One of the things I try to take away from reading the blogs of others is being able to look at things in as different manner. Maybe not better, maybe not worse but definitely in a different manner. I lamented in an earlier post the loss of Walter Krawec’s blog. I’ve had this post sitting in my head for quite some time now, but being either too lazy or too senile to dig up the required pictures. Anyway, the tie in is that reading his blog prompted me to look at things differently and hence this blog post.
Back in March of this year I was in Cincinnati for an athletic event. St. Patrick’s day weekend to be precise and while I could do up a post on how they really know how to do up St. Patty’s day, that can perhaps wait till another time. However, I was struck by the manner in which they planned their parking in the downtown area – either deliberately through city planning or by the actions of developers.
Here in Winnipeg we complain constantly about the loss of historical buildings and the growing number of surface parking lots, or if we are ‘lucky’ we get a parkade. Now, I will admit that the grain exchange annex parking facility is nice, but what we seem to be missing is any type of parkade designed or allowed to function as anything other than a parkade. What do I mean by this? How many parades have been developed recently? And of the few that you can recollect, how many of those have any type of provision for ancillary business? I dare you to name me one recently constructed parking facility that also allows for space for other businesses.
Now, let’s look at Cincinnati. Anyone wanna guess what this is:
You probably guessed parkade, and you’d be right. Nice pleasing architecture, attractive façade, looks like other businesses operating in the same space. What you don’t see is that this structure takes up pretty much a whole block and there are businesses ( busy restaurants by the way) operating in the entire main level.
Okay, what about this:
It’s pretty obvious. What I like about this is how it fits with the building beside. If this was in Winnipeg? Open air ramp monstrosity.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the third type I saw. It was a surface parkade that existed where a building once stood. But instead of destroying the whole thing, and dumping it full of concrete, the lot was asphalt and the piles were left in place. If nothing else, at least this gave a sense of temporary and hopefulness to the location that it would at some point revert back to having a building rise on the site.
One other thing I noticed from Cincinnati was this:
An open air plaza, sure Winnipeg has these. But what you can’t quite make out is the 110VAC outlets underneath each of the benches. Or the drinking fountains at every second bench area, the staff keeping the area clean, and finally the free wi-fi in this park area.
So what’s the point? The point is we have to start doing better. We need to start developing standards. Government is responsible to and should be acting for the citizens of a city. Bending over and grabbing their ankles when developers come calling isn’t acting on behalf of the citizens. We can do better, we need to do better, we have to do better.
Since then I have travelled to Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. What struck me the most? How accepting they are of cyclists. Dedicated bike lanes, respect for cyclist and the Bixi system. For those not familiar with bixi, it’s a bicycle rental program. $7 a day, surcharge if your ride is longer than 15 min. drop it off at another bixi station. I’d love to see those here. Do I think we can have those in Winnipeg? Not now. Who doesn’t believe they will get absolutely trashed? So how do we change so that we can be more? Is it just the infrastructure? No, I think a change in culture is needed. How do we get that? I don’t know, but I do know we don’t get there by pointing fingers and blaming others like we do now.