Frances Bula header image 2

Sustainable Urbanism Case Study No. 1: Take many uses and mix

November 10th, 2009 · 15 Comments

Urbanismo beat me to the punch in noticing this before I put it up, but here is a story I had in the Globe’s Report on Business section today about the trend to mixing uses in developments and sometimes single buildings.

From everything I can see, Vancouver is the leader in this (just as we are in innovative new interdisciplinary approaches in academic institutions) but others are interested too.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Joe Just Joe

    This is my area of expertise, I will only state that the more mixed use projects I’m around the more I understand why they were seperated years ago.
    That said I don’t think we’re going back anytime soon, mixed use is the way most large projects are going to be. Hopefully the growing pains the early adopters have learned will better the future projects.

  • Mira

    “Little Mountain Housing Complex up in flames
    Social housing complex was slated for demolition
    News1130 Staff VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) 2009-11-10 18:30

    VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The main building of the Little Mountain Housing Complex has collapsed in a huge fire near Queen Elizabeth Park.

    Huge flames have engulfed the main building near Ontario Street and 33rd Avenue as firefighters work to control the blaze. Ash and Burning embers are falling from the sky and the area is in a cloud of thick black smoke

    BC Ambulance says as far as they know, nobody was inside the building when the fire broke out.”

    How convenient is this? Sustainable too! Start demolition on Friday, campers on the grounds on Saturday, Fire on Tuesday. Coincidence?

  • Not Running for Mayor

    What are you implying Mira? That perhaps there was a gangrape that went wrong?

  • “From everything I can see, Vancouver is the leader . . . ” Oh really Frances . . . even in Montpellier they brag . . .

    Beware, now lest we get carried away, yet again, “disappearing up our own fundamental aperture and emerging in the fourth dimension as a needle-thin umber bird”: á la Tom Wolfe on Le Corbusier.

    And in discriminate use of the word “sustainable” requires caution . . . that’s all it is . . a word . . .

    After graduating from SCARP (Thesis: 1989, UD guide lines Expo Lands), and with the help of dear, dear deceased Braham, The Canada Council staked me to a year junketing the country, culminated in “The Canadian City. St, John’s to Victoria. A critical commentary” published 1989. I am still receiving royalties, so some one is reading even today. . . hallelujah!

    Before “The Canadian City” mixed-use downtown residential in Vancouver was unheard of: young buck local planners are quite unaware of that recent piece of professional literature, lo siento.

    And just in case we become too tangled in our fundamentals, The St Lawrence Market, St. Lawrence Centre and my dear friend Jerome Markson’s Market Place, mixed-use par excellence, in Toronto was there in 1988. So were the Halifax Historic Properties, in my opinion, the most beautiful of Canada’s downtowns.

    But that was long ago and “besides the wench is dead”! . . .

    Vancouver downtown mixed use residential was inspired by “The Canadian City” way back. Unfortunately, weak hearted, local planners are unable to acknowledge one of their own: ¡pero asa es vida!

    And having said that junketing the country was fun and sort of puts the local enraptured, sort of in perspective . . .

    Oh yes, a footnote: planners of FCN and the pending NEFC have nothing to crow about, mixed use not withstanding . . .

    Dios bendice amigos

  • Speaking of St. Lawrence in Toronto, one of my favourite projects is the 1977 CityHome development that places non-market housing OVER two schools (which share a gymnasium). We could be doing that in Metro Vancouver, but it requires a level of cooperation and imagination that is often missing. There is consideration for a similar project in Coal Harbour but even though the site has been sitting there for years, it hasn’t happened.

    Another of my favourite mixed use buildings is the Cornerstone at SFU. It has a pub/restaurant, Indian restaurant, sushi, computer store, and other retail space at grade, combined with academic space, neighbourhood dental, offices, the Jewish Hillel clubhouse, and Ellesmere United Church. Above all of this are 100 rental housing units and a green roof.

    There were some challenges, but all in all, it works. BTW, beneath all of this is the geothermal heating system.

  • Andrea C.

    Not Running for Mayor:
    Your last post was incredibly offensive. Please retract. No need to take this board to an unheard of low.

  • Andrea C.


    I did not realize that Mira was the origin of the “gang rape” commentary. I am very sorry!! A close friend of my was subjected to that hell just out of high school (a straight A’s private school student right here in Vancouver), so you may imagine that seeing “gang rape gone wrong” in print just makes me go ballistic.

    As for Mira, what I think of you cannot be put into print. You make me sick. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were nothing more than a paid agent provocateur, the bane of all genuinely progressive people. That’s it, I’m out.

  • Andrea C.

    Oh, yeah. Now that I’ve totally worn out my welcome…. I’ll post on topic.

    Having just returned from Japan for the very first time, I will never envisage the concept of mixed-use zoning/planning the same way again. Now, Japan has mixed use! Restaurant on the 9th floor, bookstore on the 4th, 5th and 6th, offices on the 7th and 8th, retail on the ground, bar in the basement, and a beauty studio on the 2nd. What was on the 3rd floor – lord, I forget. Maybe a daycare. Access to mass transit – a given. Repeat and repeat and repeat in infinite varieties of building styles, densities and target consumers (rich, poor and everything in between).
    GOD, I LOVED IT!!!!!

  • Mixed-use implies anything goes within the described building envelope with minor restriction: air quality and noise transmission etc. (The etc must not get out of hand).

    The building is described by height and volume but most importantly shape.

    The shape of the building must relate to its neighbours and describe and complement the amenity of the public space it surrounds.

    I would not mind, at all, having you guys as neighbours any day . . in fact I thinq you would be great . . .

    May I cadge a cup of milk please?

  • As an architect, I particularly like it when the outside of a building is expressive of what goes on inside. This is one of the delightful aspects of a good mixed use building or development.

  • Andrea C.


    “The building is described by height and volume but most importantly shape.”

    Yes, yes and yes!

    Please tell me you hate the “Yaletown podium” (i.e. 20-storey tower with 2-storey townhouse bookends) as much as I do.

  • Glissando Remmy

    “One good analogy is worth three hours discussion.” (Dudley Field Malone)
    Andrea C., you are a very intriguing character I may say. I could not believe your posts directed at Mira, young lady. Coming from me, you should take this as a compliment!
    In a matter of twelve minutes (according to the time line, I know, I’m very observant) from 9:36 am to 9:48 am you jumped from pure disgust and rage to disbelief and outrage having the time to browse, find, read, process and write back a very nasty note. Then, twelve minutes later at 10:00 am you are already composed, jovial, and full of honey, you take us through nine stories of Japanese crammed quarters, give or take one dirty baby diaper.
    GOD, I LOVED IT!!!!!
    I haven’t read, in print, such a performance since the last reading of “When Harry met Sally” movie script. And I’m referring to Sally’s performance, the restaurant scene of course. About this a bit later though.
    However, an interesting low reached, when not one, not two, not three but four people (attacking with a pack mentality apparently) are insulting in one way or another one writer who used a rather tactless, but not unheard of A-NA-LO- GY.
    Ladies and Gents cut the touchy approach, they don’t quite mix &match with throwing personal attacks, simply turn on your TV’s and Radios; they call it The News! I did not know that the “language” police are “avant-garde”-ing so fast the “signage” police… coming to a theatre near you in a few easy months.
    However, the most alarming thing I’ve noticed was that all four of you have refrained from commenting on the Little Mountain subject but rather punched on the two words taken out of context. Interesting!
    Andrea C., one more thing, easy on the urban design lingo, I could not have made it sound funnier myself even if I’ve tried (I’ll just copy and paste from your last post):

    “The building is described by height and volume but most importantly shape.”
    Yes, yes and yes!”

    You may not realise it but Urbanismo must be smiling by now (no pun intended Urbanismo; you know that
    Say no more… I told you I’ll bring this up a bit later.
    Oh, Andrea C. if you are thinking of getting back at me choose your words wisely, darling!:-)
    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • Glissando Remmy

    The first link in my previous post contains a parenthesis that should not have been there.
    There you go again:

  • Mira

    Thanks, Glissando!

  • Andrea C.

    Somehow I take it GR has been a party in some way to the f***-ing boring and ugly way Yaletown looks (see, I’m avoiding using any big words – and, my gosh, it does help to get the point across). He sure seems mad at me!

    Vancouver has quished out all its mixed-up builiding chances over the years (the business licence dudes have helped a lot). Now, finally realizing how boring-ass it’s all become , the people who make their livin’ throwing up (and I do mean “throwing up” stuff in this here town are gettin’ restless all over again.

    Vancouver is leading – leading up the rear!
    Keep up the good work, GR!


    one of the great unwashed