Friday, February 10, 2012

Northern Junk Proposal - the best development project in Victoria in years

Proposed Northern Junk Development
Reliance Properties in Vancouver is proposing what I think is one of the most interesting and appropriate developments I have seen in the last eight years in this city.    There has been an on going discussion about this development on Vibrant Victoria since the summer of 2010.   In that threat, Jon Stovell the president of Reliance has posted a lot of images of what the development will look like.
Northern Junk development and the new Johnson Street Bridge seen from the water

I thought I would gather most of them up and post them here with my commentaries on them.
Looking from the new bridge towards the development
The Hallmark society locally is starting a campaign against the development on the grounds that it does not meet the old town design guidelines.  I have read through the general characteristics and I fail to see how this development does not fit.

From the Guidelines:

The green between Pandora and Johnson comes to
life because of this development.
The general characteristics of Old Town include:

  •  historic buildings ranging in height from one to five storeys
  • classically-inspired proportion and building elements
  • load-bearing brick and stone buildings and details and forms that accompany load-bearing masonry
  • architecturally distinctive buildings at street heads
  • rounded or splayed building corners, often with corner entrances, at street intersections
  • buildings at street intersections with asymmetrical facades terminating in a taller corner element
  • pedestrian paths, mews, and courtyards within / through blocks
  • shop windows at street level displaying merchandise
  • rich detailing, craftsmanship and colour of street / alley elevations
  • views of harbour, mountains and hills on street ends
  • Wharf Street side is exactly what the guidelines call from
  • cohesiveness of buildings and spaces that are neighbourly yet dense

I look at all the images of the development and it meets each and everyone of them.  The only way the members of the Hallmark Heritage Society could have a problem with this development is if they have not read and understood the old town design guidelines.

The view of the development's connection to the waterfront
The development will extend the walkway along the harbour, something that this City has needed for some time.   It also rescues two of the oldest buildings in the City and makes a very innovative use of them.   The development is effectively giving the buildings back as a feature on the landscape to the City.

The current space is a very serious blight on the landscape.  It leaves the visitors to this City with a negative image in their minds.

As a public space, of which some 1000 square meters is supposed to be, it is worse than a failure.   The current strip of green the City owns along there detracts from neighbourhood.   Allowing the developer to buy the green space, street and parking area and incorporate it in to the development is a very smart decision.   The City loses a negative dead space and gains property taxes from the land.
Not only is there a lot more public space, but that space will be open for active use by people
This shows the development and the park

Opposition to the sale of the land makes no sense at all on any level.   The land can not usefully be used by the City for anything.   Public ownership for the sale of public ownership is dumb ideological position to take.

The development will also mean the park beside the site will finally become a functioning open urban space.   At the moment it is dangerous vacant lot that is on the books as a park.  You can not sit on the grass because of the detritus left behind.   I also have better things to do than have to explain to my kids why we have to clean up the space of broken bottles, needles and used condoms before we can sit down.

The two street side large buildings offer the perfect partial screen that creates a brilliant interior open public space that will work very well and will attract people to it naturally.

Plan for the site - great sight lines and interesting landscape ideas

When I consult my copy of the 1975 classic Pattern Language, this public space meets a whole host of the patterns within the book, I can not think of another space in the City that achieves as many of the patterns

You can see from the image above and image below that the scale of everything is done with people in mind.   Nothing is too big, nothing is too tight.  It has good proportions

Looking south on what will be an extended waterfront walkway
I am waiting to be able to see this view when I cross the bridge in the future

One the things I like the best about the whole development is the dramatic improvement of the sightlines of old town.   As you walk down Johnson, you will see this building and it pull your eye towards the water.  You will not be looking at the Salvation Army building and wondering who approved that.  You will not be looking away from the derelict buildings.

Wharf and Johnson will effectively add a block each to their old town character and that can only be done with a development that has the sort of look and scale of this one.   Nothing else on this site will work as well as something that is broadly similar this proposal.   It will also be the only place where the look and feel of old town will actually reach the water.

From the Vic West side and from the water the building will go a long way towards reducing the impact the Regency hotel on the waterfront.
This is a beautiful design while at the same time almost perfect in how it creates the outdoor public spaces and extends old town back to the water.
This development will very quickly increase the movement of tourists from Bastion Sqaure northwards in old town.  At the moment there are too many breaks in the natural pull of people northwards to make sure they make it to Chinatown or Market Square.   I suspect that by having this development Market Square will see an increase in tourism and it will become viable to operate retail in Market Square.
The proposed development and the new bridge
From the walkway on the new bridge

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