Monday, April 13, 2009
Bureaucrats are not Marketeers
aquaduct east of Booth
When Urbandale or Minto or one of the large reputable developers begins to build out a new suburban neighborhood there is usually some park amenities available with the first phase of the project. Then each year the parkland is further developed as more houses are built. These builders do not say "this is a twenty year buildout, we will do the public landscaping when the construction is all finished..." Developers realize that to entice residents there have to be amenities from day one, with tangible promise of more amenities to come.
Contrast that with the bureaucrats at the City and NCC on LeBreton Flats.There are unsold condos in the first building. It must be difficult for Claridge to sell $400-700,000? condos in a 'luxury' building when the foreground is of ... mine tailings? Beirut before reconstruction? And Beirut was reconstructed faster than the Flats is being built out so buyers will view the open excavations shown above for years if not decades, as there are no immediate plans to develop the twin office towers called for in the subdivision plan.
There is a long-term conceptual plan for building out bike paths and parkland around the development, but each little bit is to be built as the adjacent building is constructed. Did no one ask what use a bike path is if it goes nowhere for 30 years? The pedestrian/cycling Pooley's Bridge, reconstructed at great expense and opened with much political grandstanding before the cameras, remains closed to this day, a bridge to nowhere, unconnected to the paved roads and nearby bike paths because the adjacent lots haven't been built out yet (and there is no schedule for the build out either). NCC concept plans for the project show commercial space in the base of apartment buildings, with cafes along the aquaduct. None of this commercial space will be leasable if the paths are not there, if there is no traffic, no street level vitality.
The aquaduct through the centre of the Flats is to be the spine of a parkland corridor through the Flats, with adjacent pedestrian and cycling paths, leading to a larger park around the inlet pond at the west. The NCC reconstructed and restored the aquaduct years ago, its intended landscaping is nice. But once the politicians unveiled the plaque commemorating the event, the City hasn't been back. Photo 1 above shows typical conditions along the canal: tall weedy grass and shrubs choking out the lilly beds and rose beds. Dead trees have not been replaced. The zone between the bike path and canal wasn't mowed all last year, and the garbage left there after Bluesfest remains to this day.
There have been some landscaping efforts in the area: the tailrace was expensively redone by the City water dept. to reduce the danger of landslides in the ravine (!); the NCC has started landscaping the vacant lot north of the new condos (with bike paths that don't quite connect to any of the other paths or roads in the project); and of course the initial phase of LeBreton park was built as part of the War Museum project. But the spaces in between ... rubble and garbage strewn pits ... segments of abandonned bike paths ...
WWMD? [what would Minto do]: I suspect they'd make sure the designated parkland areas are mowed so they look green and inviting. Bike paths would be connected in areas where construction is not imminent. Trees would be planted now so that parkland is even more enticing when later phases of housing is built (and would thus yield better returns).
If the City and NCC would cooperate on the basic parkland plan exercise, then a few trees could be planted every year, paths laid out and eventually paved. Then in 2020 or 2030 when residents move in they would be attracted by green parkland and mature treed areas. I fear these future residents will only find promises of parkland, pictures of pathway cafes, and the occasional toy tree.