What are the best walking space in the city at all hours for all seasons ? Are the ones you are thinking of take you away from the roar of traffic, the bustle of the city, the general humdrum of our daily tasks. Now, how many are not in parks?
I can think of only one.
The walkway through the Portico Bosa developments of Modena, Carrara, Siena, and Verona.
This walk cuts through the properties along the desire line from Broadway and Hemlock to the West 4th crossing (to Granville Island) at the bottom north end. The materials are red brick, grey pavers, and concrete with generous amounts of trees and shrubbery. The path is decorated with benches and bike racks near the buildings. It is well lit at night, shovelled and salted in the winter, and well-maintained year round. The crossings are well-marked at the mid-block of 6th and 5th as the path traverses over a cross-walk where the road is narrowed to slow traffic and increase visibility of pedestrians.
Why is this so exceptional? Why is this well-designed public space not more common?
I have asked at open houses and other opportunities. I have been told it was a unique situation with one developer, helped connect the upper buildings more directly to the park at the bottom, and most bizarrely, it works because of the elevation changes.
I am not disagreeing with any of these reasons for this development to create the easement for well-designed public space. (Although elevation change is hardly unique.) I question why the city can’t coordinate through planning areas where this public space would also work.
I will give you an example with comparable factors where this public space would work very well. Go west of Granville Street to Fir Street. There is a lovely new park at Fir and 6th across from cafe with Frnech pastries. (Now there is a desire line!) There are plans to develop the corner building (and a few other sites in the surronding blocks) Is there any plan to coordinate a comparable mid-block public space connecting Burrard and Broadway to West 4th?
I asked the developer about leaving a space on the edge of the property for a future easement. I was told the adjoining property would be a better site. (not really) I asked what happens if the adjoining property disagrees? I was told that that was a city matter. That is a fair point. I see this as one of the base reasons for planning: coordination of multiple interests to achieve a goal over time. So I asked the city planners. They told me that a mid-block crossing was too close to either end of the street. (I checked and the streets on the Bosa development are shorter.) I then asked the most obvious question. Were they concerned about people cutting across the street mid-block to access the new park and on to West 4th? (There is no way people will walk all the way to the corner, thrice the distance, than just jay-walk) I was told that that was beyond the scope of the project. When I pointed out that this answer could be used for every development in the area, I was told it was not the time nor the place for such input. (They never did say where or when it would be) I left after I was also told that I should suggest this to the parks planners as part of the public consultation for the park that was under construction.
We don’t have more of these Joy-walks because they aren’t a planning priority, the pedestrian realm is restricted by default traffic standards, and the planning process is still too siloed.