A few years go I was all keen on the notion of finding some sort of rule, or algorithm, that explained what the next type of development would be in a neighbourhood. Would it improve or drag down the neighbourhood? The focus of my concern back then was Chinatown, ie Somerset between Bay and the OTrain. Developments, large and small, seemed to like Centretown, and Hintonburg, and the Civic Hospital area … but leaped over the neighbourhoods along Somerset. Booth and Rochester Streets were also stuck in “no interest” land.
After some corresponding, I invited Dr Bruce Firestone to talk to our community association about redevelopment and intensification. (WSA covered that back in April 2012; the first of 3 stories is here: http://www.westsideaction.com/firestone-speaks/ http://www.westsideaction.com/firestone-speaks/ and then you can click through to the next two stories in the series ).
One of the nuggets he gave me was that neighbourhoods have a current momentum. A neighbourhood that is good, can withstand the occasional sub par redevelopment. And won’t be significantly improved by a single better development. The key focus for the community is whether the proposed new development is good or bad for the neighbourhood today. Spend less time worrying about trends in the neighbourhood, or precedents, because those you have less influence on. Focus on the practical, the immediate, the concrete, the proposal on hand right now.
So I will leave it up to others to decide if moving Sally Anne out of the Market improves the Market. Or if the new building(s) will offer the inhabitants a better place to stay/live/pass through. Or if the longer term residences Sally Anne proposes will benefit Montreal Road neighbourhood.
Key question: Will the Montreal Road traditional main street be improved by the addition of 145 “short term” shelter beds?
I don’t think so.
Would any neighbourhood be improved by adding 145 “short term” beds to it? Is there a line up of volunteers?
Adding 40 units of supportive housing, with close supervision, like Cornerstone does in the Somerset neighbourhood, is wonderful. Or the Sally Anne youth house a block away from me. Small scale, fully programmed, supervised … great. These are not “drop in” facilities.
Large complexes foster anonymity, complicated if the residents are transient. Jane Jacobs’ shopkeeper on the sidewalk supervising children and sidewalk safety won’t cut it in those circumstances. Nor can residents recognize let alone know who their neighbours are. Somehow we have less trouble with this idea when it comes to “regulating” or “banning” absentee-landlord AirB&B in neighbourhoods.
I suspect the Sally Anne proposal in Vanier is so large for the administrative convenience of the sponsoring organization. I must say too I was really surprised that the clustering of four small low rise apartment buildings, which promoted small scale appearance that fits in with other built forms nearby, and might foster client identification with their residence, was foregone in favour of joining the buildings architecturally to read as two large buildings rather than four smaller ones. Weird.
I do hear that some cities have “fair share” laws or rules, that require certain controversial uses like half way homes, shelters, prisons, supportive housing, etc to be distributed to every ward/neighbourhood, and not concentrated in one place. After all, with 70% or more of the population having grown up in the suburbs, there is no excuse for locating shelters only in inner city areas by claiming that’s where the homeless come from. Street people originate from suburbs too. Except the suburbs are carefully designed to have few public places. Hanging around a suburban sports plex has limited appeal even to the homeless.
If I don’t think any neighbourhood would be improved by adding 145 shelter beds to it, then what do we do with the street people? It’s a complex subject fraught with ideologies and politics. But at a guess, start with smaller shelters that focus on directing users – quickly – into longer-term supportive housing and support programs. That still leaves the problems of the transients and the lawyers.