Posts filed under ‘urban design’

Hudson Grand opening

I took a tour of the new Hudson heritage renovation yesterday. I wrote about it here.

City of Victoria heritage planner Steve Barber said the Hudson will “spark a rejuvenation of the Downtown core” and hoped that the Hudson will spur further work that will strengthen Downtown’s position as the centre of the region.

The Times-Colonist covers it here. Hey, how did I get in those photos? There’s some great city photos in that gallery, too.

A quick video tour of one of the corner loft suites follows:

September 25, 2010 at 10:19 pm 1 comment

New brew pub proposed in Rock Bay

My new article for Vibrant Victoria is up. Don and Bonnie Bradley are looking for a rezoning so they can sell their own beer at “The Moon Under Water”, their English-style pub on Bay Street:

Hoping to head off the rezoning headaches experienced when they investigated opening a pub in the old needle exchange building on Cormorant Street, the Bradleys searched for a location that had industrial zoning (including restaurant and brewery uses) close to Downtown’s border population. Unfortunately for them, in order to sell their own beer in the restaurant, a liquor primary license was also required, triggering the rezoning they hoped to avoid. Antiquated “Tied House” laws, drafted before the era of the neighbourhood brew pub and with national breweries in mind, have been the bane of the Victoria publican’s existence for generations, forcing pubs to sell competitors’ products unless special permission was granted.

Don and Bonnie vow to press on with their chosen location and are in the process of installing fireplaces, skylights, furniture and brewing equipment in the former Direct Buy location at 350-B Bay Street. Named “The Moon Under Water” after George Orwell’s article on the hypothetical ideal pub, the Bradley’s alehouse will be modeled after traditional English self-serve pubs.

Read more.

April 29, 2010 at 10:13 pm 2 comments

Temporary car-free Government St. proposed

At the last DVBA “Late Night Great Night” meeting Wednesday we discussed the upcoming Navy Day celebration, on May 4, 2010.

In light of the fact that there will be upwards of 10,000 sailors in town the topic of closing Government Street came up. I strongly agreed we should pursue this for a couple of nights during the celebration. I made the case that when you have that many people downtown (like when three cruise ships are in port) the sidewalks overflow anyway, especially if there are buskers on the sidewalk (which is a good thing, right?)

Ideally it would be from Humboldt up to Fort or possibly Yates, just in the evening till about 10 pm or so. After the crowds die down you want the activity of car traffic to return.

A City rep was at the meeting and we all thought it would serve as a good experiment for future consideration.

The committee wants to ensure that there are plenty of family-friendly activities surrounding the celebration. We also talked about the best ways of informing the visiting sailors of Victoria’s amenities (beyond the pubs and strip clubs). I thought the sailors, all of them hailing from around the Pacific Rim, would appreciate knowing the whereabouts of various authentic ethic restaurants. I imagine those sailors are pretty bored with the cafeteria fare served on board ship and would eagerly patronize a place with more-or-less homestyle cooking. Then again, I’m sure many will be satisfied with McDonalds.

March 19, 2010 at 12:16 am Leave a comment

Troubled bridge over waters

I attended tonight’s special Council meeting on choosing one of the three options for replacing the Johnson Street Bridge.

The event was anti-climactic as only a few hours before, word came that the anticipated funding was not coming.

Fortin vowed to plow ahead regardless, saying any delay would be costly, using the example of the Burnside Gorge Community Centre.

Councillor Hunter highlighted the maintenance problems with the current bridge, mentioning in particular the “obsolete” electric motors. Folks, those motors were presumably built the year Lenin died. The fact that they have lasted so long is an engineering miracle. They have paid for themselves many times over and the fact that we are debating the hardy motors’ usefulness in the year 2009 is astounding. I do agree they need to be replaced. Now, I don’t know if the motors currently powering the bridge are special but a quick Internet search brings up the fact that ordinary heavy-duty 100 h.p. motors cost well under $10,000. It’s comparable to scrapping a car because the old oil filter is dirty.

Hunter also said that the full $63 million cost of the bridge could be paid for without a tax increase, supposedly because of the City’s borrowing power. But it should be noted that this would come at a profound cost. How would this affect other needed projects like the Crystal Pool or new Central Library? Kudos to Councillor Madoff for pointing out that borrowing will indeed impact other needs.

Councillor Young said the City should enlist an engineer with an interest in preserving the bridge to report to Council. This brought an angry rebuke from Mayor Fortin that City of Victoria engineers are unbiased. However, this will not quell discussion that the current dismal state of the bridge is in part due to deferred maintenance. Was Engineering’s efforts to properly maintain the JSB hamstrung by years of stingy City Councils? Or has Engineering been seduced by the once-in-a-career opportunity to build a true world-class bridge?

Councillor Chandler deserves praise for criticizing the poor quality of the bridge renderings, especially the ones on the web. It was only at tonight’s meeting that a more diverse range of drawings were presented. Still, as they appear on the Internet, the renderings are too small to be of much use.

In the end, Council sided with the Community Advisory Committee and chose the Rolling Bascule version (version 2). I concur. It is the design most sympathetic to the Upper Harbour’s industrial aesthetic.

September 25, 2009 at 12:10 am 2 comments

Urinal finally installed

The long awaited permanent urinal was installed this week in Downtown Victoria at the corner of Pandora and Government Streets. I’ve written about this long saga in earlier posts but in short, the automatic pop-up urinals were deemed impractical and a modernized European-style “pissoir” was installed instead.

Urinal. Photo: Globe & Mail

Time will tell if they are a success. Are they too exposed? Are they in an area that gets enough traffic?

September 7, 2009 at 10:06 pm Leave a comment

Is the Johnson Street Bridge a “beater”?

Many of us have owned beater cars. A beater is not necessarily a car that needs a lot of repairs. Heck, a Ferrari needs constant maintenance. A beater is a car that has passed the point where preventative maintenance is cost-effective. The owner of a beater acknowledges that the car is on its last legs and only does enough basic maintenance (fluids, filters etc.) to keep the car running until it’s finally sent to the scrapyard.

Back in April, Mayor Dean Fortin said,

“Do we spend $25-to-$30 million to rehabilitate a bridge that in 40 years we’re going to have to replace and spend another $50 million, or do you spend $35-to-$40 million to have a bridge that lasts 100 years? It’s a difficult place to be.”

Now the figure is $63 million including a healthy contingency fund. But why is the bridge a beater? It was only ten years ago that the City said the newly-refurbished bridge had “several more decades” of useful life left in it (providing follow-up rustproofing and painting was done).

Well, it turns out that crucial maintenance was never done. Why? City Engineers Mike Lai and Peter Sparanese told a special meeting of the DRA Board Monday evening that wrapping the bridge (to protect the waters from lead paint) was too expensive, time-consuming and difficult. The Upper Harbour is host to vital ship repair operations and the bridge itself is an important commuter link that can’t be off limits during the time the bridge is repaired and painted (although it apparently wasn’t problematic to close the bridge for a week to film a Alicia Silverstone movie).

Obviously, at some point in the last decade City Hall (Council, staff or both) decided the bridge was past the point of no return. Tough (and necessary) new environmental regulations meant that the old way of painting the bridge is impossible and the allowable method was impractical. So why was this a surprise in the year 2009? Citizens should have been informed as soon as it became known that the bridge was essentially irreparable in order that replacement funding could be planned and budgeted. Mayor Fortin has been at the Council table since 2002. I would be interested in knowing whether this repainting dilemma was ever brought to Council’s attention during that time.

Is the Johnson Street Bridge a beater? It sure is now.

September 2, 2009 at 11:22 pm 5 comments

Johnson Street Bridge

I attended a meeting of the JohnsonStreetBridge.org group tonight. Headed by Ross Crockford, Yule Heibel and Mat Wright, they offer sober second thought regarding the rush to replace the venerable and iconic Johnson Street Bridge. You can read more about the meeting by reading the live blog record at the site:

http://johnsonstreetbridge.org/

Ross brought up some questions the City will need to answer. Like why hasn’t the heritage assessment been made public? Why hasn’t the cost of rehabilitating the existing bridge been broken down separate from the total cost? How realistic is the construction timeline? Will it be completed before March 31, 2011 when the government funding turns into a pumpkin? In that scenario, will Victoria have to pay back the two-thirds cost? Would taxpayers be on the hook for the entire $63+ million? Why wasn’t this payback scenario explained in the Spring when Victoria applied for the grant?

The City is going full-steam-ahead on this project despite the lack of public consultation. Recall that the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre went to a referendum and that a simple cookie-cutter arena that cost half of what the bridge is supposed to cost. Recall also that the arena went way over budget and was months overdue.

August 26, 2009 at 1:03 am 3 comments

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