The tale of local architect/planner’s pilgrimage to Curitiba, Brazil
There’s a comment from NanaimoCityHall blog reader urbanismo this morning and I’m reposting it here for a number of reasons — not the least of which is that it contains the site’s first Portuguese language message.
The message came from the office of the Brazilian architect and planner Jaime Lerner, best known for his innovative transformation of the Brazilian city Curitiba, announcing his inclusion in Time magazine’s list of 25 most influential thinkers in the world. The brief Time bio was written by Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson:
“Cities are where people live — by the billions. So they’re also where the planet’s environmental problems need bold solutions. No one understands that better than Jaime Lerner, 72, a former mayor of Curitiba and an ex-governor of Paraná, in Brazil.
Over the past 40 years, Lerner has left a magnificent legacy of urban sustainability. He turned Curitiba’s main downtown street into a pedestrian corridor. His decision in the early 1970s to allow only nonpolluting industries presaged modern models of green business. He pioneered the bus-rapid-transit systems now in use around the world.
“There is no need to be scared of simplicity,” Lerner has said. Especially when it pays such rich rewards.”
As urbanismo explains in his comment he (in one of his other personas that of local architect and planner Roger Kemble) headed to Brazil in early 2006 to knock on Lerner’s door and invite him to Nanaimo. Roger recounts that he was treated royally and given tours of the city and time with the great man himself and that he was able to start the work with Lerner’s staff to lay the groundwork for a visit to Nanaimo then undergoing the 10 Year Official Community Plan Review. I very much enjoyed helping Roger take this initiative through the mayor’s office, Planner Andrew Tucker’s office, the Plan Nanaimo Advisory Committee, the Downtown Nanaimo Partnership, looking to build support. What Roger calls in his comment “blank stares” actually understates the case by a considerable degree. The reaction to this citizens initiative was truly appalling. Petty empires within the city advisory committee structure felt themselves to be under threat. Mayor and Council of the day had no idea who this world famous thinker was. The Planning Department withdrew support for the initiative by the time it went to Council to consider funding and urbanismo forgets the role played by former DNP ED George Hanson in derailing the project.
All of which is water under the proverbial… but the question has to be asked if that culture of exclusion still exists in our civic affairs. Or whether there’s a new interest in the innovative ideas successful elsewhere as we reappraise where we find ourselves as we rebuild in the aftermath of the worst ecomomic crisis in 70 years. Are we still committed to cruise ship terminals, sprawling suburbs and big box retail all connected by arterial highways?
Blog reader sunnydan introduced the topic of a complete rethink of our transit system which I want to get back to. No discussion of transit would be complete without a look at Lerner’s innovative Bus Rapid Transit system and Curitiba is also a laboratory for looking at what contribution urban planning makes to economic development. Here’s a primer.
The various projects that city hall have recently promoted in the down area are of little benefit to the vast majority of Nanaimo citizens.For example,the cruise ship facility will facilitate passengers getting to and from the ships,but will only generate some short term business for shops in the downtown core and a few part time jobs.The fact that it may be financed in part by senior goverments is irrelevent.
The convention centre was also built to attract groups coming from out of the city,and except for a few jobs there is no benefit to Nanaimo citizens or taxpayers.In fact,the opposite is true as taxpayers are now subsidizing the VICC for operating cost shorfall and interest on the construction cost in excess of $3 million a year.And this subsidy will go on for the next 20 years or so.What benefit is that to 99.8% of Nanaimo?
Concerning a possible multiplex,such a project would be favourable to many provided it is financed and operated privately.The owner could then bring in a WHL team and all the rock concerts he can attract,and hopefully make a profit.But what if there are no profits,can Nanaimo afford more subsidized facilities?The answer is no it cannot.
I am not sure what percentage of the population would attend events at a multiplex,but I can relate a discussion I had a few years ago with the former Director of Recreation for The North Vancouver Recreation Commission.He advised that a study indicated that of the overall population in citys across Canada,the number of citizens that actually used and/or attended ice rinks was 4%.
If the population of Nanaimo was close to the 1.8 million people that live in Curitiba, Brazil, then I could see the comparison of what they have done and what Nanaimo should do. Our Regional District will never consist of 26 municipalities nor 3.2 million people and I doubt we come close to the GDP of $17 Billion.
The City of Nanaimo will never have that size of population in my lifetime and I doubt in anybody elses lifetime that reads this including the few gifted 4 year old great grandkids that hang around this blog.
The City of Nanaimo is a unique city and there is no reason for us to emulate any other city. Let us stick to our unique town.
The fact Nanaimo will see growth is not the question. What is is how much. I can’t see it ever being over 1M but 500K + isn’t out of the question. The trouble is the RGS doesn’t think so and for that I blast them from being extremely short sighted with no back up plan or for that matter real foresight.
Thanks for this WM and WE — fill in for me will you a couple of things —
What should we be doing to prepare for this population growth? And, what do you see fueling the growth?
How do we prepare; simple, get a REAL long term growth plan, a real strategy on tall buildings and view lines and get our heads out of the sand when it comes to medium and long term care (private or otherwise).
There is a real possibility that we will get screwed because we have lots of people and not enough taxes to pay for it so I say get the stuff addressed, funded and scheduled now. Address transit, public and otherwise, address how we will move people to and from the island, western canada, victoria etc. Address where these people will live and how, address where they will work, who they will get there and where they would eat, what they would eat and how they do other things outside of work. Protect the fresh water, deal with natural resource extraction (oil and gas, mining and forestey) to get some value added jobs and taxes in there – tell China, this is the price, don’t like it go somewhere else (they will be back because we have it and they don’t).
Consider if the population of the island increases by 5% compounded every year for the next 30 years, 950K in 2010 and in 2040 it will be 3.5M, an increase of 368%!! (my numbers aren’t exact) Call me crazy but there isn’t a politician on the island that will stick their neck out to see that one because it won’t get them re-elected. There is serious issues with making this island self sufficient from water, food, power etc. and that too must be addressed.
The number one fueling factor is the mild climate and the natural beauty of this place.