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Prince Charles forms a bond with Vancouver

November 10th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Sadly for me, even though I had an invite, I didn’t get to participate in the special forum on sustainable urbanism that was held Saturday at SFU, where the highlight was an appearance by Prince Charles. (Pre-arranged birthday celebrations in other cities intervened — tragic, really.)

But I heard it was inspirational, with the Prince clearly showing familiarity with interesting Vancouver projects (UniverCity at SFU and East Fraserlands were two featured topics of the day).For an idea of what was discussed, you can read Michael Geller’s blog entry here or the Vancouver Sun’s coverage here. I understand SFU is also going to post, at some point, video of the day’s events.

The forum ended with a formal memorandum of understanding signed between SFU’s Urban Studies Department and the Prince’s Foundation to work on developing some kind of joint education programs in sustainable urbanism. It’s one more sign — in spite of the Greek chorus of people who like to diss Vancouver’s development — of the way the world is beating a path to our city to look at the way we’ve handled new development and growth.

An enterprising person could start a small business doing nothing but show visiting planners, politicians, architects, geography students and others the various interesting new parts of Vancouver because this city gets so many of those kinds of visitors every year. I expect that during the Olympics, you’ll barely be able to walk down a sidewalk in downtown Vancouver without running into those kinds of tours.

The fact is, whether we like it or not, Vancouver has had a chance to experiment more than other cities, thanks to the influx of Asian capital, the popularity of this city as a second-home resort, its continued attraction for immigrants from other places in Canada and the world, and a culture of trying out new forms of development. Does that mean we don’t have our own special forms of awful sprawl? No. Or that we haven’t had some hideous failures in dense urban development? No.

But it’s a region where people talk about development and density, sustainable urbanism and the importance of transit to a high degree. As many people noted recently when I had a profile of the city’s planning director, Brent Toderian, in Vancouver magazine — in what other city would the director of planning be someone anyone would know or care about? But in Vancouver, planning matters.

Which is why the Prince, thanks to some assiduous negotiations between SFU’s Urban Studies director, Anthony Perl, and the head of the Prince’s Foundation, Hank Dittmar, came to Vancouver knowing a lot about it and prepared to admire some of the things we’ve done here. Which doesn’t mean people here — especially you critics here on my blog — shouldn’t push for more and better sustainable urbanism.

But this agreement between SFU and the Prince is one more way to create the conditions necessary to keep setting the bar higher.

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  • My maternal Grandfather was German: resident, with a family in the UK during WW1. He distinguished himself working for the British secret service in determining the strength of the German navy: there are books about him: Google Maximillian Schlutz. That being secret and my mother with a German name she was literally stoned in the streets.

    Accordingly the family reverted to my grand mother’s maiden name.

    Similarly, the British royal family, Sax-Coburg and Gotha’s, did likewise for th same reason: they are not Windsor.

    Putting that aside I am not a fan of P of W: he has a pretentious, deluded and very much distorted sense of urban design and community. He is a joke!

    Poundbury is England’s Disney world: essentially inaccessible to the like of thee and me.

    Designed by ridiculous architectural cartoon figures, Quinlan Terry and Leon Krier it is kitsch at worst and out-of-sight expensive.

    Born British, I prefer altermondialista, I am not a Royal watcher!

  • flowmass

    Most correct-thinking folks are all for Sustainable Urbanism. Increasingly, the public is becoming aware of the costs of sprawl. Howver, the readers here should look at the population-growth projections for Metro Vancouver on the MV web site.
    Where are these newcomers going to live?
    We can probaly figure that out. But, until we get some form of a Regionally MANDATED development plan around urban growth, sprawl and transportation, the 23 statelets in Metro Vancouver will NEVER agree on what we need. 23 tails will be wagging the dog.
    Some should do a study of how the ‘statelets’ in MV are adhering to or will adhere to the Livable Region Strategic Plan.
    Or else!

  • Frances, Just read your stuff in today’s G&M about living over the store . . .

    Great stuff: how to solve Transit’s problem: buy your groceries and stuff downstairs.

    I hop there are enough stores to go ’round!

  • It was a great article, I saw it on the RSS feed yesterday.

    One issue that rarely seems to come up in discussions about sustainable urbanism or mixed use is that it doesn’t need to imply new high rises — height is not essential for having everything you need nearby. Height can be an easy way to achieve density (needed to support businesses like hardware stores and grocers), but look at neighbourhoods like Commercial Drive — homes have among the highest walkscores in North America, but are rarely more than 3 stories high and most people live in ground-oriented homes, whether giant 1910 homes chopped into suites or more recently built duplexes and townhomes.

    We can solve Urbanismo’s transit problems without high rises (as well as with them, but some people don’t like them). And for Flow Mass, we can convert a lot of older neighbourhoods into higher density using the Commercial Drive model, which will allow a lot more people into existing areas without changing their characters dramatically — except by bringing in enough people to support local businesses thereby reducing the need to drive.

  • Nancy Hall

    Hi Frances! Looks like the Prince was in Vancouver to set up a number of strategic alliances. He also spent several hours at Inspire Health (an integrated cancer care clinic) with doctors and patients and left with an agreement to explore collaborations with his Foundation, Inspire Health and a US Foundation. He was reportedly well versed and passionate about integrated approaches. Coincidentally, Inspire Health is a one of a kind in Canada.