Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Blooming Chicago and not so blooming Vancouver

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the condition of Vancouver's streets and parks.  Many people, myself included, do not think they are as well kept and attractive as they used to be.  I have written about this before...Vancouver needs a good spring cleaning....http://gellersworldtravel.blogspot.ca/2009/04/spring-cleaning-for-vancouver.html and there was my recent post regarding the weeds along the False Creek Seawalk.

One of my friends who I greatly admire often tells me that I am too hard on my home town.  Vancouver has so much going for it, especially by international standards. He thinks I should refrain from being so critical.  He may be right.

But I found myself thinking about the look and feel of Vancouver's streets on my recent trip to Chicago. Why? Well just take a look at these photos taken in their downtown.  Now I realize Chicago is a major, world class city, but we want to be a major world class city too....and the greenest city in the world to boot.

So I would like to see us do more to beautify the downtown. We don't have to do as much as Chicago...its urban landscaping has developed and expanded over many years. But perhaps we can start with the Art Gallery forecourt.

Now, as a former Trustee of the VAG, I know the gallery is short of funds, and there is some question whether this space is Provincial or City territory. But surely we can do better than this...I'm frankly embarrassed every time I walk by it...and I'm sure many other Vancouverites are too.

If neither the City nor Province want to spend the money, maybe they can invite some citizens or a corporation to beautify the space in return for short term naming rights...just a thought. I'm sure there are other ideas to improve the area in a cost effective way.

If we can't re-do the front courtyard, surely city staff can do something about this 'planter' on Georgia Street. And the weeds along the street.  This is not a question of money...it's a matter of attitude, in my opinion.

To be fair, the City has put hanging baskets along the Granville Street Mall that add to the area, and there are some lovely gardens at Denman and Beach and elsewhere. But compared to Chicago, or Richmond, (just check out No 2 Road and Gilbert for two examples of what a small amount of money and care can accomplish) or Trail BC, we have a long way to go.  Perhaps Sadhu Aufochs Johnston, who came from Chicago and is now Vancouver's Deputy City Manager responsible for the Greening of the City, will take this on as one of his projects :-)


Anonymous said...

I have been very impressed by the way local community groups/individuals have taken to cultivating boulevards and traffic circles in Vancouver's residential areas. Maybe there is scope here for some private enterprise initiative - or a role for the Business Improvement Associations to be seen to be doing something to improve their own environment. No doubt a small plaque giving credit where it is due could be included in the design.

Anonymous said...

The VAG lawn is regularly trashed by protests and camps so wood chips may be only solution as long as those kinds of activities are tolerated there.

That planter is a disguised steam vent, it's supposed to have planting on it, but it's mainly an ashtray.

Michael Geller said...

Stephen...you may be onto something. Sadhu Johnston promptly replied to my blog advising that most of the planting in Chicago is paid for by the business community. This warrants further investigation.

He also advised the City is redoing the front courtyard of the VAG next year, and may be seeking ideas. My personal recommendation would be to pave the area with decorative pre-cast pavers with some planters.

And yes, the planter on Georgia does hide a vent. But that's no reason for it to be so neglected.

Anonymous said...

Apart from Granville Mall, a legacy from a bygone time, Vancouver would never build a sidewalk that wide.

Vancouver would never allow such a huge sidewalk to be narrowed by plants. The space would have to be used for bike lanes instead.

There's smaller scale beautification of commercial streets in Vancouver, but there's not a lot of it and maintenance does seem to be a problem. I see planters with weeds and garbage, lights that no longer work, etc.

Anonymous said...

I don't know whether you have walked Denman or Davie Streets recently. They are most unattractive. The shop keepers, for the most part, take little interest or pride in presenting a welcoming or appealing presence. Davie Street is a mess with litter everywhere.

South Granville BIA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
South Granville BIA said...

Virtually all 22 Vancouver BIAs have some form of litter pickup programs - many in cooperation with the Coast Foundation. Any flower baskets or planters you see on commercial streets have been paid for by BIAs.

BIA resources come from the same business community that pays some of the highest property taxes in the region.

Michael Geller said...

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and comment on this blog posting...one of my most popular ever! And thanks to all the BIA's that have contributed to the beautification of the city...but there's much more to be done!

Jeff @ Housing for traveling nurses said...

Chicago has always been a great place a top most travel spot with the most amazing features.

Ian Bell said...

I would love to visit this beautiful place and enjoy its beautiful tourist destinations...

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