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Vancouverism in Boston & Revisiting 'the Zone'

We’re halfway through the worldwide collective ski holiday in British Columbia that is the Vancouver Olympics. What have we learned? The first three notes of “Oh Canada” and NBC’s Olympics theme are the same; cheese does not heal deep muscle bruises when applied topically; and Vancouver is the most livable city in the world.

What does Vancouver have that Boston doesn’t? For one thing, a style of urban planning named after it. One of the people at the heart of downtown Vancouver’s stunning redevelopment into a universally lauded example of livable urban design was in Boston recently; acclaimed urban planner Larry Beasley joins us this week to talk about what Boston can learn from Vancouver.

As part of the dicussion, we’ll talk about the Chiofaro Company’s controversial proposal to redevelop the Harbor Garage with a tall pair of mixed-use waterfront towers. Don Chiofaro shows off his design:

Also this week, there’s a new exhibit at the Howard Yezerski Gallery chronicling Boston’s bygone red light district: the Combat Zone. We’ll visit the exhibit and swap memories with legendary Combat Zone performer Louise Wightman, AKA Princess Cheyenne!

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  • Wanda

    How does Vancouver AVOID the high density problems of the projects of Boston, NYC, and Chigago??? What makes positive liveable high density urban development different and feasible? Is it purely the education and income level of the residents???

  • Beth

    In order to sell the idea of more dense urban living, developers must help people shed the notion that urban schools are ineffective. People constantly talk about how they are going to move out of the city for better schooling. The suburban communities with “better” schools are unaffordable but also, Boston has a very good school system with many schools in existing neighborhoods including the South End (I can think of three of them right off the top of my head)

  • Fishercat

    Has the development of development of downtown Vancover slowed the growth and spread of suburbs and urban sprawl outside the city?

  • jeff

    It’s interesting that this show has completely avoided the issue of homelessness in Vancouver. The Eastside of Vancouver is full of seedy hotels drug addicts and so on.

    If you want to see the ugly underbelly if Vancouver.


  • jeff

    As far as I can see this will never happen in Boston.
    You have to make over 150k a year to even afford a small one bedroom condo. Give me a break affordable housing in Boston is a joke.

  • Jim

    Please ask the fat mayor of Boston to restore Boston’s Combat zone. i grew up near the combat zone and i believe we can get a 500% increase in affordable housing if we reinstate the adult center. i believe my fellow chinese brothers and sisters made a BIG mistake doing away with it. the zone is the only way to prevent big development from building luxury and unaffordable condos.

  • Jasonik

    I’ve been to Vancouver once, so I can’t really describe what it’s like to live there. Still, the city was so beautiful and open. I never felt oppressed by the scale of the development. I think a key point is that the downtown was actually made people to live there and it would seem that actual conscious thought was put into that. As opposed to empty statements.

  • http://abodesignco.com Kelly

    I’ve been to Boston (once)…beautiful city & architecture as well. Live in Vancouver…and and no Fishercat development in DT Vancouver has not slowed down growth & spread outside of city. Now that it’s the most expensive city in the world to live in…more and more are finding homes outside of the city..but thanks to our transit system, it’s becoming easier everyday to move around (look into Laneway Housing as well – it’s new but many locals are concerned it will make the city more “slum-like”. And Jeff, even our politicians are avoiding homelessness by shipping the homeless outside the city…but with our warm climate and social (although diminishing as I type) programs, it’s the best place for the homeless!

  • http://barnwoodurbanism.blogspot.com/ Molly

    One of the key facets to livability (or liveability, as they write in Canada) is choice. Larry Beasley mentions this briefly during the interview. Typically, developers do not build family housing in dense urban environments because it is not economically as profitable as single units. Vancouver is recognized as the most livable city because it offers family-size units (2 and 3 bedrooms) in townhouse and other styles.

    After watching the video, I have to agree with Mayor Menino. A principle of good urban design is building height that steps down to the waterfront so that more people can benefit from views to the water. This is also a principle upheld in planning practice in Vancouver: maintaining view corridors to the water and mountains. This is in part why Vancouver housing towers are so slender. In fact, the floor plates may be as small as just 6 units per floor. The narrow towers allow more light and air, especially in combination with another rule that sets a minimum distance between towers. The BRA should consider various such urban design principles for Boston’s zoning.

    @Wanda: These are not public housing projects. They are market-rate and affordable housing projects (units offered for sale at a lower price to those who make less than a certain percentage of the area’s median income), which yields a mix of people with varying incomes in the same building/complex. This is very different than a high concentration of many people of low income in high density housing.

  • Greenbostonian

    These guys paid too much for the site so they need to build to the heavens to make any money…in a market that has converted office space into Blackberrys; condos that are available in all neighborhoods; and retail space in recession…What is Prudential thinking? Do they invest all their money this way?
    Bigger is not better…

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