The city has commissioned and urban design study for downtown.
Urbanismo was not chosen.
Let's see where this goes and compare!

Paris has the Eiffel Tower! London, Big Ben! Egypt, the pyramids! Chemainus has its murals! What does Nanaimo have? Ummmm, it's going to need something if we want to attract all those bushy tailed conventioneers and cruise ship tourists!

Essentially RENEWAL NANAIMO: 2002 is a vision for everyone: locals, neighbours, conventioneers, students and visitors from distant parts. But it is going to need something unique, something out of this world, to draw them here.

Downtown Crescent. This vision proposes a textured approach that has as much to do with the spaces between buildings as with solid objects. It is a vision to inspire collective efforts of private individuals. Only they can bring about the renaissance and they must be confident their efforts will be supported.

But before we can entertain all these wonderful pipe dreams of a prosperous culture and art center downtown, a busy convention center and thriving tourist industry it would be best to ponder the advice of the excellent MAIN STREET REPORT. For downtown and its components, to be successful, we must first conceive of attractions to make it interesting for all these people to come here in the first place.

So, RENEWAL NANAIMO: 2002 envisions the following: And let's start by making life easy, like, waiving theoretical seismic up dates and purging building restrictions of more onerous clauses. If downtown heritage buildings are in imminent danger of earth shaking collapse why have they not done so in the last hundred years: There have been many earth quakes. Vancouver faced the same developing Gastown. Eventually, that city opted to waiver the requirements.

We stress an incremental approach creating a unique downtown image phased, step-by-step, gauging the efficacy of each project as they impinge on the whole: To make Nanaimo a viable, alternative conference destination to Whistler and Victoria. And, heed carefully this warning,

B.C.E. Place: Toronto.
Galeria designed by
Santiago Calatrava.

if Nanaimo is not unique, when a mainland bridge is eventually completed, it will languish as just another whiz by windshield wonder: despite yet another concrete convention center!

Nanaimo has been working through three versions of downtown plans authored by planner Ray Spaxman since 1993. Evidently to little effect. There is a more coherent assessment.

Carefully perusing the 74 pages of the Spaxman report it is difficult to retrieve any aspects of the plan that may define Nanaimo as uniquely Nanaimo: only a timid reference to the problem of North Nanaimo and no concrete recommendations on what to do. Indeed, no reference is made, either, to the catastrophic (for downtown) mistake, recommended in the 1993 plan, to orient the Port theatre entrance away from Harbourfront Plaza and downtown!


1.Nanaimo downtown We want Nanaimo downtown to be conceived of as an urban cultural park, similar to Granville Island, Vancouver, but with many people living there, resplendent with a variety of amenities from academics, jazz clubs, shopping precinct specializations, exotic gourmet foods, restaurants all emphasizing cultural activities with a unique twist in whatever form our

Galeria de Galiano.
At the Great National Land Building.

imaginations take us. We want to reinforce the connection between downtown and the sea front park.

We want a Nanaimo Art Gallery downtown to be a real venue for serious artists, not as it is currently languishing as a retail emporium for Sunday dabblers: taking exorbitant commissions to boot!

A true urban cultural park will host a diversity of serious art venues, like, for instance The Cambie Cafe on Victoria Crescent.

Furthermore, we visualize living spaces above the shops- not forgetting, of course, that everyday household retail must be available for local residents - so long as they do not rise higher than, say, three stories. We do not want high rises fronting the seashore blocking the views for every one else!

2. To get the ball rolling, to attract the attention of the world, why not stage an international design competition for an out-of-this-world-attraction: Galeria de Galiano, a stained glass cover along the length of Commercial Street, extending the length of Victoria Crescent. We name it after the Captain of the Spanish vessel Sutil, one of a few survey ships that marked our coast.

Leeds, Yorkshire, UK: Victoria Quarter has such a canopy. It's a rage!

Galeria de Galiano.
Looking North from Harbour Park Plaza.

This we see as a civic undertaking.

The advantage of the galleria, poor Capt. Galiano lost his life at the battle of Trafalgar, by the way, is that it is an integral part of the town it touches everyone: a day-in, day-out attraction. It is close to everything central. As exigencies permit it may be built incrementally. It is open for anyone and everyone to see and touch. It will be spectacular drawing gasps of admiration. Paris! Eiffel Tower! Eat our dust!

3. We want to facilitate the fast pedestrian ferry to the mainland, identified as 5 on the urban cultural park plan, and welcome, warmly, cruise ship visitors with a park-like waterfront setting.

Welcome the Alaska cruise ships with an improvement to the CPR Seaspan sorting dock into a welcoming park, identified as 4. The cruise ships will include Nanaimo on their itinerary when Nanaimo has something to offer.

The Port of Vancouver expects more than 300 cruise ship departures to the Alaska route this coming season. Each of those ships sail with hundreds, some with twenty-five hundred, passengers. Which begs the question, why do they not include Nanaimo on their itinerary? The answer, of course: cruise ships will visit when Nanaimo re-creates itself as a unique destination worth visiting. One thing is certain the cruise industry potential is far greater than anything else Nanaimo has so far entertained.

No more parking blacktop for as far as the eye can see! Provide wrap-around parking garages following the curvature of the street between the fast pedestrian ferry terminal, cruise ship Welcome Park, and the unique shopping precinct, identified as 3, befitting the unique location.

We see spatially integrated parking garages, show as the lavender orange slices on the urban cultural park plan, as an essential part of this downtown concept. Expensive they may be but such buildings are not unknown locally and if in doubt as to that expense, ask the question: Who wants to visit Nanaimo to see blacktop and parking?

Nanaimo Jitney
At the Western terminal of Fitzwilliam Street.

4. Another out-of-this-world-attraction! The Nanaimo Jitney, operating similar to San Francisco's cable cars. Connect the pedestrians coming off the mainland fast ferry to downtown, the crescent's residential precincts, the Old City Quarter on Fitzwilliam, commuter Inter-modal center on Albert Street, and on to Malaspina University College. A rail adapted Jitney would service commuter from Woodgrove via an inter-modal center to Nanaimo Collishaw Airport and stops between.

Nanaimo Jitney
At the Gabriola, fast ferry terminal.

This we see as a private initiative.

5. Inter-modal Center. Take advantage of the E. & N. Provide a transportation focus as an Inter-modal center connecting all the littoral developments for commuters and tourists: connect locally, north to Terminal Park to Woodgrove and Campbell River and South to Nanaimo Collishaw Airport and Victoria.

7. Integrate the conference centre organically: Finance it on a self-liquidating basis. Make it a living component of downtown. A conference center is more than a black box that draws delegate in on a Friday night only to disgorge them Sunday - without so much of a glance at the city in between. It is an integral part the city that may be used as much by locals as conventioneers.

An earlier proposal:
Integrated conference centre
with Port Theatre and Bastion Hotel facilities.

Identified as 2, in the urban culture park between The Port Theatre and the shopping precinct, it uses both facilities and that of the contiguous urban environment as attractions for conferees.

Sharing space with the theatre it is offers an opportunity to redress the mistaken orientation of the theatre entrance away from Harbour Front Plaza. Similarly to the cruise ship's visitors, conventioneers will flock to Nanaimo when there is something for them to come to.

8. Malaspina University College. At least some component, say the arts, design and literary faculties, should relocate in the urban cultural park.

9. Parks and Escarpments. Development of Nanaimo has run rough shod over the terrain, wiping out much beautiful rock out crops and ravines. Rather than hide them behind banal structures flaunt the as an assets.

10.RENEW NANAIMO: 2002 envisions the crescent as a stylish, mixed-use, maximum seven stories, residential precinct. Allow usage to be open, so long as neighbourly respect for quiet, repose and clean, odor free air is recognized.

Heritage residential, pink on the downtown crescent plan, on the Western part of the crescent is for the most part, in existence now. Make it all duplex. Reduce the minimum lot size to encourage infill housing. Limit the use of materials to heritage type finishes.

Given such a theoretical layout the downtown crescent housing, potentially, can increase its population, including the increase accrued in the Heritage residential area, to about 12,000 souls. Another 2,000 in over-the-store accommodation in the urban cultural park when existing buildings are up-dated. Such a critical mass makes for a reasonably, healthy, addition to the downtown attractive to new enterprises and retail outlets.

"Build no little plans . . . " Architect Daniel Burnham: On his plan for Chicago, 1916.

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