Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

Monday, May 5, 2008

City of Tomorrow

Living in the City of Tomorrow

Can you live in the "City of Tomorrow"?

I might ask this a few times in coming blog columns or articles or whatever you would call these. But today I think I will be focusing on living space and how you will be getting places to do the things you do every day.

Where will you be living in the city of tomorrow... well I can't speak for everyone so I will talk about many of the average people out there who will be either renting or buying lower priced living spaces. I am also going to use the City of Port Moody where I live here in British Columbia as an example. Your mileage may vary.

Here they are looking strongly at "densification" and doing so in ways that are controlled and in the ways that won't detract from living here. Densification means increasing the number of people living in an area without increasing the amount of area they take up.

Here it means a number of things based on what is important to the people. For one thing Heritage is important to the people of Port Moody so they wish to preserve the heritage features of Port Moody Centre. Port Moody Centre encompasses much of the original settlement of Port Moody from the time when the first Canadian Trans Continental Railway was completed with Port Moody being the Western Terminus. That means there are residential neighbourhoods and commercial neighbourhoods that are to be considered in the "Heritage Zone" to be protected in some manner.

There is also a residential development spreading up Eagle Mountain to the North called "Heritage Mountain" and "Newport Village" at the head of Burrard Inlet where the Civic Centre and a major density core has been developed. In addition there is "College Park" at the foot of Burnaby Mountain where Simon Fraser University is and "Ioco" another heritage site across the inlet.

Areas between the Civic Centre & Newport Village and Port Moody Centre's Heritage Zone will be filled with a combination of residential and retail construction. At the Civic Centre area in the east there will be a mix of High-rise and Mid-rise apartment buildings with commercial property and parking beneath them. Spreading westward along the south edge of the inlet and north of the railroad tracks, which were a major part of Port Moody's early growth, will be 3 - 5 story low-rise apartment buildings with commercial property at ground level. This follows the main arterial through the city. This continues with some older residential property to the south running up to a nature preserve running along the escarpment which marks the south edge of the city rising up to the city of Coquitlam. This older residential neighbourhood has some heritage quaility, but is not in the preserved zone it is contiguous with it though blending into to it to the west.

There we run into the Heritage Zone proper and many older homes on the heritage register. Between there and the railroad tracks are the commercial heritage buildings marking the original commercial centre of Port Moody. A bit further west and we reach the hillside running up first to College Park and then up Burnaby Mountain proper.

That gives a bit of background...

There will be some continued development up Eagle Mountain, but they don't want to just plough down the 100 - 300 foot tall Douglas Fir and Red Cedar growing on the mountain and ruining the natural ecology. The Heritage mountain development for the most part is single family dwellings. Newport Village is a combination of high-rises and mid-rises as mentioned and blends into more like I said reaching towards where a proposed rapid transit station is to be. The areas of single family dwellings off Heritage Mountain neighbourhood will be increased in density by allowing for secondary suites and for "Carriage Houses" in the yards off the lanes. Carriage Houses are garages and similar buildings built with secondary suites on a second floor or sometimes on the main floor too forgoing the garage aspect. It doubles the density of the property without sprawling it to additional property.

There will be incentive too for people subdividing larger property, but keeping in mind for some neighbourhoods that it is the very spacing of houses and trees between them that gives the feel to the neighbourhood.

So where will people be living? Many will still live in single family dwellings that they own. A much larger percentage will live in strata property like low, mid, and high-rise buildings - that is owning a part of that property like a condo or townhouse even. Some of those units will be put up for rent of course where allowed. But there also still will be rental apartments as well as those secondary suites in houses and carriage houses.

So for many they will get up in the morning in their cozy condo take an elevator down to the lobby and walk a few blocks to a transit station where they will travel by automated light rail transit to a location either near their work or a short bus ride from it.

Others will leave their home on the mountain and grab a community shuttle down to the transit station where they will meet up with the other travellers and continue on their journey.

There will be still others who will take there car in to work. Hopefully it will be fewer than has been and the improvements to the roads will help reduce travel times and thus reduce their fuel consumption in the ever more fue frugal vehicles.

I have heard that the suites in the high-rises are rather tiny compared to single family dwellings or even your typical townhouse. There is a price for living in the sky. My parent's townhouse is huge! It is quite functional, though perhaps larger than what they need right now.

I am not sure if the mid and low-rise buildings are the same for suite size?

I have been in a nice coach house in nearby Vancouver... of course this was a real coach house and you could still see the fittings for the posts that were used to tie the horses to. But it was a very nice sized cozy one-bedroom home. in the back of a Victorian house. I guess a hundred years ago most people at a certain level of affluence had their own horses and carriage. I guess I am meaning a bit over a hundred years, like pre-1905.

A friend of mine had a large property in what was to become the heritage area. He renovated a heritage house and converted it to suites to rent. He then built a garage with a 2 bedroom suite above and actually two commercial shops on the main level. Even as he was completing the commercial shops, he purchased and moved another one story heritage house from another lot - the house was slated to be destroyed so the now commercial property could be developed - onto that lot he was developing. He put in a new basement with a commercial space and rented the house as commercial property.

The city was happy to have two heritage buildings renovated - one saved from demolition - and four commercial properties added in addition. the property was underused and still has the great trees on it that were there from the beginning and a nice yard and room for lawns and gardens. My friend gets the revenue from the suites in the house and "barn" as wel as the commercial properties. It doesn't change the nature of the neighbourhood either as the property is on the edge of the commercial and residential area of the now Heritage zone.

People in the Heritage Zone will be for a large part within walking distance of a rapid transit station as well or on a short ride from a community shuttle to one.

For schooling, they are encouraging walking pools where a parent supervises groups of children walking to school rather than each parent driving their kid the short distance. (I still don't understand how kids can no longer walk to school?)

The commercial properties I kept mentioning on the lower floors of the buildings will have many functions including things like grocery stores. That means that people will be able to get many things they need by simply taking the elevator down and walking a block or two if that.

But... can you live without sitting in your car for between one and three hours a day? Now of course simply swapping sitting in a car for sitting in a train or bus is hardly so much of a bargain... But if you can get a chance to work in a commercial property within 15 minutes of home by public transit or walking? ... !

I think I might have too much to say and perhaps have tried to say too much here. I might try to speak a bit more directly to different points on this subject in future. For instance there are many who ar enot happy about the automated light rail transit coming through town.

~ Darrell

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