Email re Port Place Mall to Mayor Ruttan; Council; Planners Swabey, TuckerMayor Ruttan Nanaimo City Councillors Director, Planning Andrew Tucker GM, Development Ted Swabey ____________________________
I am an enthusiastic fan of your award winning document Downtown Design Guidelines. (The Planning Institute of BC’s 2009 highest honour) This plan and its guidelines approved and adopted by Council were to serve as a “living” document that was to be implemented when redevelopment was initiated in the downtown core.
I’ve been following with interest the opportunity that’s arisen to work with the property owner (First Capital Realty Inc.) on the redevelopment of the Port Place Mall property. I appreciate the fact that this property owner has made a considerable investment in our city, having purchased the strata ownership of the commercial space in the Port of Nanaimo Centre and holds other Nanaimo commercial properties including Longwood Station and a portion of the Terminal Park shopping plaza. I’m sure you agree that the chance to redevelop a site of this key importance to the City might come along once in 25 years. It’s so important for all concerned, including of course the developer, that we get it right.
I recently inquired as to the status and timelines of the redevelopment and rezoning applications and Director, Planning Andrew Tucker informed me that they are on hold as the proponent wishes to make alterations to both sets of plans already submitted. I also asked if Victoria architect Franc D’Ambrosio whose firm authored the Downtown Design Guidelines had been brought into the process of these redevelopment and rezoning applications. Andrew replied that Mr. D’Ambrosio was not currently under contract with the City and had not been consulted.
It occurred to me that I could approach Mr. D’Ambrosio and ask his thoughts. To my great pleasure Mr. D’Ambrosio was willing to discuss this. I found him to have a sincere and knowledgeable interest in the success of our downtown and a unique and detailed appreciation of both its problems and its potential. He wondered if, given the delay in these applications, it isn’t time for a sober second thought.
With respect, and as formally as is possible using this channel, may I request that architect D’Ambrosio be approached by Mayor Ruttan and/or Director of Planning Andrew Tucker for his uniquely well-informed input into the development of this key site?
Thanks in advance for your attention to this.
A very good suggestion from Michael Geller . . .
“Urbanismo, perhaps what we need is a public discussion on the future of Nanaimo at which some out of town architects/planners are invited to speak and comment on the plans for the downtown…including your shopping haunt.
A few years ago, Larry Beasley, Bing Thom and I were invited by Victoria to speak at an event billed as Victoria 2010…the concern was the lack of vitality, blank retail storefronts, etc. I remember that we all talked about the need for more residential downtown….
Now, Victorians may not like some of the new developments that have subsequently been built, but
I like to think that the conference was a springboard for some of the ‘revitalization’ that has occurred….”
I’m sure Nanaimo could benefit from such a session….”
From post no 7 on Frances Bula’s blog http://www.francesbula.com/uncategorized/planning-for-vancouver-in-2050/#comments
Also of interest: Trevor Boddy’s email of Apr 27: https://nanaimocityhall.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/email-from-urban-design-consultant-trevor-boddy/
Michael Geller is a Vancouver architect, planner, real estate consultant and property developer whose column appears in the Vancouver Sun and he maintains a blog of his activities at http://www.gellersworldtravel.blogspot.com/
Further discussion about the Port Place Mall redevelopment at polldaddy.com:
Port Place Mall is the first indoor mall ever built on Vancouver Island some 40 years. The location is sandwiched between the downtown core and soon to be redeveloped industrial lands on the inner harbor waterfront. It is by any measure a beautiful and strategically located property that will be at the center of a dense mixed use neighborhood as the City grows in the future.
City zoning encourages the development of pedestrian oriented mixed use development in this area, progressive, sustainable and forward looking planning goals to be sure. Value statements found on the First Capital website seem to indicate a seamless understanding between corporate and public goals for the future of this property.
“People like to shop where they live. They also like to live around vibrant centres where they shop. We create places where friends meet with friends, and where the local community is connected to the neighbourhood, where it is easy to check off multiple items from a daily to-do list, and where there is access by car, by public transit, by bicycle or by foot. That’s how shopping centres become an integral part of the community. And that’s how we add to neighbourhood vitality.” From page 4 corporate sustainability at first capital realty
Sadly, this is not the redevelopment that First Capital has proposed for this property but rather the demolition of an indoor mall is proposed in favor of a strip mall! This proposal is contrary to all we currently understand about urban design and sustainable development. This mall is the only indoor mall located in the downtown core, the only indoor community space to be found in the City, a place that has become the heart and soul of a community.
The low economic status of the neighborhood has led to this “shut them out and let the cars in” strategy of redevelopment. But surely this is short sighted, surely the demographics will evolve in this neighborhood, and ultimately First Capital will be holding the prize, an indoor mall. Renovate yes, add new uses yes but keep the indoor mall in the process.
Posted by J. Olson on May 13th 2010, 10:31pm
Thanks for this J. Olson — It’s the surface parking that’s the villain here though I think. How does a suburban style indoor mall surrounded by surface parking build a dense mixed use pedestrian oriented neighbourhood? There’s lots of examples of indoor shopping malls accessed from vibrant pedestrian friendly shopping streets with parking incorporated underground or in above ground parkades. With the tiniest amount of design talent indoor commercial space can be wonderful: Victoria’s Bay Centre, Toronto’s Eaton Centre, North Vancouver’s Londsdale Quay Market. We have to reclaim our streetscape, don’t you think? If the developer says maybe in 10 or 15 years why don’t we say why not now?
Posted by Frank Murphy on May 14th 2010, 11:06pm
In the absence of compassion, re-development schemes are catastrophes for both society and the environment alike. It’s not about the asphalt, it’s about sustainable habitation……urban design is not mysterious once you grasp this truth…
To understand your point J. Olson I’d have to know of examples of “sustainable habitation” that include acres of asphalt on which we park cars and tourist buses. You may be aware of City Repair out of Portland, OR. http://cityrepair.org Depave!
It’s about compassion Frank.
Suppose a Calgary mortgage company decides to renovate your home because it doesn’t generate enough revenue. They take a drive to Duncan and discover the latest strip mall design by a Vancouver firm which they then engage. They meet with the City planner who tells them that a firm in Victoria has recommended a new lane through the middle of your home with a traffic circle at both ends. Oh says the Calgary office, we don’t much like the occupant and his loser friends anyway, this sounds like a great idea. They then take the plans for a Design Review where the planner applauds the project while the panel members offer some cosmetic advice. Your asthmatic friends start to complain that the living room is going to be a traffic lane and the cars will be queued up waiting for BC Ferries. Along comes the neighbourhood “no lawns in my town” activist, I have been reading books says the activist, I’ve been blogging the experts in Vancouver and Victoria, we have to make some big changes here, we are going to have to get rid of that lawn, it needs too much water and that is in short supply, and you have been using herbicides, that’s a bad thing, and you have been riding around on a gas powered lawn mower, good grief man things are really going to have to change. Oh and well we are at it, we will need to have more people living here, so we should add more floors to the house, maybe even put in a pub, yes that would be a good idea because your pals won’t be drinking in the living room any more any way, besides you’re going to need some place to cry in your beer.
Along comes a local Nanaimo fellow who has been living in the neighbourhood for awhile, gee buddy he says, these folks don’t seem to have much compassion for you. Yes I know they don’t seem to know I am here, but I have been happily living here cutting the lawn for nearly 40 years. They are all full of themselves with their degrees, awards, labels, and triple bottom lines, they have the answers for everything, and they are tripping over themselves to pontificate about it all. Well buddy maybe you should write a letter to the head office in Toronto, maybe they don’t even know what’s going on, maybe they don’t know that you will probably end up riding on a train to some place unknown. It’s all about compassion you know; maybe they will decide not to put a lane through your living room after all.
J. Olson — 2010/05/18 at 11:38 am. I’ve read your reply a number of times and it certainly contains some excellent thoughts. I’m sure you’d agree that it’s somewhat metaphor intense, but that’s ok. I’m still not 100% sure I get all of it but at its core — correct me if I’m wrong — is the suggestion that the developer, the owner of the property (First Capital Realty Inc.) be engaged directly and honestly with the concerns of the neighbourhoods surrounding Port Place Mall — and others. This strikes me as a very good and helpful thought and is echoed by architect D’Ambrosio in a recent exchange “The public process and direct appeal to the owner are still two potential avenues for possibly redeeming the proposal”, he told me in a recent email. I’ll definitely explore this possibility and any suggestion you could offer of how to go about that would be much appreciated. Thanks for adding to this discussion.
Port Plaza Mall: so First City is diredted to take a second look! Given all the studies, and heaven knows how much public palaver, why has work been allowed to get this far: demo is apparently under way!
Two magnificent, adjacent sites: Port Plaza Mall and the Assembly Wharfs.
PPM is, by public concern, under review. AW is eyed, by the local sports community, for a multiplex. NOT!
First City: “We create places where friends meet with friends, and where the local community is connected to the neighbourhood, where it is easy to check off multiple items from a daily to-do list, and where there is access by car, by public transit, by bicycle or by foot.” BY THEIR DEEDS AND PROMO, DEMONSTRABLY NOT TRUE!
First City hasn’t a clue.
The designs I have seen are beyond unacceptable, putting aside our 2010 know how, they would have been unacceptable in 1950. Something is very, very wrong!
The two sites are essentially downtown. Downtown, is, historically, the epicenter of Nanaimo heritage: it has grown and prospered (until the last decade) incrementally. And so, too, should these magnificent sites develop incrementally. The goal of 10,000/12,000 downtown population would certainly go a long way to fulfill that dream.
Council has made a huge, huge blunder removing the UCB and approving southern sprawl: that decision will be reviled for decades. Understand, council, your conception of job creation no longer reside in sprawl: nor in forgiving Harmac taxes.
Without critical mass density and a conception of local affinity “. . . places where friends meet with friends, and where the local community is connected to the neighbourhood . . .” is just the usual perfidious boiler plate rubbish an awake planning department would detect a mile away.
If First City’s expertise is “shopping malls” then direct them to where the genre is appropriate. (IMPO: 2010, the genre is inappropriate PERIOD).