and walkways -- but more highways.
Under the new bill, which the full Committee on Appropriations is likely to consider this week, before it goes to the House floor for a vote, highways would receive $34.1 billion in fiscal year 2004, which is $2.5 billion more than this year, while the Transportation Enhancements program that funds bike paths and walkways would get nothing. The bill would also significantly reduce funding for everything from Amtrak to reverse-commute transportation programs that connect low-income urban workers to jobs in the suburbs.
"It's saying: 'We're not really that interested in community restoration or improvement. We just want the money going toward highway development,'" says Susan Prolman, government relations counsel for Defenders of Wildlife. She points out that the bill puts $4.8 billion more into highway projects than President Bush asked for in his 2004 budget.
Posted by aj_kandy at 6:13 PM
July 3, 2003
From Parking Lots to Streetcar City
In 2003, city councillor Robert Libman tried vainly to eliminate some of the 240 surface parking lots in the city, to reuse them for housing, parks or public meeting places. Of course the parking lot owners opposed it - it's a license to print money. I just don't see why they can't be converted to underground, privately-operated parking ramps, or the spaces moved to edge-of-town park-and-ride facilities, as used in so many US cities.
For a city that has the least green space of any North American metropolis, making new parks would seem to be a priority. (And calling a strip of weeds next to a building a "park" doesn't help.) Parking lots contribute contaminated runoff to sewers, create heat island effects, and encourage the unsustainable drive-in culture we've stuck ourselves in.
We still have a chance to make major arteries in Montreal car-free or at least decrease car traffic. There are encouraging signs that streetcars may make a comeback along Parc Avenue and maybe Notre-Dame West, if the Port of Montreal's plans to revitalize the Peel basin succeed. It's perfectly possible to compromise - to make large stretches of certain streets accessible to public transit, taxis, pedestrians and bikes only, or, like Prince Arthur, to cross-traffic only.
State Street in Madison, WI is an example, with wide and low sidewalks that blur the distinction between areas, in favour of the pedestrians. There's lots of street furniture, one-way sections, traffic calming devices, etc. Certainly Sainte-Catherine between Atwater and Papineau could be redone this way.
Madison also puts 3-level parking ramps around the Isthmus' downtown core, encouraging people to leave their cars there and walk.
Portland, Oregon has free public transit within their 100 central city blocks.
By putting more parking around commuter rail stations, increasing suburban bus frequency (that connects to commuter rail or the Metro) and by being creative with things such as taxi-bus service, shuttle buses, carpooling and attendant financial incentives, we can perhaps reverse the decline that a century of car traffic have done to this city.
I'd go further - I'd want to do a Boston-style Big Dig and bury the elevated expressways that come flying off the Montreal escarpment, killing the ecosystem of the slope, and marginalizing all the neighborhoods beneath them. There have been long-mooted plans to cover up the Decarie and Ville-Marie trenches- creating something like Portland, Oregon's 18-block-long Park Blocks. If we can rebuild the Pine-Park interchange, surely we can demolish the Decarie Circle.
Posted by aj_kandy at 4:19 PM
June 19, 2003
The fabulous ruins of Detroit
Awesome, extensive photo gallery of the ruins of downtown Detroit.
It is shocking that this is what a major American city looks like. It looks like Yugoslavia during the war.
There are some hopeful notes detailing Detroit's slow rise from the ashes, but the pictures speak for themselves.
This is what happens when you don't have good public transit - esp. because the people that Own The City want you to drive everywhere.
(Brought to this blog's attention via Attaboy.
Posted by aj_kandy at 5:37 PM
June 9, 2003
"Instead of the two towers - the sublime - the city will live with five towers, wounded by a single scything movement of the architect, surrounding two black holes. New York will be marked by a massive representation of hurt that projects only the overbearing self-pity of the powerful. Instead of the confident beginning of the next chapter, it captures the stumped fundamentalism of the superpower. Call it closure."
-from Rem Koolhaas' great article in the new Wired, "I _ NY"
Posted by aj_kandy at 2:09 PM
May 22, 2003
An Evening with Piero Lissoni
Last night I had the great pleasure of attending a brief talk given by the Italian architect, urbanist and designer Piero Lissoni. Latitude Nord, the high-end furniture store on St-Laurent just below Mont-Royal, played host as they were launching the Lissoni-designed Living Divani range of furniture, co-sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission who provided top quality snacketry and vino.
Lissoni himself seemed more like an academic - which he is, being a professor at the Italian Design Institute. He was charmingly disarming, self-deprecating and funny, speaking in a mix of Italian, French and English, and looking rather like a shorn Salman Rushdie.
He ran through a PowerPoint presentation (just images, no bullet points - Cliff Atkinson would approve) on the theme of human dimensions - how all of his work has involved the concept of scale, from the thousands of tiny parts required for his Alessi wristwatches to the planning of his Boffi kitchens to stunning glass buildings to designing an entire village. Not entirely unlike Niels Diffrient of Humanscale, except Lissoni tends to work on the macro level where Diffrient works at the individual scale, but by branching out into the designed-objects business, Lissoni shows that the same rules apply, no matter where.
Posted by aj_kandy at 9:03 PM
May 21, 2003
If you've been reading the news, you've heard about the whole new-taxi-fleets debate. Montreal's ecological and transportation activists have rightly decried the city's short-sighted banning of cars with short wheelbases because they "don't have enough legroom". Bigger taxis = bigger engines = more pollution, the argument goes.
The wheelbase issue is a smokescreen - it's really down to the interior layout of the car. The London Taxi TXII is not much longer than a PT Cruiser with a wheelbase of 113 inches, and the interiors are purpose-built to be extra-roomy. Plus it's designed for tight turns in European cities (25ft turning radius) - a natural for the narrow streets of Montreal. They currently use a very clean diesel engine, but I'm sure hybrid or alternative-fuel versions could be made.
On the topic of alternative-fueled fleets: In B's hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, the Badger Cab Company has been running an all-propane-fueled fleet of Buicks since 1980 - reducing pollution while providing a smooth ride at the same time. While propane and natural gas is set to spike in cost, it's a hopeful sign: if they can do alternative fuels economically in a medium-sized city like Madison, we could certainly do it here.
Posted by aj_kandy at 12:37 PM
March 24, 2003
EcoCit? green condos Startup company
EcoCité is a "green condos" company offering small-footprint urban housing with a surprising array of eco-friendly features. Reduced water and energy use, maximized passive solar heating, recovery of waste heat, green roofs to reduce impact on city storm drains, greywater / blackwater separation, gardens, and an emphasis on high quality of life all factor into their designs. Their construction partner, Build specializes in creating new infill buildings for old neighborhoods that maximize daylight and make tiny sites seem very spacious.
Posted by aj_kandy at 3:06 PM