Tuesday, April 13, 2010

City learns to say no

And now for some good news.

After the City broke their agreement with Rubin Spletzer's plan to build an apartment at the corner of Fort and Assiniboine Ave., the developer looked to build on an acre of City-owned land down the road, on the south side of Assiniboine Avenue and just east of the Midtown/Donald Bridge.

This new development is a 24-storey tower with 12 townhouse units at the tower's base, but the first two floors (ground level and second storey), would be a parkade, with only one pedestrian entrance from the sidewalk.

The density wasn't a problem, but the design. In March, the Downtown Development Committee sent the Spletzer's company, Assiniboine Landing, back to the drawing board to get a design that will "provide a more appropriate interface with the public realm."

As it was, PP&D said in their report to the DDC that the design was "highly vehicle-oriented and pedestrian unfriendly. There is serious concern that this development, which abuts public space on all sides, is to be wrapped by a 20-foot high parkade wall. This will create a stark, unfriendly sidewalk that feels less safe. The public park spaces on the east and west sides would also be affected by the parkade wall and lack of casual surveillance to discourage crime. No amount of landscape or fa├žade detailing can mitigate this problem. Even the townhouse units, that were included to extend active uses and eyes on the street, have no direct connection to the sidewalk and are located 20 feet above grade (on the third storey)."

Someone in PP&D gets it (well, I think a few people do), and more importantly, are starting to be able to act on that. They are still working within a philosophically and functionally broken system, where the arbitrary junk science of traffic engineering and the 'aristocracy of pull' still rule decisions (I wonder if SPC-DD or PP&D could tell the WRHA, Manitoba Hydro, or some other public entity to go back to the drawing board), but this is a start.

The neighborhood between Broadway and Assiniboine is proof (and fair warning to Exchange District boosters) that a strong, socio-economically mixed residential population doesn't make a neighborhood any less anonymous, boring, or dangerous. Broadway-Assiniboine needs new development that creates street life, not repells it, and the Downtown Development Committee and PP&D were right to turn down this design.

Link. Click on Standing Policy Committee on Downtown Development, then Minutes, and then on the March 1 meeting.


Blogger Adele said...

Intersting thoughts on new directions and opinions, further thoughts at http://colinbuchanan.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/is-there-a-link-between-design-and-crime/

11:22 AM  
Blogger vellakaran said...

Very positive news. good post, thanks.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Jac said...

SO good to hear that PP&D gets it!
Thanks for the post.

6:04 PM  
Blogger filmguy said...

This really made my day! I am writing a letter to PP&D to tell them how much I appreciate this decision.
Residential development is welcome (in fact it is badly needed) but the design needs to consider pedestrians first and foremost!

10:56 AM  
Blogger urbandude said...

They need parking because there is no transit in site.

3000 people a day and no transit options = more cars = more parking.

Put the same building on Portage, near U of W or even near the MTS Center on the transit Mall. Parking requirements = 0 = less congestion = more transit users = better city.

Building that facility in the middle of nowhere is actually kind of funny, and stupid.

11:36 PM  

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