Downtown: Nanaimo BC.

IMPORT STETCHING. How do imports get stretched? . . . "a painter uses canvas and pigment, or a sculptor uses stone or metal and possibly all those materials are imported where the artists are at work. But materials only account for a small portion of the worth of a work of art; the value of the materials has been stretched within the conduit. The value added by the artist isn't a multiplier of export work, yet there it is. Works of art are extreme and vivid examples of import stretching, but other kinds of producers also stretch imports."

"The Nature of Economies." Jane Jacobs.

Similarly local composers may stretch ink and paper into internationally popular songs and music. Indeed, the possibibilites are copious. And there is good reason to believe that this may take place in Nanaimo's downtown culture park.

And that is how Nanaimo's downtown culture park contributes to the economy.


culture park.


urban space.


Foundry restored.

VICC: Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
NCPVA: Nanaimo Centre for the Performing and Visual Arts.

The red lines describe a network of pedestrian movement comnnecting places of interest

Gray areas depicted above are just that: gray areas. Downtown offers many opportunities for infill and retro-fit. The purpose of the PUDPN is not to proscribe design prerogatives nor pre-empt every detail best left to future development initiatives: so long as policy is followed.


Global warming.

Carbon neutral.

Economic strategy

Prepare for peak Oil now!

Tipping Point!

With trepidation I am trying to step gently between global warming and peak-oil apocalyptic predictions and a reasonable belief, a la David Suzuki, that the human condition is, indeed, redeemable.

I avoid a build-out time prediction.

This proposal is the outcome of over half a century participating in urban affairs, keeping my ear close to the ground: local politics and aspirations mediated by the crucial fact that change, big change, is in store. If we treat the urban environment with disrespect we can expect consequences.

Researching the current course of downtown it came to me as quite a surprise, it need not have, downtown is well entrenched as a venue for events. It is rapidly evolving: VICC, three hotels, two hostels, a libary, gambling casinos, extemporaneous entertainment, buskers, nightclubs, two cinemas, a make-shift alternate theatre, art galleries, coffee shops and restaurants, a farmers' outdoor market, boat basin for commercial fishers and tourists, and speciality retail. Downtown has transmogrified into a place of entertainment. And not just at night.

Reality: Nanaimo's destiny reflects North America's shift away from a producing-tangibles to a consuming-intangibles, society.

It took me a while to catch on. Following the obvious: attract more people living downtown I completely miss-read the inevitable.

I am not alone. Trevor Boddy rues the emergence of "Resort City."

At first I was not too enthusiastic. For two years, 1997-8, I lived in Centro Historico Mexico City surrounded by clubs nocturno and off-key brass bands: anything but an environment for living.

An alternative NNC combining the Port Theatre and Bastion convention facilites.

Good idea, but an opportunity lost. There is an abundance of alleys and back courts, textured brick wall to expose and enjoy. This could yet happen. Nanaimo has a great downtown with many potential pedestrian opportunites.

I returned to my old stomping ground Centro Historico a couple of years ago. There have been dramatic changes. Where once the Zocalo was the center of political protest (it could yet return to the old ways) it is now a center for cultural events. Sitting on the roof top restaurant balcony of Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico many performances, art exhibtions and events are evident. Colonia Roma's La Condesa has under gone a similar epiphany. The message, of course, is that Nanaimo is in the same artistic transition. Nanaimo is in the process of marking its own creative foot print on the world.

As an urban designer I like that!

Preliminary downtown pedestrian circulation study.

To the aspiring urban designer: let no one persuade you drawing skills are unimportant. They are very important! Your drawings inform the public, and indeed yourself, of your intentions.

Downtown Nanaimo is, and has been, for years a place for events: Writing in chalks, Van Isle 360, Canada Day, the Bath tub races, First night, parades etc. Downtown has become a center for music, dance, any number of entertaining events that call for public spaces to fit the occasion. A matrix of interconnected urban spaces and plazas then becomes appropriate..

There is nothing inherently wrong with downtown as an entertainment center/culture park: indeed it is a good generator of entry level jobs and more. It is, nevertheless, incompatible with residential development. That does not preclude pretty streets and urban plazas.

Granville Island, Vancouver, is a striking example of a successful urban culture park, though given its catchment of some 2.5 million, not to be replicated in Nanaimo. There is no residential accommodation on Granville Island.

Downtown Nanaimo's culture park must find its own metier, forte!

Commercial / Front parade: a shaded arbor lined walk, an amenity to be repeated throughout downtown and the crescent, between the new VICC and the new Nanaimo Centre for the Performing and Visual Arts: the Nanaimo Foundry re-incarnated. The germinating seed for a pedestrian downtown.

My methodology for downtown attempts to establish strong pedestrian movement between nodes, north / south Crescent Plaza, VICC - NCPVA and east / west, Mount Benson View Gardens (3) and Pioneer Waterfront Plaza (7).

There is potential for residences over storefronts: possibly an additional 2,500 people. Conflict of view v's vista makes ideal siting for residential terraces or highrise somewhat contentious: terrace houses inhibit views while badly sited high rises tend to block vistas.

Terminal Avenue provides freestanding commercial, this is good for jobs, and discreet car storage backed by potential park-like rock outcrops.

Perennially beautiful Commercial Street languishes. Turning The Port entrance onto the Plaza would help . . .

Re-dressing the orientation of The Port Theatre's entrance onto Harbour Front Plaza.

Nevertheless, the potential for a cultural park is enhanced. Nanaimo as the central transportation hub conveniently connects, via Terminal Avenue, the Island Highway, the length of Vancouver Island.

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