Provocations on the Future of Downtowns: What’s Possible?
Watch the Provocations
Watch the Provocations here:
Johanna Hurme, 5468796 Architecture
Timothy Papandreou, Emerging Transport Advisors
Alexander Josephson, Partisans
Jacquelyn West, So Good City; Lee Clarke, Galileo Collective; and Ravi Jain, Why Not Theatre
Alkarim Devani, Chroma Property Technologies
Tł’akwasik̕a̱n Khelsilem, Council Member of Squamish Nation
Jill Tipping, BC Tech and Ray Walia, Launch Ventures
Michel Lauzon, LAAB
Kevin Katigbak, Gensler
Closing Panel: Damien Silès, Quartier de l’Innovation de Montreal; Bruce Katz, New Localism Advisors; and Theodora Lamb, Strathcona BIA
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
- Whether or not cities bounce back will depend on the choices they make.
- Now is the time to design streets for people and inclusive gatherings.
- A better city won’t happen without proactive effort: fight for it.
- Culture is a major driver of the future success landscape and Canadian creative talent needs radical investment. Transforming everyday spaces into artistic lifelines can unlock potential.
- City cores of the future need to be centred on people. A focus on arts and culture is a bottom-up way to build programming, invest, and leverage technology.
- Indigenous people are creating opportunities to generate economic prosperity for their communities through city-building projects that are aligned with their values.
- Downtowns could be even more vibrant and active post-pandemic. The centrally-located office remains the site where employees can “learn by osmosis”.
- The future of city cores starts with a story, builds out from the user experience, designs systems rather than shapes, plans for platforms not uses, and champions nature’s reclamation.
- The future requires hyper-diverse spaces. Tomorrow’s great residential spaces could emerge from today’s lacklustre office buildings.
- Federal spending, private capital and institutional investment are ready to deploy; “command centres” in local communities can help ensure that spending is in the service of equity and community wealth building.
- Covid-19 has devastated already marginalized communities. Local business leaders are also advocates for social change.
- Using the same old recipe won’t work anymore. Empower the younger generation through new tools.
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “transcription” in the subject line.
So whether or not cities bounce back from the pandemic will be determined by the choices they make to reimagine their downtown hubs. As already discussed in the morning sessions, COVID-19’s impact on downtowns and central business districts is particularly pronounced. Their futures are hanging on smart decisions, access to funding and open mindedness to different models of planning and operations. I think it takes a big reset. And from my Winnipeg centric position, this includes also the macro scale of reversing our growth pattern. So, building in an in-between, repositioning the business core with a new location value, reallocating space from cars to people, re-evaluating the challenge of vacancies into an opportunity that comes with lower rents. Rethinking development types, so going small instead of – good compact looks different from towers. Re-examining regulations that allow for innovative grassroots planning and reconsidering stakeholders to include all citizens for more equitable, sustainable, diverse and healthy outcomes. Number one, starting from the macro scale, Winnipeg is one of the least dense cities in the world. And so, for us to have the long-term resources to address issues with downtown, we should also consider the bigger picture. Over the next twenty-five years Winnipeg’s population is projected to grow about 200,000 people. This means that 80,000 new homes will be needed by 2040. These are most numbers, of course, in cities like Toronto but for us this is great news. However, how and where do we choose to build or have a fundamental impact on our collective business plan and on any resources that can be made available to restart and revision our downtown core? Keep in mind that over 70 percent of Winnipeg’s municipal budget consists of services directly related to distance, so meters of pipe, lines and road, etc. The Halifax Regional Municipality recently calculated that annual services of a suburb and household cost over 2,000 dollars more to taxpayers than an urban household. So, if we apply the same math to Winnipeg and if we directed all of our new growth expected over the next 25 years into a mature city, we would save about four billion dollars in just municipal service cost. So that is where the dough is going to come from to reinvest into our core. Instead, of course, we continue to sprawl out. 19 new precincts were approved on the outskirts of Winnipeg in recent years, mostly due to a strong suburban lobby. So, talk about a city scale suicide. All while our infrastructure deficits are projected to be nearly seven billion dollars over the next 10 years. And at our density and lack thereof, we certainly would have plenty of space to direct all of our new future growth within the mature area of the city. So, we have to reverse this growth pattern so that we can stop spending all of our tax revenue on road repair and invest it into services, innovation and our people everywhere in that existing city. Number two, we have to reposition our central business district. Our core lacks the 24/7 downtown residential density are present in comparable cities elsewhere. And because most North American downtowns are heavily weighted towards core commercial uses with huge transient weekday population swings, COVID-19’s impact on downtowns and the central business districts is and has been pretty harsh. In comparison, my original hometown, Helsinki, Finland, where I was born, has approximately the same population as Winnipeg. But its physical footprint is half the size of Winnipeg and its downtown is five/six times denser than Winnipeg’s. Post-pandemic, we have the opportunity to reposition and diversify our downtown. Global survey suggests that while the majority of employees want to return to the office, they only would like to do so part time. With one or two days working from home being ideal. Commercial vacancies are likely to increase, and there may well be a market to convert office buildings into residential space and other mixed uses. Not without its challenges, of course, as I as an architect, I know. I would suggest, though, that three to five years down the road, at least, people will again want to access the amenities that cities afford. People’s innate desire to socialize, enjoy culture and share experiences will eventually drive renewed growth. New kinds of assembly venues, entertainment options emerge. So, another possible scenario is that as fewer workers travel daily, downtowns will become more appealing, hospitality oriented, high amenity destinations that are more about the 24/7 cycle and less about the nine to five. Public outdoor space use of parks and green spaces is flourishing promoting health and wellness. Canadians are seeking activities that abide to social distancing guidelines and parks and greenways are welcoming more guests. Summer and Winter point of sales data shows that big jumps in purchases of bike skis, kayaks and other outdoor accessories. Residential pedestrian and uses with more green space, therefore, can be infused into the CBDs. We need to reimagine and plan for a more diverse mixed-use downtown with more weight on the outdoor environment. Number three reallocate space. Currently, a staggering 40 percent of land in downtown Winnipeg is allocated to surface parking. And while the pandemic is certainly squashing public transit, it’s also hopefully reducing the need for this massive space for cars in our downtown area. And that’s a huge opportunity for us and elsewhere. On that front, walkable cities have a higher GDP than those that are not by about thirty eight percent. And walkability is what makes more cities more competitive. When Melbourne recently redesigned its center for pedestrians through converting its back lanes into people’s space places, it was recognized as the economist’s world most livable city five years in a row. And yet retailers tend to overestimate the importance of car for customer travel and underestimate the importance of other modes. Over the summer, many cities shut down vehicle access on streets to get more outdoor space to restaurants, and some experts are urging cities to make these changes permanent. At minimum, we need to increase flexible space in downtowns, parking stalls that become eateries, multimodal corridors, act of transportation, sidewalks linking contract and expand to meet demand. Number four reevaluate the opportunity. Empty spaces at lower rents will allow entrepreneurs to try things in novel combinations. Lower rents can also attract local startups, mom and pops, not for profit, small businesses, innovative food and beverage, community partnerships, maker spaces and local manufacturing. Post-pandemic, there will be heightened focus on value of human experience in the future workers and small green, hyper local mixed use diverse environments will attract new users. This will require a fundamental rethink of the ground floor to allow for more public accessibility with integrated public and private indoor-outdoor transitions, as well as flexibility for pop ups and other organic activity. There’s also going to be a lot more pressure to provide public Wi-Fi for work and play and for equality. Investing in tech is in its many forms autonomous vehicles, new energy sources, new construction methods, new construction materials, machine learning, etc., will be important to increase safety, lower cost and our environmental impact. But because our universal desire to be where other people are, even as cities become more virtual, the good news is that downtowns will continue to play an important role in our society. Number five, rethink development type. Did you know that in the 1950s, the average North American occupied about 290 square feet of floor area per person? But just in 2007 already that number was 900 square feet per person, accounting for increases of about 300 percent. Furthermore, Winnipeg household size decreased by five full person from about three and a half people to two and a half people per household, and yet the size of our houses keeps increasing. So, while the pessimistic view would suggest that the post pandemic world – in the post-pandemic world people will want bigger and bigger houses further and further apart from one another, another piece of data keeps me optimistic, and that is that according to the 2016 census, one person households became the most common type of household in Canada for the first time, accounting for twenty eight percent of all of the households. So that would suggest that building one or two person families will represent the biggest market opportunity in the future. And that will hopefully mean that local and responsive developments like the rail side plan will flourish. This plan is currently under works at the Forks, downtown Winnipeg, and will provide 400 residential units into 11 acres on existing transit routes, coupled with new and existing amenities. It’s replacing previous vision for the site that consisted of five towers and at the new plan breaks down the same density into 30 smaller four to six storey mixed-use buildings with services and amenities on the ground floor. It’s highly tailored local response from scale to timeline to capacity of local developers. So, it’s critical to remember that building compact in the core does not necessarily mean, at least in our context, where land values are cheap, that we should or we need to always aim for towers. Density comes in many forms. Happy cities and neighborhoods include ground oriented human scale, multifamily housing and shared outdoor space between buildings, safe places for kids to play together and seniors and families to hang out. Number six, re-examining the regulations and getting away from single use zoning will allow for diversity, mixed uses, housing types, etc. at many different levels, from city to neighborhood to building, and it is essential for creating more resilient cities and downtowns. As landlords adopt large commercial floor plates to accommodate different scales and uses, post-pandemic office buildings will likely feature a mix of functions as well. A similar dynamic is played out at the city block and business to district scales further breaking down traditional typologies and zoning. Tactical urbanism will be the new mode of operation. Small changes to regulations is often all it takes to salvage a bad situation. Cities have demonstrated that they can go with the light touch instead of making permanent change and be effective. Simple initiatives as OS such as open streets here and elsewhere have had a huge success this summer. They really shaped the CBD, a change of mindset is pretty critical to create a zoning and development regulations that help struggling retailers, restaurant entrepreneurs and promote walkability resiliency through adaptive reuse and inclusivity. Initiatives like free street parking on weekdays in the downtown core here or expanded outdoor eating area, streetaries, are great examples of cities successfully addressing immediate needs by getting creative and that can work moving forward too. But then many times positive and innovative grassroots initiatives merely requires that regulators sort of get out of the way, if you will. Organic guerrilla campaigns like Walk Winnipeg, inspired by Walk Rally, can help reimagine and reboot a more inclusive and equitable core. And finally, number seven, reconsidering who the stakeholders of the new downtown really are is probably the most important piece of the reset button. Urban resilience is the capacity for all people, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within the community to survive, adapt and thrive. So, re-examining and rewriting regulatory and fiscal policies should certainly go towards increasing affordability and equity. The 2006 census revealed that almost 25 percent of Canadian households and 18 percent of the population may have affordability issues. So, addressing this not only means that considering housing a basic human right, but also investing in social programs and tackling mental health issues through adequate support networks. For context, only about 5 percent of Canada’s total population lives in social housing, while, by contrast, 32 percent of Sweden’s and 34 percent of Netherlands’ population is supported through social housing. Of course, this is larger than just the downtown issue, but should be tackled to include the other 99 percent of the population, the future planning of our cities. On that note, also in creating new plans and developing engagement processes, we need to recognize diversity, identify any potential barriers and design the process to minimize barriers or possible. Inclusiveness means overcoming barriers to engagement. Equal representation ensures fair and balanced process. In conclusion, cities have been around for thousands of years and serve as a crossroads where people get together to exchange ideas and goods. And as long as the location value is there, downtowns will bounce back. This will take a mindset of courage and optimism. And in Winnipeg, let’s stop the suicide mission. While we think big, we must also prioritize smaller, less ambitious ideas that have incremental but meaningful impact. The Bozeman dynamic downtown is flexible, organic, nimble, diverse, small, green, local bottom-up and inclusive and therefore a more resilient to future disruptions. Thank you.
Thank you so much and thank you for having me everybody. I’m just going to start my presentation. Oops, here we go. So coming from the Bay Area in San Francisco – oops we’re going to go back to the starting one second. Now you can see it all – all right. Coming from the Bay Area, you’ve seen and may have heard a lot about what’s happening from a jobs and housing perspective in the Bay Area. We were at a crisis point. We were at a crisis point for many years where it was totally unaffordable and very difficult to find a place to live and find a lease to rent for office space. We have a lot of history in the Bay Area of conflicting values. We have questions of whether or not people want to see more growth in the Bay Area, where they want to see more sustainable development in the Bay Area. The term NIMBY not in my backyard was very, very rampant and has actually delayed a lot of these opportunities for affordable housing, for inclusive development. All these different things on the back of being a region that really celebrates climate action and sustainability and all of the different catchphrases, if you will. But the reality is, is that the COVID pandemic really pressed a nerve and shone a light on the fact that we hadn’t been doing our homework, we hadn’t been doing the work that we need to do. And because there are cultural differences that may not ever be reconciled and downtowns and central business districts and the urban cores is really that co-mingling where all of those tensions, opportunities, values and fears all coexist. And there is no simple solution. This will not be a presentation of how easily we can change things. It’s more of a situation of a cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t really understand the dynamics that are happening in a region and how quickly that can happen. When I was the chief innovation ambassador for the city, we planned for a twenty five year growth projection for half a million jobs and a quarter million housing units over a twenty five year period. But those twenty five year period of jobs came in three years. There’s no way you can build the capacity and the infrastructure to absorb that kind of growth, but it came. And with that came an explosion in real estate prices and explosion in rentals. You may have heard the analogy of a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco in twenty eighteen was over four thousand US dollars a month. That’s way too high. And now things have changed, but it’s still very expensive. This is the – for those who have not been in San Francisco – this is the central business district overlooking the waterfront. That tall tower in the foreground is the Salesforce tower, which is the tallest building in the Bay Area. Those who are architects will realize that this looks just like the building in Hong Kong because it’s about the same architect and you know how architects like to replicate their icons. But here it is. But things have changed dramatically since the pandemic. We have now seen a dramatic drop in real estate leases. We’ve had an increase in vacancies. We were at five percent before the pandemic. We’re at sixteen point seven percent right now. That’s a dramatic shift for a central business district. We have almost fifteen million square feet of vacancy, which is about one point five million square meters of vacancy. That’s a lot. And that tower that I mentioned before, what that looks like is about, you know, about 11 of these office towers of vacancy. And that just happened in the last 12 to 14 months. Something like that is quite a shock to the system. And we really can’t bounce back as quickly as we’d like to because this is a real, real change. This didn’t happen because of the pandemic, only it happened because of the pandemic and the technology like Zoom, which we’re on right now, which is also in San Francisco, and the ability to work remotely from home, which is the majority of these office workers. All these three things basically converged. And now we’re seeing the after effects in a city that was heavily, heavily invested in high technology, heavily invested in startups and already had a culture where you could work from home anyway. And so this was a real big impact for our central business district. And it’s also changed people’s rental situations, rents in San Francisco have dropped the furthest because they are from a very, very high place to begin with. But even with the massive rental drop of twenty five to 30 percent in some situations, a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco is still too expensive for the majority of the Bay Area residents, so it’s still over twenty six hundred dollars a month. And while that dropped twenty five percent, twenty six thousand dollars a month is still a lot of money to pay. And so at the same time, what that’s doing is it’s opening up a whole new cohort of people who were completely priced out of the dream of living in San Francisco, who now can enter and live here. And it’s also allowing certain people who really wanted to leave the Bay Area in San Francisco, now have the choice to leave because of the work from home, remote work opportunity. And so we’ve had a lot of stories of like mass exodus and people are leaving and millions of people are leaving. But the story – the data tells the opposite story. Of all the people that have been claiming to leave the Bay Area in California, we’re seeing numbers that are very different. The media would let you think that there’s millions of people leaving California. First of all, we have 40 million people in California. We have nine million people in the metropolitan area of the Bay Area. We have twenty one million people in the Los Angeles area. We’re talking about a couple of thousand people that have moved around, that have left the state. There have been people who have left the Bay Area, but they’ve actually moved within the Bay Area. So those who want to move for space reasons, for whatever reasons they had, are moving and are going to move anyway. So this is not because of the situation. But let’s be clear about the numbers we’re talking about here, that thousands of people that have left or that will leave as well versus the millions that are staying and remaining. So there’s a really big difference in that. Also, when we look at the Bay Area itself, most people who have moved from places like San Francisco or Oakland or San Jose have actually moved somewhere else in the Bay Area. Very few have left to leave the state, let alone leave the region. So, don’t believe in the hype of all those stories. People are staying there, they’re staying in place, they’re just wanting to get back to a world where they can meet in person and do more things in person. But it is having a dramatic impact in these what I call downtowns of business districts that were glorified office parks. These were basically high rise, high density office parks, but had no connection to the ground. There really weren’t a neighborhood. There really weren’t a 24 hour location service area. And if we’re going to see any changes, we have to bring more people to live in those places, convert the space, all the things that Johanna just mentioned before. We need to see those things happen before those fine grained details can actually make sense. But from a transport perspective, we’re seeing changes happen a lot faster because the real estate side had moved so much faster and transport was just catching up. We’re going to see more transport changes now, more changes on our streets, physical street changes, more design changes, just more directional flow changes. If we don’t have to have so many people working in the central business district every day, all day, all the time, we’re going to allow our street spaces to be redesigned, to be reconfigured, to be much more neighborhood scale rather than a five lane one way traffic sewers. They can become more of these streets where we can linger and walk around and enjoy it and actually hang out outside. And wouldn’t it be amazing if we could convert some of these spaces so that all ages, all groups, all types feel safe, comfortable and invited to hang around children? So many of these downtowns were so corporate that there were just so family unfriendly and just the other unfriendly. If we can make it more inclusive and more exciting then the street space might be the first place we can see those changes. Just to give an example, we did a car Free Market Street, our busiest street in San Francisco. We made it car free. That was the photo in January of 2020. This was the photo of February 2020, one month later, after the change happened, a massive shift people got on their bicycles, the public transit system ran more effectively, everybody was walking more. Everyone just felt safer. Everyone just felt more inclusive. It felt more of a city. And then when Covid struck, it just became completely quiet. You could – I rode my bike down a couple of times. I was the only person in the street sometimes for two or three blocks. It was really a eerie feeling, but the template was there. You can see the protected bike lanes in green, the protected transit lanes and, read the wider sidewalks that went in a few years ago. All the amenities were there. And I think if we can focus on that, all of the changes in the buildings will change, whether it’s occupancy of residence, occupancy of workers, etc. Those things will figure themselves out. The ground floors will figure themselves out with all the push from the city, etc. But the street space between the buildings, that space really is the time now to change the template and design it for people, design it for inclusive gatherings and to design it for spaces that people want to hang around in. So we’re in this really interesting moment right now worldwide. We’re working with a bunch of companies and governments around the world on. We have to press that trigger moment, like this is the point now where resetting as was mentioned before, we’re going to start. What does that mean? It means that we’re going to triage what we can handle and control and manage, and we may have to let go of the things that are out of our control. That’s just the reality we have. There’ll be opportunities to pivot and shift away from the things that are holding us back and rethink what does this look like from our street space, from our building, etc., and then start charting a course for recovery that is much more inclusive. You know, everyone talks about going back to normal. We don’t want to go back to normal. Normal was horrible. It was exclusive. It was discriminatory. It blocked people out from access opportunity. We want to bring it back to a place that’s much more inclusive and that allows us to transform, to be more resilient, to be more adaptive. You know, of all the pressures and sadness and tragedy that Covid brought to us, it is a drop in the ocean compared to what’s happening and coming towards us with climate change. So we need to figure this out very quickly and we need to do it together and transform together. And so we’ve seen this happen all over the world, whether they’re reallocating space in the streets, whether they’re testing new opportunities for public transport, whether they’re looking at curbside delivery and pick up and drop zones, all of this is ways that we can reimagine and redesign our spaces so that the more inclusive while the buildings figure out their associations with occupancy. And we have to do it inclusively. We can’t have a two tiered society that we’ve experienced in US. This is the really important photo for you to look at. This is a reclaimed street that was taken away from car traffic, create a parklet, a temporary parklet to look at outdoor dining, but those people that are protesting are protesting for black lives matter, for racial discrimination and for the racism that’s affecting our society. We can’t have these dual societies that one just ignores the other one. We have to work together. And while you are experiencing the outdoor dining experience, you really need to also focus on the fact that what are we using our streets for and what are the larger systems issues that we’re focusing on, that main things like policing our public spaces, policing certain bodies over others. And while we want people to walk and bicycle, if you don’t feel safe because you’ll be arrested or harassed by police, that is not the answer to our situations. We need to look at ways that we can make this much more of a community led process so that whatever this looks like, it is community driven, community managed and community owned, so that we can ensure that this looks like something that is much more inclusive and not this photo, which is really exclusive. So, just going to close on some of the actions that have been taken by cities like my city in San Francisco, where they’re looking at all this and saying, okay, based on these situations, slow streets or green streets or whatever the streets want to call them that are not car dominated, look like this in certain neighborhoods. In other neighborhoods, for example, in the Tenderloin, which has a high homelessness population, a high population of mental health issues, etc., they’re looking at it differently. It may be that we look at closing certain streets, limiting access to certain streets, changing the way streets are policed or enforced. All of these things basically are being looked at. And I think a more community driven approach will help us move forward in these downtowns in the future. So I want to close by saying these downtowns are more than just bricks and mortar. They’re more than just buildings, streets. They are people. If we can make them more inclusive, more community oriented, more community driven, where all groups and all people can merge together and coexist and actually thrive, then we’ll be able to adapt to all of the situations that are coming towards us, including climate change. So thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate being here.
I’m going to skip forward, just get through here. We started our studio about seven or eight years ago on a couple of projects that were decidedly not about building cities. They were about building architecture and crafting architecture and have subsequently graduated to where we want to be, which is rethinking cities, working with cities, transforming Toronto, transforming Innisfil and hopefully others around the world. This is our WTF proposal in Shanghai. This is the book that we wrote with Hans Ibelings called Rise and Sprawl. It was a critique of the condominiumization of most Canadian cities and the quality of the architecture we were building and the future that we were laying out through building that architecture and how we can do it better. There are true mixed-use. You’re talking- not talking about like a lobby and a couple of stores at the bottom. We’re talking about 50-50 purpose built apartment and also office and cultural uses for the other 50 percent of the height. Most mixed use infill buildings and towers in Toronto are 99 percent luxury condos or high end condos. I shouldn’t say all of them, but most of them in downtown Toronto. The programing is limited except for in limited cases such as TIF. Andrew at Union Station, where we were hired to really rethink the quality of the interior infrastructure at Union and turn Union into a platform for Toronto’s most advanced, ambitious culinary, cultural and retail offerings. And so it’s really an opportunity for us to take a piece of infrastructure and bring the public realm to it. And this really catapulted Partisans into the project that I want to show you today, which is all about people and density and the idea of the future of cities, which is orbit. So about two years ago, we won an RFP to create a vision for a town outside of Toronto that was essentially part of the future of the transit system north between Toronto and a city called Barry. And if you don’t know much- I know that everybody on the Zoom is from around the world. So I’m going to give you a bit of an intro. Innisfil is in this area north of the city called Toronto on this huge island called Canada, which is really, in my humble opinion, one of the last humanist places in the world to live. Canada is an ambitious project, but sometimes we feel quite alone. And Innisfil is 50 kilometers north of our largest city, Toronto, which you see right here on Lake Ontario. Innisfil has a population of about thirty seven thousand people in an area of roughly two hundred and sixty square kilometers, predominantly houses along the water, Barry to the north with about half a million people, and that we’re going towards that, and then- and then basically farmland, and there’s a train track. Right now it looks like this. And with respect to the future, we want to prevent it from looking like this. And essentially, this is the way Canada has been developing cities. Joanna spoke to this earlier. It’s all about sprawl, and if you look at the area that I’m talking about, just north of Toronto and compare it to local areas. You got 630 square kilometers for Toronto at three million again, but the density is so much different in the downtown core, but really the density of the city, very low, Toronto. It’s spread out. And if you look at Mississauga, which is the city essentially attached to Toronto on the West End, the population is about a million people in the same square kilometers as Innisfil. And if we’re not careful, Innisfil will literally become the same kind of thing that Mississauga has in the last fifty to seventy five years. And that’s because there’s nowhere for Toronto to expand to anymore. And you’re seeing housing prices explode to a point that it’s unaffordable and inaccessible. Now, why Innisfil? Innisfail was chosen as a future location for a developer driven transit and like a spark plug, they decided to put this transit station between Toronto and Barry as a growth note. Essentially, it’s like a beacon for growth. But the question is, how could you build a complete community? How do you build all these things? And how is it more than just a suburban development? Well, you have to think about how to create a center of gravity. What’s an orbit? We called it in orbit because the station becomes this core that mobility and people moving without cars and having access to transit and access to retail and access to institutions is key. And so in a way, it’s about creating a center of gravity for a region that didn’t really- doesn’t really have one necessarily. It’s very diffused. It’s several hamlets and they all kind of orbit around each other. And the station is positioned in such a way that all of these neighborhoods can have a place that is like a commercial center. We have to control the density, of course. And we do this through looking at residents and city design. And so we look back to the Roman grid. We’ve been doing that for two thousand years enter World War Two postwar planning, the spaghetti plan, which is very popular among developers, whereas we’ve chosen to take the approach of the Ebenezer Howard Gardens city, a utopic plan, and really see it forward. The one innovation we had is we’ve married this sort of concentric city with the square edges because everything around it is obviously contained within a square. And thus you have the squircle plan. You started a circle and you end at a square. So we called it the squircle plan. And all of these precedents from around the world informed us from Meshach Cities in Israel, Ebenezer Howard, Burning Man. We looked at the scales of neighborhoods in the cities around the world with similar climates. And it’s very important to note that, you know, that the future of our cities also depends on climate. We can’t just fill the cities without thinking about how the world is changing physically. And we can’t deny that it is. And so we’ve been working very carefully with some very interesting engineers on how to design cities so that there’s an outdoor comfort in places that are minus 10 for a part of the year. And this is about looking at cities like Malmo. It’s about looking at cities like Chicago and others around the world for their cues. Scale is important, the human scale. And then the question to us was, how do we design this city? How do we create a vibrant core? How do you create responsible density? And how do we reconnect it and contain it? Because the question was, can we contain one hundred years of growth in three square kilometers? So instead of maxing out at three hundred square kilometers, how do we contain a hundred thousand people or more within a much smaller area, be an amazing city, but also be spectacular? And it’s possible. It’s doable. With gentle density and pedestrian centered roads and a linear park along the track in the middle, we can do it. And luckily enough, we went through this process and our vision for how to build the orbit was accepted on multiple levels of jurisdiction from municipal loads, two of them being almost- one of them- two of them being unanimous and another two basically almost unanimous and then a provincial level vote. And now we’re into really the stage of getting the architecture to a point where it’s actually buildable. So it’s really kind of a dream come true of what’s possible in a kind of a context of rural reimagined and city building, as well as transit infrastructure. And I think thta this really speaks to the potential for- in post-COVID world to rethink how transit can be a catalyst for relieving pressure and prices in very dense city centers while also providing joy, beauty, accessibility, and really a mode of life that we can bring people from around the world to live in and appreciate Canada, our way of living and be a place where that we can all be proud of. So that’s really my take on on the future of downtowns. And I really appreciate your attention today. And I look forward to your comments and hearing back from everybody in the audience. Thanks so much.
Jacquelyn West, Lee Clarke, Ravi Jain
Jacquelyn West [00:00:05] Hi, good afternoon. We are pleased and honoured to be here with you today. My name is Jacquelyn West. I’m a strategist, creative placemaker and specialist in cultural place. Early on my career, I realized the causal relationship between cultural industry success and access to space. These industries require a place to collaborate freely, create platforms of showcase and spark public intersections. I’ve worked with top international artists, incredible cultural institutions, forward thinking real estate developers and municipalities. I bring private, commercial, and philanthropic resources together to invest in culture and Canadian creative talent. This is my friend and colleague Lee.
Lee Clarke [00:00:44] Everyone, I’m Lee. I’m an English architect and self-confessed dreamer who personally invested in the Canadian ecosystem by starting a family, a design studio and consultancy here in 2013. Jacquelyn and I became allies and friends after working together on Stutts Toronto’s first cultural container park. We travelled to London, my birthplace, to visit equivalent cultural spaces, and I’ve spent countless hours discussing what a diverse culture and community truly means to us both and how it could be further embraced to make Canadian cities such as Toronto the most sought after destinations to live in and visit.
Jacquelyn West [00:01:22] We begin the conversation and what we feel is the heart of what makes a city great, a feeling of home, of identity, of connection, of belonging, a city that is truly ours. Canadian values should be reflected and come to life in the streets of our downtowns. We believe we must make decisions based on the humans who inhabit our cities and encourage citizens to think like a community. What do we want? We remember how we felt united in the Raptors win. The feeling of pride we feel when someone takes their citizenship oath. And now how we’re collectively suffering the fallouts of the pandemic and watching the severe homelessness crisis unfold across the country. We believe we have an opportunity to take bolder action in assuring cities don’t leave humans behind as we strive for endless profitability. Canadian cities of the future will become the places where citizens can live freely as neighbours, thrive with opportunity here and at home, and feel motivated to invest in our collective positive future.
Lee Clarke [00:02:22] Investment into the future of these cities must include prompt discussions and action on racial and social integration, a topic widely discussed over the last several months. But we don’t need armchair support posting black squares on social media. It’s time to start by having conversations at policy level with people much like myself and have been discussing the lack of diversity at every level of existence for an entire lifetime. Single handedly, it was perhaps my proudest day as a black man in Canada. I felt I belonged. The togetherness, the equality, bonding and complains, delights, shared and embraced by all. It still brings chills just thinking about the energy. The true nature of our city unrefined showed up in force and gave an insight into what could truly be. Let’s incorporate this into our being. Our offices, our developments, our decision makers. Let’s create communities and embrace income diverse- diversity and aim to educate and share knowledge, history and wealth amongst each other for the greater good.
Jacquelyn West [00:03:25] We point now to a growing concern and solution waiting to happen at the grand plan of our downtowns. Once home to neighborhood, independent shops and local offerings has developed more and more into the same homogenized amenities marked by high rents and in some cases, like in Montreal, Rabson in Vancouver and Young Street in Toronto, very high vacancies and lines up for rent and allaway signs. While the pandemic has pointed out the flaws in our models, the challenges of losing our cultural fabric and unique identities at this ground walkable, livable level has been playing out for some time. In 2015, over the course of twenty four months, the neighborhood of Queen West in Toronto rapidly lost twenty four out of its twenty seven galleries and collaborative artist spaces. The culture district was wiped off its culture. The shift- these shifts happen quickly, so therefore this is our rallying call. What are concepts that we can adopt now, in especially as we move through the landscape of a pandemic, but moreover, thinking beyond. What can we envision beyond downtowns that are offering the same as what can be found in the strip malls of our suburbs? You’ll see in some of these images notions of partnerships with cultural institutions, festivals, artists collectives, and creative entrepreneurs that have started to think inventively about where we go from here.
Lee Clarke [00:04:43] Let’s look at the potential of cannabis and embrace the fact that Canada has dared to do first what so many have been afraid of. We’re market leaders, forward thinkers, trendsetters. I revel in telling my friends back at home about the creativity unfolding, the people of color that are equally involved, and just how cool it is- its potential is. Don’t be afraid of it. Let’s use this as an opportunity to destigmatize and grow an entire new industry was paying homage to its cultural and historic past. We dare to open the doors as a nation. But the curtains have still been drawn close behind, literally. Take a look at your high streets today. Cannabis retailers are proliferating them. We’ve blacked out windows and restricted entries which does nothing to help break down traditional stigmas. In Ontario alone, rightly or wrongly, in my opinion, interpretation of policy is helping to create more barriers and restrictions and is not embracing the future.
Jacquelyn West [00:05:41] We can’t speak of cities of the future without calling focus to how people move around. Our Canadian cities on a global scale are young. We are a neighborhood-dwellers mostly because our access is- our access of movement is limited. We can’t get from the Aga Khan Museum to the St. Lawrence market with any ease, or nor can we find our way back from Port Frederick back to the downtown of Montreal. With ease of movement, we can explore and participate with more- we can explore and participate with more of what our downtowns and vibrant cities have to offer. More context for convening, for collaborating, for connecting. I personally work between Toronto and Montreal, and the disconnection between these two global cities is astounding. And imagine if we did have that super high speed train to connect us.
Lee Clarke [00:06:26] Connection that shows that it. Picture this London, England to Paris, two hours and six minutes by train, London, Ontario, Toronto, three and a half hours, the former being twice the distance. As a Londoner, I grew up embracing the entire city, whether it be taking the foot bridge under the River Thames from Canary Wharf to the cemetery, meeting a friend in north London to watch the mighty Tottenham Hotspur playing at a sixty thousand capacity stadium, then hopping on the tube stuff. The reverse to clap him for postgame drinks. Spent my well-earned salary in multitudes of areas and adding to the economy in my own little way. How does one watch a TFC game in Liberty Village, visit the science center and then the movies. I stop by the bay for a spot of shopping before returning home. The current mindset implies these are three separate tasks completed on three separate days. It’s time to reimagine this. Being a younger country is an advantage, not a hindrance. We can borrow from everyone else’s success stories.
Jacquelyn West [00:07:25] Our Canadian cultural exports kill it. I mean, we all know this. Music, film, art, our cultural institutions and post-secondary education options and cultural production are our world leaders. Our Canadian creative talent is dynamic, diverse and a major asset to the future prosperity of our city centers and to our global attractiveness. We propose radical investment in a support infrastructure that encourages this talent to be incubated, to stay in Canada, to thrive in Canada and compound in a way that attracts outside investment and new talent to come and join us here. I hope to see trends like the creative entrepreneur accelerators of Montreal like Lexcen Zoo and Liberty, and the renaissance of the important work of the center and even the media city development on the waterfront of Toronto. Cultural production is a major driver of our future success landscape, and we would be well poised to assure that our downtowns be the epicenters of sharing this with our city and with the world.
Lee Clarke [00:08:25] What if our developers knocked up our anchor tenant being the community, not the largest retailer of demand. One hundred Kellogg’s Lane, London, Ontario, has partnered with the Hard Rock Cafe to create Canada’s largest entertainment complex, creating an interaction and destination in part of London, screaming out for revitalization. Take a second look at your Google map of your current location and reimagine what it might look like as a Ferris wheel or an art gallery on the same site as your local big box store. You might find it amusing, if nothing more.
Jacquelyn West [00:08:56] Mixed-use in modern solutions are what is being called for in this time of resiliency. We have some interesting solutions and models that help achieve these notions. From here, we pass the mic to our friend Ravi Jain to share an incredible initiative under way to meet these objectives head on. Thank you for your attention and for your heart.
Ravi Jain [00:09:17] Jacquelyn and Lee, that was amazing as you switch out. Thank you so much. I’m really honored to be here to follow my amazing colleagues, Jacquelyn and Lee, and to be on this amazing panel. This platform is pretty awesome. So thank you. So who’s this guy without a PowerPoint? My name is Ravi Jain. I am the co-artist director and founder of a theater company called Why not Theatre. So Why not Theater, we are more than just a theater company. Our work is about city building and activating city- civic engagement through the performing arts. We want to use the arts to make meaningful change for the people who live in cities. So we basically do three things; we make and tour work that challenges the status quo of what stories are told and who gets to tell them. So that’s anything from me and my real life immigrant mother on stage talking about how my parents tried to arrange my marriage in 2007. True story. It didn’t go so well. It’s very funny. We’ve also created the first bilingual American Sign Language and English production of Hamlet. Again, changing the who on stage really opens up the possibility of what kind- how we receive stories and what the cultural narrative is. The second thing we do is we share our resources with other artists to support their work and enable them to make into a work. This tends to be marginalized artists who are- who don’t receive mainstream support. And the third major thing we do is we provoke systems change by removing the barriers of access to participation in the arts for both artists and audiences. So that’s anything from innovative producing models, mentorship programs for BIPOC female artists and this innovative space pilot that I’m really excited to share with you all. So we are unique because in the- since 2016 to now, we are- we achieved a ridiculous growth trajectory. And in four short years we went from being an artistic to company with an operating budget of five hundred fifty thousand dollars to two million dollars, a team of three people to now we’re a full time team of eleven. So that kind of growth is super rare in the arts. It’s even more rare in the arts to do without a building. So as we were growing, everyone immediately said, oh, you’ve crossed to two million, get a building, build the new institution. And I thought about it and I was like, but the business model of buildings, theater buildings in particular in Toronto, is very bad. The capacity for space is also not- doesn’t make any sense. The need for space is so great. When you build a building, you’re limited by the amount of space that you have. So the supply and demand structure doesn’t really work. And for us as a company, we’re a touring company. So we have so much flexibility in that. We can be in a 500 seat space in Toronto, a 50 seat space in Vancouver, and a five thousand seater in London, England, where Lee is. So we have all this flexibility and a venue, one venue doesn’t really get that. Plus, on top of that, we would need to raise like five million dollars to resource and build the building. And that’s crazy. That’s so much money to put into one building. And so we said there’s got to be a better way to spend. If we raise five- if I raise five million dollars, I could change all of the inequities that existed in the arts sector today. So I said the resources can be spent differently. We got to find another way. Plus, I said, look, in Toronto and most cities there’s a ton of space that is not used. What could we do with it? What if we could build a new institution? And what if we imagine that Toronto was the theater that we built and all those empty spaces? That’s our theater. So then we started- we ask a lot of questions. So then we started to dream. Well, then, OK, if we did that, what if space could be entirely free for artists? What kind of artists would that enable? What kind of audiences would that eventually bring when we come back to a theater? And what could it mean for making a more vibrant city where art plays a key role in the lives of everyday people? So we looked at two really simple problems. One, we all know this, artists can’t afford spaces. We talked about how artists leave major city centers because it’s too expensive. That’s to live, but to work in, oh, my God, it’s impossible. Then if you can afford a space, it tends to be pretty dingy, especially if you’re in the independent community. You’re in the basement of fancy places. It’s not really good or healthy, probably. Then you have the problem for property owners. So they have a lot of their portfolio at one time that can be available. It’s empty, often sits empty and could be used as temporary vacant space. So our idea was to say, well, could we activate and energize those dormant spaces under the meanwhile lease, which is a structure that exists, and potentially in doing so, cover some of the running costs for the developers and potentially offer maybe like a tax receipt or some kind of incentive to do it. So we ran a pilot in 2019 where we turned those empty spaces into temporary rehearsal halls at no cost to artists. So what did we do? We, a theater company, built relationships with Crestpoint Real Estate Investment Limited, which is a commercial developer. Bless you. We worked with the United Churches and we worked with a Portuguese community center called Casa de Alentejo. And what’s unique here is that Crestpoint, they gave us space in downtown core in an office and commercial building. Now, what’s unique about that is more often than not, artists spaces tend to be outside of where people are. We’re in those buildings that you kind of pass by or you don’t really need to flow through. So what was exciting for us is here’s this opportunity to bring artists to where normal people are as opposed to bringing normal people to the theaters. What could we do and potentially having those relationships collide? And could- what could that change? So Why not Theater acted as the broker between the space and the artists. So we figured out all the nitty gritty of insurance, contracting, cleaning, security, accountability, all of those, you know, very, very important things and very, you know, very time consuming things. I’m sure you all can relate. And so what did we do? We gave space away to 50 artists for free. So that amounted to about twenty five hundred hours of space that was given. Sixty three percent of the artists, when we asked them after the survey, they ended up using the money to increase their artists fees. So it’s really amazing to think about artists who are, you know, especially COVID is revealing, the most, you know- the income precarity for most artists is huge. So here’s a way to activate the space and get money into their pockets. So our cost was nine thousand dollars, which means that we were able to access the space for three dollars and fifty cents an hour roughly, and the market value of the space we access was about thirty three thousand dollars. So it was really- and we stumbled into this and it was really- the numbers were exciting. And so some major outcomes were we really focused on supporting Black, Indigenous and artists of color to provide them with space and to allow them opportunities to access space and develop work. We activated those empty spaces. And in doing that, we created a better economic system, and a way to use this underutilized space to make money for artists, which is like anything, generate a business, generating for the economy. So coming out of COVID, like what we’re trying to do now, we’re coming into COVID or in this transition of COVID, you know, it really highlighted in the art sector, you know, as I said, income precarity, the racial reckoning of Black Lives Matter in the murder of George Floyd. And it’s exacerbated- it also points out this real big challenge of the relationship to people and space and the cost of space. All of these things are being like exponentially highlighted because of COVID and becoming to the forefront. And a lot of the challenges for main street that a lot of people are talking about and we’re CUI has been a great partner for us to think about, is you having more empty commercial and office spaces. A lot of organizations like Shopify or people are saying we may not come back, we’re not sure how to come back. All this space is empty. The other major thing that we’ve identified is that we don’t know what the long term effects of COVID is going to be. We don’t know the PTSD that we’re all going to have an experience in our bodies. So is there a way, again, that the arts could serve a role with these kind of main street problems? So our vision forward is to ask if there’s a way that artists can be helpful in this recovery that we’re slowly getting closer to vaccines to fix up. So if you think about- if you just imagine this. Artists have transferable skills. So a lot of artists, actors, dancers are yoga teachers. So could we take an empty space, an empty storefront, and could it become a low cost yoga class for local citizens to pay that artist a freelance wage so that the artist makes money and provide service for the citizenry so they can be healthier, process this time? Obviously, artistic installations create art, as Jacquelyn and Lee were talking about, the benefits to that in any neighborhood. I don’t feel I need to kind of talk about that here. So one of the ways that we’re trying- where CUI again has been really helpful for us is we’re trying to think about how to incentivize more property developers to want to get into this. So could there be something like a tax abatement that the city could give to property developers, to people to give incentives to want to, again, activate their spaces in the meanwhile lease? So the temporary times when your portfolio- when two percent of your portfolio is sitting empty, how do we use it? How can we activate those centers? And I’m just rounding up here. So to say that the majority of support for the arts and the relationship to the arts in cities tends to be through buildings. Its institutions, right? And they’re important and we absolutely need them. But we also need to build and support an infrastructure that’s about people, not the buildings, people. As Jacquelyn said. So our vision of Why not Theater is to open up spaces as a way of investing in the people who can activate communities, artists. That’s what we do. And opening up the barrier space to those artists- in opening up the barrier to space to artists, we believe that we can unlock incredible potential for us as a city in Toronto and then multiple cities abroad. And if we can make more access to spaces, we can maximize existing resources to imagine a new and healthier way of looking at how everyday spaces can transform into artistic lifelines, providing necessary economic and mental health supports to create vibrant cities. So that’s me. Thank you very much.
Ravi got me all psyched up, but I feel like he said everything I wanted to say even better. So again, my name is Alkarim. I’m actually a co-founder of a development company working primarily in established areas here in Calgary as well. And as Cherise mentioned, I’m a co-founder of a recent proptech company really focused on the renter-landlord relationship within the residential side. A little bit about RNDSQR. We’ve been operating now in Calgary and now in Winnipeg for the last five years, kind of focused on mixed-use, multifamily projects, really focused on urban reinvigoration, finding ways to build on main streets and bring back population and density back to our established neighborhoods. So super passionate about our city and how we grow. And I think Calgary is in one of these really interesting places where we’re going to have to be provocative and super, super innovative to figure out how to solve some of the problems that are facing us as a city, but also us as a globe in North America with- with many major metropolitan cities trying to understand what- what the downtown fabrics of– you know, downtowns that were built out to be primarily work focused. My presentation, isn’t going to be flashy, but it’s going to be pretty straightforward. Similar to what Ravi said. I believe that our focus is on people. A lot of the discussions that we’ve been- I’ve been hearing and seeing is around attracting great companies to come back to these cities or the fact that COVID may not be lasting in terms of the impact that it’s having. And so I’ve seen lots of great kind of articles about Calgary attracting new tech companies. And I think that’s amazing. And I think that’s part of our growth strategy. But I think it really starts with with our people. And, you know, in technology, I’ve learned a little bit so far in my time that we really need to think about our users. And when we think about people, we need to think about how they interact with our city. And I think for us to attract the vibrancy or attract the tech companies we’re talking about, we need to figure out how we’re going to attract the right people. And so these are just some amazing images of Sled Island here in Calgary, which was kind of a grassroots music scene startup that kind of popped up all throughout the city. And Sled has kind of become a North American phenomenon. And I think how we program our cities is going to be absolutely critical to the future of what those spaces look like. And so really focused on programming is something that I think is going to take us into the future. If I- if I was to dive in deeper, similar to what Ravi said, is we have a ton of spaces and when I think about the spaces that are vacant, Ravi talked a lot about our artists and I think a lot about small businesses and the vibrancy that small business brings to us. How do we figure out ways to get more flexible and how do cities come up with policies that allow for people to reactivate spaces that are sitting vacant? And I think the other important thing, that Ravi flagged that’s very similar to kind of a lot about what we’ve been thinking is how do you motivate landlords to actually be willing to participate into these things? Oftentimes, keeping the door shut is more viable than keeping those doors open. And so I think it takes a collaborative approach of city private and then- and then young small business entrepreneurs. And we’ve seen some amazing stories of adaptive reuse through COVID. And I think we’re starting to scratch the surface of some of those examples. There’s a- there’s a company in Calgary that launched four weeks ago called Pigot’s Burgers, and they did fifty thousand dollars in hamburgers their first week working out of a craftier market’s kitchen. And so 70 people making hamburgers to service a delivery network. And so you can kind of see the innovation coming. And I think that this type of adaptive reuse, reusing spaces that shut down in the morning or the evening or even for Calgary, that- that we see a lot of these vacancies. There’s an opportunity to really turn these into more vibrant sectors. The big question is, is what what does the future of our course look like? Do people come back to work? And what does that work environment look like? I’m a big believer in connection and bringing people together is where we see some of our greatest innovations. You think of the late Tony Hsieh who talked about the interaction- the greatest interaction for us with the greatest innovation is people being next to one another and I think he took that from The Triumph of the City. And so that really resonates with me. And I think we all have this innate want and need to be close to other people. And that’s where we’ll see some of our greatest inventions is those kind of hallway pass movements or those water cooler connections. And you don’t get that without being physically close to people. I do believe, though, we’re going to have to be a lot more intentional about why- why we’re bringing those people back and solely providing space or beautiful space will not be enough of a reason. When you think about some of the cities that have gone through this, I think Detroit is an obvious one. How do we get people back to a decimated core? And again, it starts with arts culture and its bottom up. And I think Calgary, specifically dear to my heart, is we have a pretty robust central business district, but we have a lot of missing need for housing. And so when we think about how do we get people not only to look at adaptive reuses of some of our vacant spaces, it’s going to be about how do we actually interact at the ground level? What is it going to take for us to really get families to show up and say, oh, yeah, no, I actually want to go down to the core. And unfortunately, the way that our core has been built out, we haven’t done that enough. But I think there is amazing fabric and places to do that. And the cheapest way to do it is not to tear down, rip up and build a new structure. It’s going to be around how do we build programing? We just had Chinook Blast here in Calgary, which was an art exhibit, and so many families that are checking out balloons and lit up kind of art exhibits. And so all it really takes is thinking about what do people want, how will they interact and how do we continue to give that to them in the future. And I think that bottom up approach, if we can attract enough people to say we want to be back in these places in Calgary, again, being really close to me, we want to be back at that city because of what’s happening from a cultural perspective. I think the companies will follow the people and we’ve seen that before in the past. And so if I was to say, where should we invest our dollars, it’s in the people. How do we invest in people so we can build this thing from the bottom. And I really do believe technology will play- play a role. And these are just examples with what BIG is doing here in Japan in Woven Cities. And again, not being an architect, not being a planner, but understanding that the future- there is technology starting to interface and so many of these different mediums. And so how do we leverage technology within our cores? What does that look like? I was on a proptech panel yesterday at the UofC and hearing Aspen Properties talk about what the future might look like for office space, where you pay per usage so every- every company pays based on when their employees are there. And there’s no segregated space for companies, but they all kind of live in this ecosystem of where they work and play. And so you think about the dynamics of that, of companies collaborating with each other, intersecting with each other, rather than being kind of segregated. It’s an incredible concept. And so I think technology will have an incredible role. Sustainability will also start to play some really key pieces. But I think when we talk about what are some of the easiest ways to solve these problems, we know we can’t technically tear down these assets or reinvigorate them very easily. So how do we start to draw people to these places based on things that we know scale a lot easier? This is, again, just talking about- I don’t- I don’t think any core will ever again be a CBD. I think work environments will be different and it’ll be focused around how we live, how we connect with one another, and how we strike the right balance. And so I think if we can continue to focus again on people striking that right balance is what’s going to be the key to kind of reinvigorating many of my- many of the cores in North America. And that’s it. Hopefully that was a quick 15 minutes- and provocative.
For current roles and responsibilities, elected councilor, still for the Squamish nation and also a board member with Vancity Credit Union here in B.C. But today, I’m mostly speaking from my role with the Squamish nation councilor as a spokesperson for the nation, and hopefully sharing a little bit about some of the exciting works that we’re doing here in Vancouver, including the creation of a whole new community in a dense urban environment on one of our reserve properties that we own within five minutes to the downtown Vancouver area, which you can see behind me. I am going to now share my screen. So one of the projects that we’re involved in the Squamish nation is the development of one of the largest real estate developments in Vancouver and the whole metro Vancouver region. And its development of a community of six thousand units of housing and a piece of land that’s about 11.7 acres. That’s about five minutes from the downtown core and in essence, is somewhat expanding the downtown area and building a significant amount of rental supply into the Vancouver region. I am trying to move the website, but it unfortunately is not moving for some reason with the share and now its’s spinning. So the project proposes to build six thousand units of mostly rental apartments. It’s a partnership between the Squamish nation and one of the development companies here in Vancouver called West Bank where the Squamish nation is providing the land and then working with our development partners to secure financing, to create development design and then ultimately building structures within Vancouver. I’m going to try another way of screen sharing. Some really interesting highlights of the project; it’ll be- about 10 percent of the project will have parking. It is about a one unit to- one unit of parking to 10 units of apartments. So it’ll be a very low car sort of urban development. It proposes a six thousand- six thousand stalls of bike parking with commercial and retail developments within as well. The name of the village- the name of the place, Senakw which comes from the name of our historical village, that my ancestors lived in this land for many thousands of years. And the reserve lines that we are developing were re-acquired in 2003 after very lengthy court battle with the Federal government to reacquire lands that were confiscated from our people. I think it is now working, so great. So you can see the towers, this 12 proposed towers, the tallest tower will be fifty nine storeys. They use a number of different architectural modalities that are very much inspired by co-sales, culture and values. It is intended to be a hundred percent energy efficiency development where there is- based off of some of the technology that we’re looking into at this point. It might even provide energy back into the grid, or at very least the carbon neutral in terms of its energy efficiency and how it generates energy through the building itself. So looking at some very unique green technologies, we’re hoping to also looking into low carbon cement products and mass timber products that are going to be one of the most climate action oriented developments in North America. A number of those types of policies will be required in Vancouver in the coming years, but we are choosing as this occasion to take climate action seriously now instead of waiting for time to pass before we take action. As you can see, the buildings are on both sides of one of the main arterial bridges that are- that exists here in Vancouver. And the interesting thing about the Broad Street Bridge is that it’s one of the most biked bridges per capita in North America. So you can imagine as we look at adding a development that has only 10 percent parking for the amount of units that we’re building in largely a bike- an active transportation network, this bridge will become even more popular for the use of bike lanes as well as transit, both on the bridge and also nearby on a rail line that is currently deactivated but has the potential to be turned into a light rail transit corridor. There’s, I think, a real strong desire to imagine a new type of development that can happen in a place like Vancouver where we have significant issues around affordability. We are essentially looking at about six thousand units of rental, give or take, in a time span of about five to seven years. And an approval process that will take less than two years. And if you compare that to normal municipal processes that often take very long, are very costly. It often results in, I would say, a very arbitrary decision around the level of density often restricted by very anti-housing sort of arguments that constrain the amount of housing we built in our city and directly contributes to the affordability issues that we’re facing. So the fact that the Squamish nation can come in and use our jurisdiction where the city of Vancouver has no jurisdiction over our reserve lands in terms of zoning, counsel- my counsel, is able to identify what is the type of development we want to do that can generate long term revenue for the nation to support our social goals while at the same time providing a significant amount of rental housing for the region? There’s also contemplation of including some affordable housing that subsidize. A lot of that will be targeted to members of my community, but also possibly even more affordable housing initiatives, depending on the financing that we receive that could be incorporated into the project as well, so the general public. Also, imagine activation of the ground level for retail and commercial and cultural spaces, that it will become a very active hub of people and interactions throughout the development. Imagine there’s four phases that would be built over the coming years, and we are currently working on a service agreement with the City Vancouver to secure municipal-like services for the project that will be paid for from property taxes that the Squamish nation charges to the development partnership, and then the nation then pays the city for the services through the revenue we generate off of the property taxes. And because it’s on reserve line in the Squamish nation as the jurisdictional authority, we have the authority to charge all of the taxes that we would normally charge that you would see in a municipal government setting. But one hundred percent of those taxes are generated and given to the Squamish nation. That includes things like property taxes and utility fees, but also if we were to include some sort of condo that would also float to its connotation in terms of property transport taxes and things like that. But I guess that’s just a bit of an overview of the project. I think what I really want to propose or pitch to people and explain is in this region of Vancouver, the three local first nations whose territory Vancouver sits upon are currently the largest property owners in Vancouver. And I’ll reiterate that, again, the Indigenous people of Vancouver who are from here and have been here for thousands of years own more private property than any other developer in the region. And we’ve been able to use our constitutional rights to reacquire lands within our territory for the purposes of real estate and economic development so that we can generate long term revenue streams for our communities to support the social, cultural and economic goals of the community and build wealth, build prosperity and build, I think, a better future for our communities. And that’s a model that I think a lot of other governments could look to and learn from. And it also speaks to the power of First Nations to be able to address issues that municipal governments often have challenges addressing, which is how do we provide enough housing to meet the demand of our cities that are growing, either through population or through immigration or to the job centers that are growing within our cities as well. And we’re seeing not just in Vancouver, but in places like Toronto, places that are all around North America, where it’s is completely exacerbating the affordability issues and driving up the lack of housing for poor people to live in, is causing a lot of the issues that we’re seeing around affordability. But the other thing that’s exciting about this is that this project really proposes a unique vision for a community development that aligns with Indigenous values, especially around environment and climate change, around active transportation, around nature, around community and culture, and around a different type of development. And this is just one of many real estate projects that the three local nations are involved in. This one is exclusively Squamish. There are some projects where all three nations are involved, but this is our project and this so the image here shows the original reserve boundary that we own and how over a hundred years- it was actually 50 years, it was successfully carved up and expropriated away from the community, but we now have a small sliver of land that we are using for economic development purposes. The project, I think, will hopefully, I think, prove out what is possible when we allow for a reorientation of what community building and city building really means in the context of the twenty first century, in the context of huge challenges that cities face around providing housing. The city Vancouver has a goal to build 20,000 rental units over the next 10 years- sorry 40,000 units over the next 10 years. The Squamish nation is going to be potentially providing six thousand of them within a time span of five years. So we are a big player in this, but I think this speaks to the role that First Nations can play and should play in city building and community building and a way to also repatriate the value of the land that has been generated for all kinds of companies and individuals and governments that indigenous communities have seen very little benefit from. When we explain to people why we are doing this and what do we think of people who might say the towers are too tall or that’s too many units or it’s too dense, is our community has to have our entire territory turned into the city that you see behind me. We have completely felt the impacts of city building within our territory and our community has seen very little benefit of the wealth that has been generated off our lands. And so we now have an opportunity as Indigenous people to bring our values to the table and to design a type of community and type of development that is in line with our values, but also sees that the wealth that’s generated off our lands actually comes back to our people and helps support the long term sustainability, growth, livelihood of my community. And just to give you a bit of an example of that, the poverty rates within my community are still higher than national averages, graduation rates are still below the national averages, the life expectancy is still below the national averages. There are still numerous ways in which my community is trying to attain a quality of life that we have been denied for so long. And we can wait for governments to provide funding for us to address those issues, or we can go out and create the revenue we need to address those issues ourselves. And that’s the obligation we have as leaders. And this is, I think, the first of many projects that the Squamish nation wants to do to become a regional player in solving and addressing a number of these issues, but also taking advantage of many of the opportunities.
Jill Tipping and Ray Walia
Jill Tipping [00:00:06] Thanks so much and hello to everyone. It’s really great to see you today. Ray and I were thinking this might be a little bit like a clubhouse chat, but with added video.
Ray Walia [00:00:19] Clubhouse 2.0 right?
Jill Tipping [00:00:20] Exactly. And you’re in your car. That’s awesome. I love that.
Ray Walia [00:00:24] Yeah. I had to take my mom to the doctor so-.
Jill Tipping [00:00:26] There go.
Ray Walia [00:00:29] -multitasking here.
Jill Tipping [00:00:29] This is Covid life. Business life in COVID. Well, it’s- and it’s a great example of the modern city, right. And everything that’s changing so. Well we’ve got a few questions that we thought we would cover together. And through that conversation, we thought it would provoke some interesting thoughts for the audience. We’re super interested in hearing your thoughts, your input on chat or afterwards, whatever. But let me sort of get us kicked off talking about- we have a shared perspective Ray now because we’re both working in the BC tech sector and in a way that gives us kind of a particular view on cities, on city centers. And during COVID, tech companies pretty well across the board have moved to a largely remote model, right? So a certain amount of hybrid, but also a remote model. And we really think that’s going to be part of the mix going forward. And that raises the question, for us at least, what is the role of the office for a tech company now? So- so, Ray, what do you see? What do you think the role of the office is now?
Ray Walia [00:01:34] So I’ve obviously had quite a few conversations around this- infact- matter lasted for a while. One of the- I hate to say it- but one of the blessings of COVID was that it affected the entire world at the same time. So a lot of people simultaneously had to reexamine and reevaluate how they work, but also got the epiphanies of how they could operate in new ways and adapt to new technology and whatnot. But one of the things that has become evident is that in the last year, a lot of companies are doing triage. They were not moving forward. There were addressing issues. They were trying to figure out how to solve current problems, manage staff and whatnot. And what’s now starting to come to light is that work from home was very powerful and easy to change over to while solving problems. The actual task of solving problems, executing on development or what not, work from home allowed for that. But where you’re seeing challenges now is the process of actually identifying what problems to solve. The process of trying to figure out how to solve these problems. These processes historically have required in-person contact. A reading of a body language, collaborations off the cuff conversations in the coffee room or tossing ideas back and forth randomly. Working from Zoom does not allow for that, working from home does not allow for that. So there is a realization now that the offices are not going away. I know a lot of the big corporations talked about, hey, we’re going to go fully remote. But when you really look at it, they have been sucking up real estate in a lot of the big cities. And where you might think they should be cutting their leases- I don’t really know any large corporation that’s cut their leases. I know some are reevaluating how much space they need and how they’re going to utilize our space. But downtown core offices, I think, are still going to be very relevant. There is an opportunity to evolve the office and look at how it’s structured like open plan offices may shift more towards closed room offices and communal spaces or more collaborative spaces as opposed to single desks.
Jill Tipping [00:03:59] Yeah,.
Ray Walia [00:04:00] One of the- sorry, but one of the other big things I’ve seen come out is the concept of hub and spoke, and so you have a core office for Think Effect or later.com in the downtown core, but you might have a shared office in a community hub or incubator in Burnaby or New West or Port Coquitlam where your staff that chooses to work from home can have a bit of an escape, a place to go to that isn’t all the way downtown, but close enough to home that they can get out and be around other adults and be around other people that have a higher level of expertise and may not just be in your organization, but others that you can collaborate with. This has been one of the failings with rural incubators and coworking spaces is that a lot of times the mix of people in there is not a high caliber, it’s people that are starting out, people that are freelancing, and you don’t see more C-level professionals going there because they don’t see any benefit. But now, in this scenario where you do have more C-level people working remotely from home, you can expect those hub locations to have a higher caliber of people and more in-depth conversations or whatnot, high level conversations. But I do not see the core office downtown going away anytime soon.
Jill Tipping [00:05:32] Yeah, and will we see a lot of the same sort of thing, right? So- so everybody I think for years, we’ve convinced ourselves that there’s a productivity issue, right? with people working from home. But exactly like you say, it’s not productivity that’s the problem, it’s creativity and creating in a sort of on your own at home environment or in your car is more difficult than when we’re together. And I really share your vision that we’re going to want to get together after COVID and we’re going to want to create new problems to solve and work together on the interesting thing. So if the office remains OK, but the nature of the work that happens within the walls changes and maybe the therefore the setup of the office changes, I wonder if that even changes what downtowns are, right? Like, if you think about it, today, we think of downtowns are where you go to work, right? And where you live is where you experience leisure and creativity and the arts and entertainment. And if the office becomes more a place of playful work and creativity and connections and networking exactly as you’re describing, does that maybe give an opportunity for revitalization and vibrancy?
Ray Walia [00:06:55] Well, it’s one of the other conversations that’s been very top of mind for a lot of the CEOs and executives I’ve talked to is, there is this other challenge with work from home where you have a younger workforce that by far is going to have a massive impact. I just put an article in Forbes today or yesterday about how your KPIs for businesses need to align with the values of Gen-Z. And we were to see that with Black Lives Matter, we’ve seen with GameStop recently, this is a very, very powerful generation. And there is a challenge now with working from home, a lot of these younger employees, entry level employees, are not getting the exposure that they need to level up their skills and learn how to solve problems, because even though they historically were not involved in the actual solution process, they learn through osmosis. They were in the room. They were around people discovering challenges or bouncing ideas back forth on how to solve things. And so they learned through that process. Now, working from home while they’re on Zoom, those acts of discovery and problem solving are happening outside of their vision. And there’s a gap there. And people realize that their workforce is going to lag behind in this fully work from home scenario. But the other side of it is, you talk to this younger generation. They want to be in an office. They want to get out of their homes like they’ve gone through school. They’ve gone through the first 20 years of their lives with home life and whatnot. They want to experience the next evolution of their careers. And so going into an office, being around people, having a culture, all these things matter to them and being able to mold and shape that culture is important to them. And so when you have something that’s fully remote, that’s not possible. And so when you do look at these offices being more collaborative environments where people will come in to solve problems or do group activities, that doesn’t just stop at three o’clock. People want to go up for socializing, for networking, and team building, and so when you do- team building is a perfect example. Like you’re going to have more things happening from home when people do get together, how do you galvanize them? How do you make things happen? Team building, outings, those type of things matter. So one of the things I see is downtown cores will probably be more vibrant, if anything. More activities, more bars, restaurants, activity centers. You can even imagine what the shift in retail going to online and e-commerce. You’ve got a lot of retail locations, shopping malls and whatnot. Do those become more community center centric as opposed to retail centric? And so no more big anchor corporations, more community spaces and collaborative spaces, entertainment spaces lined with retail.
Jill Tipping [00:09:57] That’s exactly what I think we’re going to see, right? So it’s like the hard boundary of work and leisure, I think is going to really get erased or rubbed out a little bit. And then there’s going to be this demand for flexible spaces that are work adjacent where you can do exactly what you’re talking about. So sort of the- you know, the concept that it used to be where you know, you could go to Starbucks and work for a little while, and- but you’re going to want that to be central to what you’re doing at work, both in the office and outside the office. So I think it’s- there’s a really interesting potential for it to be a more vibrant and a more interesting and a more engaging environment. But what we’re going to need to see then is that organizations and institutions and municipalities and regulations catch up with that and embrace that and are open to having this kind of more flexible sort of environment. So I think it’s- we’ve got some really interesting challenges, but I hope that we can see the participation that we would need from all those different stakeholders to really realize the potential.
Ray Walia [00:11:16] Yeah, we frankly just had a conversation on clubhouse last night. It was a room that happens once every two weeks to talk about policy changes and things that need to change in the city of Vancouver to make city of Vancouver more of a global city. And last night it was about nightlife and talking about the policy changes that need to happen. It’s not just about having beer gardens and nightclubs. It’s about arts and entertainment and having festivals. What type of policy changes need to be in place to allow for that? And this is going to be far more important moving forward. But I want to kind of throw it back to you as we’re talking about the downtown. And I mentioned how the hub and spoke, the tech companies and large companies, they are big fans of the urban environment. Like it’s not going to be fully back to the office. It’ll probably be a hybrid where two to three days work from home, two to three days in the office. But working professionals and people with young families are making that exit out of downtown, but into urban environments. And so what are your thoughts on how that dynamic is going to work between downtowns and urban environments?
Jill Tipping [00:12:34] Yeah, I think it’s, um- and actually, I’m just noticing someone’s asking in the chat for the link to the clubhouse room, so maybe you can jot that in. But it’s- I was thinking the thing that I’m most interested in, right?, is young people as the canary in the mine of the future. Right. So they tell us what the future is going to be like. And if we’re smart enough to listen. And I think tech companies are kind of the the canary in the mine as well. And they tell other organizations what the future is going to be like. So the tech companies have been deeply invested in culture for a long time. Like if basically you’re in the business of extracting value from people, from human beings, then you’re going to create environments that are optimized for human beings. So it’s going to be optimized for them to have all the tools that they need and all of the problems that they need to solve and then the interactions that they need. And I like the concept that some other industries, not- you know, not tech businesses, but other businesses are realizing through this pandemic the value of culture, like what their culture actually is and what their teams actually need. And that example you were giving of young people learning through osmosis from those who’ve gone before. And, you know, you do need a certain amount of connection and working together for that. So that, I think is really interesting. I think all companies are going to be culture first. I think all companies are going to take their talent pool far more seriously going forward. I think they’re going to take diversity and inclusion a lot more seriously going forward. And the consequences of all of that is going to need to be- to be very democratic and very open and very collaborative with your teams about what it is that they need and be responsive in reaction. So for me, it’s the future world needs to be a responsive world, right? There’s a potential for us to achieve far more than we’ve ever been able to achieve in cities and in businesses in the urban environment, if we’re open and willing to listen to one another about what we need and want. And so that example that you’re giving there about- you know your tech workers love the urban environment. You know, we love cosmopolitan environments that are rich, cultural, social spaces. So we’ve got a lot invested in making sure that the cities of tomorrow continue to thrive. We don’t want to see Main Street die. We don’t want to see town centers die. We don’t want to see city centers die. We don’t want to see downtown die. But we can’t do it on our own.
Ray Walia [00:15:07] Yeah. And I also think the nine to five concept is going to start to disappear. People, especially in tech space. I speak of it because that’s what I know so well. But I used to own restaurants, we have a construction company, so I’m very familiar with a wide variety of industries. But the nine to five concept is shifting and people are going to split up their work days. But how do you- how do you get that balance? You need thriving urban environments, but you also need thriving downtown environments. And so I think there’s huge opportunities for small businesses to create new things that cater to this new lifestyle and work life balance. But, yeah, downtown cores are still going to be very essential to business going forward.
Jill Tipping [00:15:58] Yeah, well it’s good. It’s good that both of us are optimists about the downtown and what it needs to look like and how it needs to evolve and change. And it doesn’t sound like we’ve got any doubts whatsoever that it’s going to be relevant for the next ten or twenty years.
Ray Walia [00:16:11] Well, I think also one thing that everybody needs to realize is as Canadians, our demand for talent and people is outpacing our ability to produce talent. And that’s not just a factor of the university is not pumping out people fast enough. It’s that technology is changing. Things are evolving so fast. And you just you just can’t produce people at the pace that’s needed. And also, our birthrates in Canada are dropping, so that’s another reality. And so how do we address that? Imports. We need to attract talent, we need to increase immigration. And thankfully, Canada is a very desirable place to live. We are part of the startup visa program. I do talks around the world. I’m doing a talk with a hundred Nigerian companies next week. I just did one last week with 50 companies from India. Canada is always going to be very, very desirable just because of who we are as people, who we are as a country, stable government. As much as we challenges internally, outside looking in, Canada is a very, very desirable place. The other thing is clean air, clean water. Climate change is a real thing. Like we just see what’s happening in the US with forest fires and hurricanes and the things. Canada is going to be more and more desirable for the next 10, 20, 30, 50 years. And so how do you create a thriving metropolis area that continues to attract people? And people want to have good lifestyles.
Jill Tipping [00:17:59] Yeha. The future belongs to Canada and the future belongs to cities. So, as usual, your tech panelists have given you an optimistic view. We hope we delivered to you what you needed. Thanks very much for the time. I really enjoyed the conversation. Back to you Cherise.
Ray Walia [00:18:15] And- sorry for anybody that’s looking about clubhouse. Just Google Vancouver. Vancouver Base Creative’s is one group that’s talking about the creatives in town. We do a show every Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. Pacific called Vancouver Tech Morning Coffee, and the evening chats are usually Wednesdays at 8:30 Pacific time. We don’t quite have Vancouver club set up yet. We’re still on a waiting list. But if you just search for rooms, anything with the title Vancouver in it, you should- they should pop up.
I’m going to share the screen today, we’re going to talk- I’m going to talk about creativity and the role that it has for downtown cores. Let me go here. Provocations from Montreal. So, LAAB- you just presented LAAB so I’ll go quickly over it, but basically what we believe in LAAB is that we believe that design can be an enabler and can help in a lot of situations beyond just designing buildings. And we think that process and how we- how we solve problems is important to what we deliver as an output and as buildings and environments. So we also work a lot on the process. So that will appear in the presentation. I like to quote Mies van der Rohe because this quote is interesting today in the pandemic context. We have to know that life cannot be changed by us. It will be changed, but not by us, which we’ve seen in the last year. We can only guide the things that cause physical change. So basically what Mies is saying is- is shit happens and then we have to deal with it, which is the situation that we have today with the pandemic. Why are our city cores important? They’re important for a lot of reasons, of course, for exchange of goods and people living together, tolerance, having common ground and all kinds of reasons why city cores are important. I like to look at a couple of historical examples to- just to refresh why some cities have emerged as creative hubs and innovation and really foster innovation in certain periods. So there are reasons why these cities have emerged as creative hubs. We could talk about Athens and Pericles period. We could talk about Florence during the Renaissance. We could talk about Paris at the turn of the 20th century. We could talk about New York City in the 70s. So there are lots of reasons. What has made these cities at these specific junctures creative hotbeds. So this is something that’s a bit eluded to us, but there is a lot of literature on the subject. So if we look, we’ll see that, of course, density or intensity has always been a condition conducive to creating these conditions of creativity and innovation. So on the left, we have Bologna medieval city. On the right we have urban sprawl. Urban- you could see that sprawl would kind of be the enemy of this intensity that we want to have some creativity and to have innovation. So sprawl is an issue. We like to- we think that diversity and variety and richness and depth of experience, of people, of ideas, of cultures, of origins is something that stimulates the new ideas and the crossbreeding of these new trends. So it spurs innovation as uniformity would be, of course, an enemy of this. I like to talk about serendipity, but serendipity is mostly having conditions that are conducive for the meeting of the ideas. So it’s good to have ideas and have diversity, but people have to be able to meet and talk and exchange so these ideas can evolve to next generation ideas. So if we have dispersion- and I think one of the issues of the pandemic right now is that we’re all fragmented in our individual houses. I think it will have an impact on the level of creativity and new ideas that will emerge during the pandemic or after the pandemic. So I think that if we can recreate these conditions for serendipity once we’re out of the pandemic, we’ll be fostering conditions for innovation. Change, of course, and inertia. Change is a- can be a positive force, can be a negative force. So it could be disruption. It could be volatility. It could be instability, but it could also be- could also foster change, acceleration of new ideas, new paradigms, new ways of thinking. So change is also a positive force. And in those cities that we’ve looked at, the four cities that I’ve pointed out, there’s always been an element of instability that has helped stimulate the creativity of those collectivities. So that’s an important thing. So what’s the future and how can we recreate these conditions in the core and make the core attractive? And I think that one of the attributes that we should lean on is the fact that those city cores are an essential part of innovation and creativity in companies and culture, social innovation. So how can we create this? I’m looking at a couple of trends and I’ll submit them to you. So the premise is that for now, going back downtown into the cores, we’ve been lacking, I think, a compelling narrative. We’ve been talking- we’ve been trying to convince people, you know, we should go back because it’s good for the economy, it’s our civic duty, all kinds of reasons why we should go back. But there hasn’t been a compelling story about what’s in it for me, what’s in it for the citizen, for the consumer, for the parent, for the student. Our lives have been upended and the user journey of going downtown is totally different now. So we need to rethink the attributes of the downtown destination and to rebalance them. So to start with the story is to appeal to the heart. We’ve been appealing a lot to the mind, but I think that now if we want to have success in bringing people back downtown and for it to be sustainable, I think we need to be telling a story from the heart as much as from the mind. Our cores are the premise- second premise are. Our cores are ghost towns right no., what’s missing and of course, is the users is the people. So we have to start- I think, one of the deep trends that it’s going to- for the next generation of these downtowns to help them become vibrant again is to work from the user experience. We’ve been working as designers from programs, from surface areas, from elaborate bubble diagrams and all kinds of things. But we haven’t really been working about- around the user experience and building out space around the user experience. Back in the days when we designed Quartier Des Spectacles in Montreal, we rebuilt the space, the urban shape, around the user, around the crowds, around the events, and then the urban shape kind of took shape and got framed around the user experience. So I think building around the user experience will probably make our downtowns a lot more user friendly and more ergonomic, more secure, safer in the post pandemic world, but also more resilient. So if we continue on this idea, the premise, the third premise is that we’ve seen that our real estate is really vulnerable to change and to disruption. So how do we render our real estate more resilient? So our way of looking at things is that, again, if- the promise is that if we could work to design systems, not necessarily shapes. Shapes- we think that the future will be to design these relations and systems and then the shape will accompany the system design. So it’s a new- it requires a kind of a new skill set to be able to design an experience and to design systems and not necessarily focus too much on shape. Shape is always an important component, but shape is also- should be balanced with all the other parameters of designing. This is how we’ve designed this project of the artificial intelligence campus in Montreal where we worked around the user, the user experience, and about how people can meet and generate new ideas and collaborate. And then the building supported this composition and supported the creative ecosystem that we put forth. Buildings- the fourth premise is that buildings have become over specialized. And I think that this is directly related to their level of fragility and vulnerability to the pandemic is that once the environment is changed, once the user experience is changed, once to the needs of the users and then the conditions, the economic conditions during the pandemic have totally changed, then our buildings are not well suited to change and to adapt to this new condition. So I think that the future- one of the deep trends of the future is that buildings will be planned as hybrid buildings and more as platforms than as- and then as shapes or shapes to house uses. I think buildings- we should as designers, what we’re already looking at is that we’re looking to design these buildings around commonalities of different usages or functions. What are the common elements? And then to build around- to build- a compromise wouldn’t be the right word, but to build a building that would be optimal for the commonalities of different functions. So a building that house residential, that could house office, can house cultural, so the building could evolve in time. Even Mies van der Rohe, when he designed his buildings, thought that the usages and the functions would probably change in time, but the buildings would remain. So it’s a bit of a thought process that I think will be something very prevalent in the next decade. So this is a key example in Miami here of a building that’s, of course, you know of the building as a parking, but it’s actually a structure that can house parking, that can house cultural events, that can house FNB and lounge areas. So I think this type of building, the platform will become a lot more prevalent in the next decade. Our cores have- has sustainability challenges and we’ve seen either heat islands or issues flooding, we’ve had- we have all kinds of issues related to sustainability. And I think with the pandemic now, it’s time to double down on being green, trying to go over and above. And I think the idea is not just to be incremental in the approach, but to be- to have a deep seated, a really deep approach to sustainability and to have it in an intrinsic fashion. So I think now is the time for big and bold ideas about sustainability, about putting the user at the center and building these a lot more user friendly and active transport and circulation centered rather than car centric environments. So of course, Les Champs Elysees, which really caught the imagination of the world recently with the total transformation of Champs Elysees, I think is a good example of big, bold ideas for our cores. And now is the time to be able to implement them. So what’s the future for our cores? I think starting with the story is going to help people- bring people back. I think that creativity and innovation is one of a key element of this story. To build out from the user is a change of how we look at real estate and how we do buildings and to build out systems rather than shapes and to really rely on leveraged platforms as a type of building, a new type of building, a hybrid building there where- that fosters cohabitation of different users and different functions and then to champion nature’s reclamation of our downtowns. So that’s what I think the future, the near future of downtowns will be and LAAB will collaborate and try to foster this new reality for downtowns. So I think that Lincoln is a big inspiration to look at a positive future and to have hope. The best way to predict the future is to collaborate and cocreate it together. To be an active part of it. Thanks.
So good afternoon, thank you for taking a few minutes to listen to this presentation. My name is Kevin Katigbak, I lead the strategy team here at Gensler, Toronto. And I guess my specialties are real estate, workplace, ethnography, research, experiential design. And we’ve taken- Gensler has taken and myself specifically, has taken the past 12 months to use this as an opportunity to capture as much data as we possibly can. One of the things that we’re seeing and one of the great impacts on our downtown cores and our urban experience is how people are reacting to this pandemic and specifically workers and what their expectations might be in the future. So I’m going to share a little bit of the data up front because it really does form a lot of what this conversation is kind of getting to. So, as I mentioned, we did a ton of research in the past year. I think we’ve done a survey that has tens of thousands of responses at this point. The data I’m sharing on screen is North American specific. And I’ll provide a little bit of context on the Canadian specific side of things as well. But one of the key findings that we’re seeing from the people that we’ve asked and how they’ve reacted to the pandemic is over half the people that we surveyed would prefer a hybrid work model. And I was- I’ve heard a few of the conversations suggest for two levels that the hybrid work model is that notion of working partially from home as well as working in the office. And we asked a very simple question. We asked a lot of questions I wanted to show you right now is pretty simple. It’s kind of how many days do you want to work in the office in a post pandemic world, in a post vaccine world in a world where we can almost call it normal again? And the responses were kind of across the board, but twenty nine percent of our respondents said full time in offices, 19 percent said full time from home. The Canadian data says actually a lot less full time in office and less full time at home as well, so that the proportion of hybrid is actually a lot greater from the Canadian context. But if we’re looking at the data on the screen, 80 plus percent of respondents do believe that the workplace is going to be something that’s important in the future. So another key finding, most jobs continue to be reliant on in-person collaboration and the physical workplace which is fantastic news. We don’t need to worry too much about our workplace because there is going to be a requirement for physical space. And I think from some of the earlier conversations, we do know that that person-to-person contact is hugely important in creating culture for organizations and creating vital downtown cores. There is- well there’s a number of deterrents to wanting to return to office, and I’m just going to share the one that is the biggest from our perspective, and that is actually the commute. So when we slice and dice this data relative to the distance of your commute, there’s a direct correlation. And the data I’m showing here is the people who said they want to return to work full time. And it’s pretty obvious and pretty straightforward what this is telling us, that the closer you live to the office, the more likely you are to want to come into the office, and the further you are from the office obviously, you kind of don’t want to return or you want to keep that as minimal as possible. So it’s really about convenience. And if there is a way to get people close to the office, I think that that’s kind of a win-win for everyone. So, yeah, people want to be back into the office in some way, shape or form. But it’s- that future office is not going to be kind of this office. This office that you see here, which is what people are maybe be used to. Less- less dynamic, less experience driven, perhaps the office space in more locations, older building stock. And how do we know that people don’t want to be in this type of office? Well we’re doing some straight math statistics here. If we look at vacancies, if you think about what Toronto’s vacancy rate was prior to the pandemic, it was one to two percent, which is very, very tight. It’s extremely tight. It’s actually very difficult for an organization to grow when there’s only one to two percent to grow within. If you think about, you know, a tech company that grows from one floor to two floors, you might not get that second floor adjacent to you or in the same building, for that matter. So it is a little bit tight if we think of subprime real estate, which is that kind of space that is, again maybe out of the downtown core, not around similar business clusters, their vacancy rates increase significantly more. So it’s like six to 12 percent right now. And while that isn’t hugely alarming. It is a big change and I think the shock is actually coming from the Delta, from that type one to two percent to six to 12 percent. If we think about prime real estate, so the downtown core proper, if you think about the business district in the south core of Toronto, that’s real estate performed much, much better within- during the pandemic. So people are still building. They’re still intending to return to office in some way. There’s a little bit of activity. Every downtown core in the world is suffering a little bit now, but it seems that that prime real estate is suffering a little bit less. So why is this bad? And here’s a lovely diagram of Toronto. And if we think about where some of these- some of the locations of these real estate are, so if you think about office space, both prime and sub-prime real estate. Subprime is like this blue downtown core piece. Subprime is kind of scattered all over the place. And maybe on this blank out where we are right now, some networking, pretty intense feelings. There are great prime real estate office is all over the city and there are sub prime offices all over the city. I just wanted to indicate where this kind of greater clusters are from. If we think that these are the spaces that are going to vacate more, become vacant in the future, we need to think about how those neighborhoods might adapt to losing a very vital component to their experience. And that is that working population. If you have an office tower with a thousand workers on it, that- who go there day to day, that’s- that group of people is supporting the local businesses, the restaurants. It’s creating vibrancy on the streets. It’s creating diversity in those neighborhoods. And if you’re missing that population, how can we adapt the space? How can we address that that change in what that dynamic looks like? So this is telling us a few things; one good office is doing not bad. It’s doing pretty good. Two, new offices must be even more people focused, and three bad office is in trouble. And the first two are pretty, easy to address. So one good office is doing OK. New buildings stock is always going to have greater infrastructure. It’s already been built in a more resilient way. It’s probably more energy efficient. It’s probably more flexible. It probably has those great amenities that everyone kind of wants. So it’s already a desirable sort of asset. New office must be even more people focused. And again, this is definitely a conversation that has been sort of spoken about across the board. And this here is a huge opportunity. We have a chance to redefine what that space needs to be redefined, what work is to us as know, as a culture, as a city, as a country, as the world, what does work need to be in the future? What is work life balance truly mean? And what is the space that’s required to address some of those things? That’s a whole other conversation about the opportunities behind that. The last piece is a little bit harder because what we’re talking about is having empty spaces, which are again, perhaps not the best building stock, maybe not located around other business clusters, but probably in pretty prime real estate, probably pretty central in many cases and probably with some residential surrounding it. What are your opportunities for those types of buildings? And if you’re a building owner, a developer or whatever, you have a few different options. One is this notion of consolidation and the whole idea behind consolidation is getting new tenants into your space. So as old tenants vacate, how can you draw new tenants in? And there’s a lot of there’s you know- as we talked about earlier, workplace will be less needed in this, you know, it’s going to be an even different thing. The amount of workplace that we need, the amount of office spaces that we require is going to change probably out of this pandemic. So consolidation might lead to not getting the right type of tenant that you want or Swiss cheese floors where you have little portions here and there occupying the rest vacant. So perhaps not a long term sustainable solution. Renovation and upgrade is also a fantastic option. There is the notion that there’s a sustainability story of reusing building stock. There’s a big risk here. So, when in an environment where there is high vacancy rates, you might not see the return on that investment. You might actually never see the return on investment, because, as we said again, office space is in less- less demand. Demolishing a new building really does put you into the same category as some of those new assets. So you are able to compete. But again, these secondary type of office buildings are not in the best locations. Also, building a new building and demolishing a whole building takes a lot of time and a lot of capital investment. So there’s a fourth option, which is the conversion to a new function. So can, then, bad offices support a better experience. And the answer is definitely yes, because bad offices really make good residential. And really quickly, I’ll talk about what the future might be for these new spaces. And it is talking about creating mixed use- mixed use communities and more diverse communities. In the past, redevelopment or revitalization really focused around this notion of creating higher value property in certain neighborhoods. Presently, and Toronto is a great example of this, when we think about how spaces are redeveloping- redeveloped in areas re-zoned, it’s about creating homes, breaking up big swaths of industrial, breaking up big swaths of office towers to integrate residential and other type of space uses and create, again a more vibrant community. In the future, we have to amplify that effort and really create hyper diverse spaces that can be scalable, that are diverse in terms of the types of people, the types of businesses that go there to create real resilience around some of these neighborhoods. What can be achieved for this? So obviously it allows for better neighborhood revitalization, opportunities for new housing types, and I think this is a great- a great opportunity to think about in the future, because as we redefine what work is, I think we’re also redefining what home is. And one of the things that we’ve seen through our research is as people tend to work from home – I mean, everyone’s working from home right now, in the future, working from home will happen a little bit more than in the past at least – we saw there’s a gap in the market in terms of a residential condo. So this is really about redefining what that could possibly be. So if you think about how downtown habitation could be different, if you think of a condo complex or an apartment building, are there different types of a enities such as, you know- like we work on the ground floor or actual units that will have been designed in a way that cohabitants can work together at the same time and not compete over Zoom calls. There really is a lot to think about on what can lure people in, what can draw people in and create a home experience and a work experience that is really going to be addressing the future needs of work and life. Number three here is improve urban density and vibrancy which were talked about. And number four, of course, hit new sustainability goals, which I think is probably maybe the most important of these four. If we can reduce the creation of brand and building stock and repurpose buildings while creating vibrant communities, that’s kind of a win-win across the board. So Toronto is actually doing a pretty good job. I mean, there’s tons of opportunity in Toronto for improvements in our urban fabric. But if you think about North America and probably globally, there’s a lot of other cities that this makes a ton of sense. And I’m just going to bring one up that’s in our own backyard, Calgary, which if anyone who knows Calgary, it’s a very decentralized population. They are doing a really great job of trying to get more people in the downtown core. They’ve done a great effort in creating more residential, but their vacancy rates- they have been hit hard by the epidemic, as well as the energy crisis. And their vacancy rate is currently at around 27 percent. So investing in some of these spaces in their downtown core, repurposing them to be a little bit more mixed-use would definitely work in their favor. And a case study that demonstrates the success of this is Detroit. And there’s a million different reasons of why Detroit is kind of a buzz city again. But there was a concerted effort to reinvest in some of these downtown spaces, and again, create that diversity that they’ve been missing as the sort of death of the auto industry came about. And this graph is basically just showing you there is a point in time with their gross domestic product of the city started to increase in real ways based on people coming back to the downtown core. So I think in conclusion, like this pandemic has been awful, but really we can utilize this and really turn it as a catalyst to truly innovate and create the cities that our cities are always meant to be perhaps That’s it. Thank you.
Mary Rowe [00:00:04] We had a bunch of provocations this afternoon. And I wanted the three of you to join me to see if we can try to make sense of this, because we’ve heard a lot of different input. We started the morning with sort of the bare bones news from some of the chief economists just laying out for us what exactly the volume of challenge is, the nature of the challenges in downtown cores, and what’s the challenge that this recession, the COVID recession, is going to cause? And then we’ve had lots and lots of questions and aspirations about if we come back, can we come back differently? Can we see downtowns emerge differently? Nobody seems to want to go back to what they were. Lots of questions then about, well, how do we do that? How do we make them more inclusive? How do we make the more interesting? How do we make them more resilient? Can we deal with the climate challenges as we bring back? So lots and lots of big questions looming. And it’s your job, and the three of you are up to the task, to see if you can set us on a course about what you think the actions are that need to be taken. Are there tangible things that we should be advocating for? You know, CUI is in the connective tissue business. I always say that. We have – now we have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people who are really engaged in advocating for Canada cities. Bruce Kratz has joined us a number of times. Happy to have you back, Bruce. And he’s got a North American perspective and an international perspective because he’s worked in Europe as well. And I know that, you know, as the U.S. go, so we go and we’re fascinated always to hear what’s going on and what your perspective would be, appreciating that the architecture of governance is different in the two countries. But at the same time, and I think there’s a reckoning happening here in Canada that we need to govern differently. We need to resource municipal governments differently. We need to make decisions differently. And it’ll be interesting to see if this is our moment. Do we have a moment to turn the hourglass in a different kind of direction? So we’re keen to have – Bruce is going to talk with us a little bit about his experience, his perspective in the big wilds of the United States of America. And then Damien and Theo will join with him and we’ll have a broader conversation. And of course, as usual, folks, put some stuff in the chat. Please add panel panelists and attendees so that everybody can see it. And particularly people that have been with us for the duration, really interested if you’ve got a moment to just reflect on what are the common key things you’ve heard from all these different people who spoke about Mumbai and Delhi and Hong Kong and London and San Francisco in New York, you talked about all sorts of places. So and of course, a gazillion Canadian cities, too. So over to you, Bruce, and then I’ll come over back to Theo and to Damien.
Bruce Kratz [00:02:51] Well, thanks, Mary, it’s great to join everyone. I can’t believe you’ve been on since 10:30. It’s either sadistic, masochistic, or both.
Mary Rowe [00:03:01] Those things, all of that, all of that.
Bruce Kratz [00:03:04] Is that a Canadian thing or?
Mary Rowe [00:03:06] Yeah it’s uniquely Canadian But let me just say that we’ve had some extraordinary inspiration. You know, we heard Khelsilem talk about an extraordinary 6000 unit development Indigenous led on Indigenous lands in partnership with the local municipality and what they’re going to try to do there. And we’ve had all sorts of people who have vacillated, I think, between how hopeful and how will change come? So it’s been more positive and uplifting than one might have expected, even though it’s a bit of a marathon.
Bruce Kratz [00:03:36] So here’s the couple thoughts. And I – you know, you’ve got just tremendous people who’ve been presenting and who are on this panel. So let me just give you this perspective. It’s not on what to do, but how to do it. I think in the US, as we’re looking towards large federal spending, a build back, better recovery plan, right now, we’re still doing rescue, the American rescue plan that’s 1.9 trillion. It’ll be a little less, but it’s very large. But, you know, that’s the rescue plan to vaccinate the country, to deal with COVID-proofing schools, to get money to unemployed and American families and households to provide fiscal relief to cities. But coming later is really the larger transformational plan. And that will hopefully involve significant investments in innovation, in infrastructure, in human capital, in climate solutions, community building and the cut across to that could be spending put into the service of equity. More Black and Latino owned businesses, diverse hiring, community wealth building, because this pandemic has had a brutal effect on small businesses and the incomes and assets of Black and Latino Americans. And so I know the focus here is on central business districts and downtowns. But the broader focus within cities is essentially this devastating impact on those demographics and the decimating of commercial corridors, business districts, and mainstreets. So the first order of business is how do you get ready for large amounts of federal spending? This is like Amazon HQ too, on steroids. But everyone wins or everyone gets an allocation or is able to compete for four really critical activities. And so what we’re working on in the US with a small group of cities, about six or seven to start with, then to blow out to the entire country, are essentially a stimulus command centers where cities can declare their priorities, quickly articulate those priorities, whether it is around the central business district, the riverfront, etc., or the broader city environs, articulate those priorities to the Congress and the Biden administration, begin to reverse engineer federal policies so that it’s in the service of cities and is structured in such a flexible way that you can adapt to the issues of a Portland versus a Pittsburgh or a Phenix, and then ultimately deploy with these equity issues in mind. So stimulus command centers, steering committees of public, private and civic actors, we’re working with L.A., Louisville, Philadelphia, Birmingham, Dayton, Kansas City, St. Louis to get this going. And then the key part in this wonderful federalist republic of ours is to then have command centers at the bottom begin to affect how large federal spending again is actually deployed to think of a major city with a multi-dimensional project. In Philadelphia, we have 1300 acres along the riverfront. It’s older, environmentally polluted energy site. Well, if you’re going to put that bacon back into productive use, you need environmental remediation, you need infrastructure, you need workforce training, you need small business support. So how do you get a national government to organize itself across its vertical silos? How do you go from a silo to a system? More horizontal, more network, the way cities operate. So we’re thinking this is going to be a critical part of organizing for the recovery, irrespective of which part of the city you’re looking at, irrespective of what vertical topic education versus employment versus industry and innovation, infrastructure, how do we begin to organize ourselves? And cities set priorities that are really aligned with their market dynamics and their networks. The second piece I would just say is the private stimulus that’s coming. There is so much capital because of what has gone on in the stock market led by consumer savings, but a lot of other factors. And so we have a public stimulus moving. But this – the public sector is not going to remake markets, right? And a lot of what has to happen are new kind of financial products or new kind of capital stocks, particularly around the growth of Black and Latino business and particularly around some of these multidimensional projects. And so as cities are going forward, understanding the role of private capital and providing new vehicles and products for that capital to deploy smartly. Because if it doesn’t deploy smartly, I can guarantee you it’s going to be a lot of parasitic money out there, a lot of predatory money. They’re going to come in, swoop in and take bits of cities, particularly in the high performing cities, and begin to establish their own position for the value appreciation that’s ultimately going to come. The last piece, I’ll say Mary, and this has been sort of a hobby horse of mine, God knows forever. But I do think, if you think about the “how”, not just the “what”, but the “how”, ownership of land and ownership of assets is so absolutely critical going forward, because we could see, given what’s going to happen to our downtown central business districts, I don’t think the same effect will have happen around university hubs. I think university hubs will be stronger, more resilient. But there could be some commercial real estate shifts both within our central business districts and in portions of our commercial corridors into public ownership. And the question for the public sector is, can you unify, integrate your public assets, the land and buildings you own, and move from a fragmented system? In the US it’s the ports, the airports, the rail, the convention center, the stadium, the school districts, the parking authority. I mean, you name it, we have a public authority for it. There’s no unified look at assets. And if you look at what has happened in Copenhagen over the last 30 years or Hamburg or Helsinki recently with the – you know, reconstruction and revitalization of their older ports, the disposition of public assets is going to be disproportionately important I think, in the aftermath of this. One of the few places in the US that is to actually seeming to get its grips around this is Tulsa, Oklahoma. They are in the process of merging their industrial authority, the redevelopment authority and their parking authority so that they can get a unified disposition of assets in the service of inclusive and sustainable growth. So bottom line, as we move forward, we’re all going to have some very interesting ideas about what the post pandemic city looks like. But can we deploy federal capital? Can we begin to innovate on private investment? And can we do the institutional reform that we need so we actually can leverage up the possibility of long term value capture for cities. There is going to be a competition for revenues in 2022, twenty, 2023, 2024. This is just the beginning of it. We’re in a longer transition post pandemic. The Feds will be with us this year. But we all know at the end of the day, cities need to really control their own destiny. So I’ll leave you with that as a sort of an early problem.
Mary Rowe [00:12:04] That’s that’s a good tour de force of what we’ve been sort of struggling with. I mean, certainly here, Canadian municipalities are dealing with – they’re operating on fumes basically. They have transit systems that they were the larger ones dependent on the fare box. They haven’t got the ridership there as you just suggested. The federal government is stepping up with various kinds of investments, but it’s not going to take them past 2022. So and who knows what the patterns and the requirements will be then, so. A couple of interesting things just to reinforce what you just said. So Craig Alexander this morning, who’s the chief economist with Deloitte, he’s been chief economist pretty well everywhere. He have this staggering statistic, somebody can put it in the chart that I haven’t quite got it right. But just so you know, this is big money talking for us in Canada, Bruce. The normal amount of personal savings, I think, is something like 12 billion dollars and somebody in the chat. I really appreciate people are putting summaries of what they’ve heard over the day in the chat. Thanks. Keep doing that. Yes, the typical is about 12 billion. And he says that during this last year during the pandemic, Bruce, two hundred and twelve billion dollars is sitting in Canadian bank accounts. And that has to do with lots of government transfers that have been supporting people. And it has to do with the fact that those of us that enjoyed the privilege of working from home didn’t have much to spend our money on. I guess that’s the argument. So, there’s the public stimulus and the private stimulus and there was some speculation, well, will we see the roaring 20s? Are people going to flood in and start spending money differently? And the other thing that just keeps looming for people is, are people going to really stay with digital purchasing? Is that – and is basically mainstreet retail not salvageable? So I’m going to go to Theo next, because she is a mainstreet retailer and she is in that sector. And the last thing I’ll just say is I’m so with you about – CUI is about horizontal connective tissue. And Canada, like you, everything is siloed. Municipal governments relate to provinces, relate to the federal government, and we haven’t done a good job of horizontal at all. That’s part of what CUI is trying to advocate for. And what we’ve seen in this pandemic is that people have had to learn from each other and so they’ve had to create their own. Ok, Theo, you’re a connective tissue person because you run a BIA. So talk to us a little bit about what your perspective is.
Theodora Lamb [00:14:26] I do. I mean, just to go from Bruce’s macro view. Incredible view, Bruce, to my world, which is forty four city square blocks in Vancouver where I run the Strathcona Business Improvement Association, of one of 22 BIAs in the city of Van. And, you know, that’s my unit on unseeded territory of the Musquem, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations. We have over 800 business members. We’re a very diverse and arguably one of the most challenging BIAs in the city. And I would even say the province, given our proximity to community called the Downtown Eastside. You know, I’ve been thinking and reflecting a lot and what’s been shared and what Bruce is saying, everyone wins. I have to say year by year, as I move deeper into placemaking and this work of urbanism and city building, given where I am geographically in the communities that I support, the business communities and social enterprises, COVID has decimated an already vulnerable and marginalized community in East Van and in Strathcona. We have significant challenges regarding addiction, housing, homelessness, mental health, poverty. And I think that the big takeaway for me with all these conversations today is as pacemakers, as urban leaders, we really have to pull on our social activism perhaps in bigger, more dramatic ways if you are connected to any of this work. No one has an excuse not to be advocating for what I feel are the three most critical areas right now, which is a universal basic income. I think we’re seeing fascinating examples of that with this pipeline of grants and supports to people and what happens when people have financial agency in their life and in their savings account. I think we need to advocate for socialized child care. You know, that’s huge. We were just listening to statistics around real estate, mixed-use scaleable. That includes being able to put women in the workforce. And then I think the third piece is to really tackle and take on as pacemakers the devastating opioid crisis and the health outcomes it’s leading to, which means you need to be advocating for safe supply and all of the social infrastructure if we’re talking about infrastructure that go with it. And so, you know, I don’t know if this feels different than maybe placemaking and BIA leadership from 20 years ago, but today we are as much business leaders as we are social change advocates. And it’s at that intersection where things get real uncomfortable. So you should feel uncomfortable, right? It should be hard. And I feel really fortunate because I in a way, my scale is just forty four city square blocks right now. And I’m working on a series of projects with the city Vancouver and my other partners and colleagues and unlikely allies and social change services to ensure that our local economy is thriving while ensuring the residents and people who call that space home, literally on the streets, also have a leg up and an opportunity to survive. So that’s sort of the big picture from where I’m sitting. And I’m really curious to hear from others.
Mary Rowe [00:17:53] The thing that we all started by saying, oh, COVID is, you know, everybody’s in the same boat. And then we all quickly realized, nope, that is not true. If you didn’t have a home to shelter to, if you were precariously employed, if you had already had public health, you weren’t – you didn’t have the amenities or the services in your community that would normally provide some support, plus maybe you couldn’t get to them. So as you suggest Theo, this is layered. And we we at CUI had started with a bring back Main Street effort to look at how the retail businesses and the sense of attachment and belonging that you became very dependent on because you were stuck somewhere. How were they going to be affected? But we’ve now linked it to the downtown conversation because there are two sides of the same coin. And Damien, you are immersed in the reality of downtown Montreal, which is a downtown that is in crisis for a bunch of complicated reasons. And Theo thank you for mentioning about the whole issue of safe supply, because people may not – people like Bruce you may not know, and others who aren’t familiar with the Canadian scene. More people have died from opiod overdose in Western Canada than have died from COVID. So it’s an extraordinarily challenging thing that was exacerbated by contamination of supply and all sorts of other issues during COVID. So, Damien, just take us to Montreal. We’ll go from one end to the other. What’s your perspective in your capacity as an innovation advocate and as a placemaker?
Damien Siles [00:19:20] So Bonjour from Montreal, Bonjour de Montreal, and thanks for the invitation, Mary. I’m going maybe to bring a French touch of accent and of examples. And I will begin about what we’re doing with the District of Innovation of Montreal. And seven years ago, McGill University and Metis University decided to create the first, I will say, playground of innovation and we’re working on four pillars. The first is industrial, the second urban, the third is a social and cultural, and the last one is about training and research. And what we did is we are trying to cultivate an ecosystem, a unique ecosystem with the private, academic, public sectors for and with the citizen. For and with the citizen. Why am I saying that twice because we’re working for the citizen. And it’s very important what we wanted to do and what we doing. It’s a life area of downtown of Montreal and we’re working – the idea is to put the citizen and to put the innovation around and to see how it’s possible to humanize our downtown of Montreal. It’s easy to say. Quite difficult to do. So it’s the presentation of the District of Montreal. I can see two challenges. The first one for me and for us will be about the vacancy offices. Right now in Montreal, normally we have 600,000 workers was coming downtown each day and right now the number is around 50,000, ok? So it’s a disaster. And first of all, the workers, some living downtown, but they are the consumers. And what we need to know before to keep going is to know the human resources, sorry, of the big companies. So we’re working with universities, some universities, say, I did some inquiry, and we are between 15 and 20 percent of workers who are going to stay home. But when I’m speaking with my members, Holdens and big companies, it’s more, 40 percent is going to stay home. So it’s huge. You know, the gap is huge. So we need to know exactly what happened with the private sectors about that. And the second topic, I think it’s the most important. It’s about how we can bring back downtown. And it’s not just about economic and side, but we need to think new, I will say your new deal, you know. If I’m taking the example of Montreal, we have the chance to – Montreal has the largest number of university and numbers of students in Canada and the second in North America. The first town is Boston. After that, you have Montreal, 220,000 students and researchers. And what we need is to trust and to work with the young generation. And so what we have to do is not just to work with the economic side and to use it – and to try to do the same recipes. We have to see how it’s possible to include the new generation, the millennials. And it’s very important. The second example that I will take, it’s about cultural side. We have the chance in Montreal, and you have to know that the seven percent of the GDP of Quebec, the province of Quebec, is coming from the cultural side. It’s huge. So it’s also very, very important to see how it’s possible to give a place to to this side, the cultural side. And, you know, if they had a magical wand, what I will do is – I asked my my employee Julie and she’s with us right now, how I can translate – I don’t like the name for – but it should be a big bang of ideas. And what we need right now, it’s a vision and projects. And not just projects. Why we need a vision? We need to explain to the cities and to the population how we can do something different. And with projects, of course. So what will be very, very interesting to see – to ask to the mayor, an example of the downtown of Montreal of a different metropolis to be the leader and to -when you’re doing – to be the conductor, you know. And to be able to conduct like an orchestra, to conduct all the strength, you know, how of the city and to be able to do something very new and dare something new, not just about economical side. We don’t have to forget that downtown we have people leaving. We have to listen to the citizen and to see how it’s possible to do something different, but with everybody. And I will say about the vision we need of course, when we’re doing open innovation, we need to have a conductor but we need also to have some leaders, some ambassadors to be able to preach the good news and to see how it’s possible to go for further of the project. And I will finish with something in 1929, when we have the big crises, in French, we say les annees folles, the crazy years. And I will say we have the chance, I don’t know if it’s a good word to leave right now, the crazy years where it’s possible to dare and where it’s possible to have someone who is going to to help us to go through the rain, to be able to do something that we have to find – including a policy to do that. And I’m looking for a magical wand, so if someone has one, I will be very interested to buy one into trying to do that. But we don’t have to forget something. You began this morning with three economists, and I would like to to finish with just human being. And we have to think that downtown Montreal and downtown Metropolis, we have human beings living in the city and they have to be part of the discussion of the new ideas. And it’s an amazing opportunity.
Mary Rowe [00:26:48] It is an amazing opportunity. I hear you, Bruce, when you hear both Damien and Theo, who are talking from quite different experience, quite different vantage points, but they have a lot of common challenge with these two cities, Vancouver and Montreal. And I would say we have had people from Calgary have been on with us all day. They had four hundred empty office floors before COVID even hit. Toronto, obviously is here. Ottawa is here. Halifax’s here. Lots of different experiences. When you talk about the command center, that you’re – I think that’s the language you were using, how do you make – how do you empower that command center to actually have any clout? And how do you ensure that that command center is embracing all the diversity of stakeholder? Everybody from the street involved person to the business person to the you know what I mean, to the tourist. How do you do that? How do you satisfy all those competing constituencies that normally kind of duke it out? But now we’re at sort of the starting line. How do we start with everybody?
Bruce Kratz [00:27:50] Well I think this is a question about design and delivery. Again, what I’m talking about with the public side is the federal government is designing the build back better plan. Federal government does not educate one child. It doesn’t build one home. It doesn’t start one business. I mean, the delivery happens locally. So to some extent, cities are already empowered, the networks of cities within cities, public, private, civic community, they already are empowered if they basically recognize and realize their power. And command centers, you know, some of these will be set up out of city halls, some will be done in collaboration with the business community. There can be many efforts done. I mean, I put something in the chat, I never know with the Zoom setting. But in any event -.
Mary Rowe [00:28:41] It’s here. I can see it.
Bruce Kratz [00:28:42] Oh, yeah. But in Buffalo, for example, going back a decade, they began to do large scale thinking, visioning and ultimately action around the regeneration of the east side of Buffalo, which is historically disadvantaged communities. Well, there should be a command center on the east side of Buffalo to take what they’ve already done the next stage, because as Theodora is saying, that’s the place, that’s the part of the city that has been hit hardest by the pandemic. Now as the east side of Buffalo begins to think about its future, there’s a wonderful historic food market, there is the old central terminal that used to be the rail station. So suddenly, as you’re thinking about a quote-on-quote, disadvantaged community, you’re raising up infrastructure questions, large scale adaptive reuse, which could trigger and deploy federal spending. So, you know, I think the command centers, you know, need to work across the horizontal of the city because we do have – this is like a 1950s phenomenon in the United States that Robert Moses phenomenon. We created a lot of public authorities and to some extent, we took power away from the general purpose, municipal government in the United States. And we gave it to these public authorities as a reaction to corruption at the time and to political machines and ethnic transition. Well, we now need to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I mean, because -.
Mary Rowe [00:30:18] To get this kind of I mean, you’re talking about a whole bunch of tools, but it requires a lot of coordination. I guess that’s the point you’re making. And we’ve had that through the day two collaboration. But one thing you’re talking about is the power of procurement. So we’re going to – so not only is stimulus stimulus money going to arrive from my bank account or from the federal government or the provincial governments bank accounts, but then they’re going to spend the money on something. So the question is, how do you direct – how do you affect who receives that money? Now, I heard Theo say universal basic income. That is a notion that’s been circulating for some time in Canada. It’s popular in some jurisdictions and really not popular in other jurisdictions. So in the interim, if that’s something that’s too difficult in terms of the federal kind of roll out of it, what’s a shorter term fix, do you think Theo? Can you, for instance, is there a way for us to create different kinds of rules and zoning and incentives to get people back into interacting with independent businesses on the streets in Strathcona?
Theodora Lamb [00:31:23] I mean, if we’re using Strathcona as an example, I think – and we’re talking about procurement in particular – I think investing in social enterprise and those partnerships. It’s – I would say Vancouver is really a center of innovation in that space, working with marginalized community. And in communities who face employment barriers where, you know – and then partnering with those organizations in those communities to bring services to the businesses in that community and just create this reciprocal economy is really interesting. And we have you know – and that can be involved in infrastructure projects, buildings, businesses, retail, but it needs startup money.
Mary Rowe [00:32:06] Yeah. What about tax changes? What about using tax, municipal, federal and provincial taxes? Could we create a mix, a tax regime that would create a more level playing field for retail to come back? And at the same time as Bruce was just suggesting, let’s incentivize more adaptive reuse for existing buildings? Montreal has got a ton of them. We are thinking about there’s going to be some real estate that’s going to become available, right?
Theodora Lamb [00:32:32] Yeah, I’ll tell you in Vancouver, you know, our business community carries almost 50 percent of, you know, the responsibility of our public systems, the cost of our public systems, and represents seven percent of the tax base. So the inequity there, it’s so out of whack that that is the first step is bringing that into more in line. And it’s not a popular point because city council and mayors don’t win votes when they transfer residential commercial tax to residential. So that’s a tricky one.
Mary Rowe [00:33:05] And are we going to – and we may see some of that. I don’t know, Damien, whether in Montreal what the thinking is. But that already had happened in Calgary and Edmonton. They had already shifted some of the property tax away from the business sector when the oil and gas collapsed a number of years ago and put more burden on residences, as you say, they are not a popular thing. But how how do we square that? How do we right size this? How we’re going to generate public revenue? Go ahead Damien and I will come back to Bruce?
Damien Siles [00:33:31] I won’t say it’s about tax money. It’s about to trust the new generation. I’m going to give you two examples. We have the chance in Montreal to have more than around two thousand five hundred startups. And when I spoke about giving the chance to the new generation to be part of the process, it’s not just about money, it’s about to be part of something. Last week we began the vaccination campaign and we tried to see how it was possible with a startup – the name is Dome de Chant – how it’s possible to use the dome to clean the place when you have the – after the vaccination. How it’s possible to use music, how it’s possible to use mural’s and you have different startups. We have to see the strength that we have and to give a chance. And it’s not just right now about money and tax. It’s not just that. It’s the fact that we have to give the new generation to act with us and to listen to. You know why? Because they’re going to be the next generation who’s going to manage our cities. And I’m not sure that they’re going to agree with the policy that we have right now. You know. And that’s why it’s so complicated. We need an experiments a couple of months ago with the Commerson Association and we did a mashup, you know. And we say to the startups, ok, we need the best way to renew the downtown of Montreal. And you know what? We are very, very surprised because we started to wonder that the price was the startups we did and was doing murals. And so was what she’s doing right now. The girl – who’s the girl, she’s painting inside the parking some murals. And it’s not about just money, it’s about to see and know how of the people. And it means something right now, because as I told you before, it’s not just about the fact that using the same recipe doesn’t work anymore. And it’s like a big bang that we’re living right now. And we have to see which tool we can use to give you the possibility to the young generation to be part of the process.
Mary Rowe [00:36:07] I hear you the. You really want to create containers that empower folks. Bruce, one of the things that you’ve been advocating for for so long is this idea of non-formal governance arrangements. Different kinds of regional alliances. And I see that Marty Birchfield on the session today, and she’s with the Toronto Board of Trade running the Economic Blueprint Initiative, which she’s taking and talking to cities across the country about. And we’re pleased to be helping to advance this notion that these kinds of horizontal infrastructures. Is that part and parcel of your your command notion. Is it a regional thing and is it an inclusive thing to draw in the constituencies that Theo and Damien are citing? Can it be that? Can it to be all of that?
Bruce Kratz [00:36:51] Well, you know, here’s the bottom line, it can be whatever a place wants it to be. I mean, you know, the worst thing for the national government to do in the United States is tell everyone how to organize themselves. It’s not our culture, right? I mean, so –
Mary Rowe [00:37:07] It doesn’t seem to be working over here very much either.
Bruce Kratz [00:37:11] Yeah, I think what’s going to happen is City X will organize with City Hall leading collaboration with the private and the civic and the community sectors, labor unions. Another place will do it at the metropolitan scale, another place no one has a pulse and therefore the neighborhoods will do it. I mean, it’s going to be one of these chaotic moments. And but bottom line, the cities need to lead here because the federal money, once you apply infrastructure, innovation or human capital or actually deploy it in purposeful ways, that takes local agency. I mean, and that agency is across sectors. It doesn’t reside just in the public sector. So I think a lot of different things, predictable and completely unpredictable, are about to happen. I mean, and that’s the way we roll. I mean, I suppose I mean.
Mary Rowe [00:38:07] Well, you kind of want to roll that way. I mean, I think most of us that are urbanites or urbanists or lovers of cities don’t really want anybody telling us that there’s one way to build the city. We want to have that flexibility. I’m wondering about, though, this personal agency piece. So you’re talking about the infrastructure, the governance infrastructure to get things coordinated. What about if we go more granular? How much power is there, Theo, in buy local? How much power can there be if we – I mean, I’m trying to get it. Where is the intersection point as we start to advocate like crazy, we come out of COVID. Do we say to people, spend your money locally? How effective is that?
Theodora Lamb [00:38:49] Oh, well, I feel like that’s such an obvious answer. You know, Amy Robertson and buy local British Columbia is the go to expert. And I think Amy is actually one of our audience members, incredible thinker, thought leader and an influencer and mentor of mine. You know, I just, again, that local purchasing power is a component of better business and social justice. Because you’re participating in reciprocity, a reciprocal economy where you’re keeping you know, it’s not just – it’s jobs and like, well, being in a geographic area and Strathcona is hyper local, ight? We we have a lot of makers, industrial creators. We’ve had to create new zoning designations to adapt and scale to new uses and new kinds of businesses, very much to what Damien says to listen to the younger generation of which I am part of. I am a millennial leader who is consistently frustrated with the bureaucracy of city. You know, it’s all part of making sure we stay flexible. And that fits into the buy local message. And I do encourage everyone to check out British Columbia’s buy local initiative led by Amy Robertson. It’s steller.
Mary Rowe [00:40:06] Amy’s put some stuff into the chat. Thanks. And so is Marcey. Thanks, guys. And, you know, I think it’s this question of where do we put our effort? You know, what’s our focus? So what I’m hearing from you, Bruce, is you’re challenging regional and city government, as you say, whatever configuration works, to get themselves into a place of coordination and priority setting so that they then can channel and prioritize whatever form and investment starts to flow right?
Bruce Kratz [00:40:34] And it’s a time to think big, that we’ve all been challenge to the United States of the four years of just hell to come out of this and think differently about inclusive growth, sustainable growth. So I’ve got to tell you, when I’m in a bunch of cities and they’re showing me projects that are, quote-on-quote the priority projects for surface transportation, roads, rail or whatever, a lot of them feel like legacy projects. If they’ve gotten to the top of the priority list, that probably means they started in nineteen ninety five. So I think it’s time to like just push ourselves even though a lot of us are tired. But eventually we’re going to come out of our basements. And then to add up here, I mean to really aggregate. So instead of just each of the silos locally putting forward their propositions, we begin to integrate spatially, particularly given what’s happening to our central business districts, integrate sectorally. I mean, we should use this moment to to provide credentials to millions of Americans. You know, I mean let’s get – we’ve got AI, we’ve got robotics, we’ve got machine learning, we’ve got, you know, a whole new world of location science. This is – this should be the the redo right? I mean, and I think the Biden administration definitely is sending those signals. The politics of the US, as you know, is miserable, fragmented, fractured, divided and all the rest. But, you know, we’ve got to start putting forward, like, just where do we go? This is going to be one of these things that people write about for centuries, what we’re going through right now. So do we come out of this, you know, with a new kind of vision, ambition, aspiration?
Mary Rowe [00:42:26] I think this is one of those moments when we we just don’t want to lose. Never waste a crisis. Right? And there are certain segments in urbanism that are much more kind of status quo. They want it to kind of go back to where it was. And won’t that be a shame? We’ve had presenters coming in here saying what – Timothy Papandrea was here saying, wait a second, it wasn’t great before. So what are we thinking? So we’ve got to pivot in a remarkable way. And Damien, your point about we need projects and vision. I’m with you on that because I worry that we can do a lot of blah, blah, blah, but we do need some stuff on the ground that people can see.
Damien Siles [00:43:04] You know what? I will add something else. The Quebec government decided to create a couple of months ago, the blue baskets and what is the Blue Basket? It’s a receipt where it’s possible to buy the Quebecois’ products? And I would love to see the Red Basket with the Canadian stuff. You know, we have to be proud of what we’re doing. And it needs the perfect timing to show what we are and how it’s possible to promote the best – the cream of the cream, la creme de creme. It’s very important.
Mary Rowe [00:43:42] It’s very heartening for Canadians to hear Quebecer saying that Damien. You’ve just made all your friends, all your English Canadian colleagues happy.
Damien Siles [00:43:50] And I want to a Red Basket.
Mary Rowe [00:43:55] I thought you wanted – I thought you were going to say you want a Montreal basket and a Strathcona basket. That would be good too. So just as we wrap up here, because we’ve been at it a long time, if there were one thing, one thing that you want people to take away and really think thoughtfully about, just one simple thing about the future of downtowns, the future of central business districts and how that connects the neighborhood economies and local economies, what’s the one thing that people should – what’s the North Star? Theo.
Theodora Lamb [00:44:23] Just remember that our business challenges in these local environments are human challenges. And I’ll just take 30 seconds to give you what my shining star right now and biggest challenge is.The Strathcona BIA just launched a partnership in social enterprise. One of the first of its kind in the country, working with a group of residents in the Downtown Eastside who approached us, who knew that I was struggling with the cleanup of, I’m sorry to say, but human feces in our commercial districts. And said we know how to deal with this. We are going to suit up. We are going to clean it up. We are going to deodorize, we are going to desanitize. You can call us, your members can have private pickup. And the fact that we even need this social enterprise is challenging. And yet this group of residents came to me and said, we see a problem. This is a business for us. This helps your business members. This also provides data that we can give to the city of Vancouver so that they can inform their bathroom strategy. I mean, there’s just so many connections here. And that is not – there’s there’s deep vision behind something like that challenge, hyper localism, and it addresses a human issue which solves a business issue. So look for those opportunities. Anh yeah.
Mary Rowe [00:45:37] Yeah, entrepreneurship that solves a social challenge. One thing, Damien, what’s your North Star? What’s the one thing.
Damien Siles [00:45:44] We have to be courageous. And we have to take a risk and to dare. And it’s the perfect timing and to listen to the citizen and not just the economical side, not just academic side, but we have to listen to human beings and to work together.
Mary Rowe [00:46:01] Bruce, one thing.
Bruce Kratz [00:46:02] I mean, I think the one thing come out is, is building wealth for a large portion of our population. I mean, I – this – you know, all this pandemic is just shown is these enormous disparities in equities. And so whatever it is, the central business district, it’s around human capital, it’s around infrastructure, whatever it is, we have to build wealth for a large portion of our population. And that may be too much of an American perspective, but it’s just, man, this has been our comeuppance.
Mary Rowe [00:46:33] Hopefully we want conditions where everyone can build – where everyone has an opportunity to build wealth themselves. Listen, thanks very much for joining us at the end of this long day. All three of you, very different perspectives. We so much appreciate it. This was intended as a kind of kickoff for us on what are the priorities going forward to restore the core, rebuild our downtowns and connect them to the neighborhood economy. So this is not the end. It’s the beginning. We’re going to be continuing to work with folks. We’re going to continue to engage all of you. Thanks for tuning in, Bruce. Of course, we’ve never losing your phone number. Bruce is going to come back in three weeks and talk to the city managers of Canada’s largest cities about this idea of command centers and how regional approaches need to be implemented and why that’s the future, to try to get a coordinated kind of get that – we need both vision and projects. I hear you. So thanks very much for being part of this conversation. I want to thank my colleagues at CUI, particularly Gina and Jamie, who have just had unbelievable logistic challenges, getting everybody on, everybody off, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. They’ve been fabulous there over here on a different channel with me. And I want to thank them and all of my colleagues. So, again, thanks very much to Bruce and Damien and Theo. Great to see at the end of our day. Really, you were like the icing on the cake. Thanks, everybody.
Damien Siles [00:47:45] Bye bye.
Mary Rowe [00:47:46] Bye bye.
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From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://canurb.org/citytalk
13:31:01 From Canadian Urban Institute : Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
13:31:21 From Canadian Urban Institute :
John Brown, Dean at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, University of Calgary https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-brown-11758a2/
John Brown is a registered architect and a founding principal of both Housebrand Construction and FABhome. He is a recognized authority on residential practice, new models of architectural practice, and age-in-community design. In 2003, he received the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Award of Excellence for Innovation for his development of Housebrand, a vertically integrated practice that combines residential architecture, construction, interior design and real estate services into a one-stop shop for homebuyers. In 2009, he received a Leadership Award from Residential Architect Magazine in recognition of his work to increase public awareness about the value of design.
13:31:44 From David Low : Greetings from the Victoria Park BIA in YYC – David Low
13:31:48 From Canadian Urban Institute : You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk Keep the conversation going #restorethecore #bringbackmainstreet #citytalk @canurb To support CityTalk and the Canadian Urban Institute’s other city building initiatives, please donate at www.canurb.org/donate.
13:32:15 From Canadian Urban Institute : Attendees: where are you tuning in from today?
13:32:16 From Annie MacInnis : Hello. Annie, Kensington BIA Calgary
13:32:23 From Augusto Mathias : Greetings from Sao Paulo Brazil
13:32:26 From Kate Fenske : A sunshiny hello from Winnipeg, Manitoba! Can’t wait to hear from Johanna, a fellow ‘pegger! 🙂
13:32:31 From John Nguyen : Hello from Surrey BC – John N
13:32:33 From jeff bray : Jeff Bray from Downtown Victoria, BC
13:32:35 From Linda Weichel to All panelists : Hello Linda Weichel from Toronto
13:32:41 From Justin Shin to All panelists : hello from toronto
13:32:48 From Kimberley Nelson : Hi David! Has your neighbourhood calmed down from yesterday yet? Kimberley Bridgeland Calgary here!
13:32:49 From Lynn Allin to All panelists : Hello from Lynn Allin Penticton BC BIA
13:32:49 From Peter Vaisbord to All panelists : Hi. Peter Vaisbord, City of Vancouver
13:32:52 From Mark Garner : Hello from downtown Toronto
13:33:13 From Frances Bula to All panelists : Frances Bula, Vancouver
13:33:14 From Chelsea Whitty : Sunny Edmonton, AB
13:33:23 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Johanna Hurme, Co-Founder, 5468796 Architecture https://www.linkedin.com/in/johanna-hurme-07aa87b8/
Johanna co-founded the Winnipeg-based practice 5468796 Architecture in 2007. The firm has achieved national and international recognition and its work has been published in over 200 books and publications, including the 2020 DOMUS top 50 guide.
13:33:40 From Patricia Barnes : Hi All, Tricia Barnes from Vancouver, BC I acknowledge that I work and live on the traditional and unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-waututh) Nations.
13:34:08 From Ronald Richards to All panelists : Ron Richards from Ottawa, Canada
13:34:09 From Yurij Pelech to All panelists : Greetings from Bessant Pelech Associates Inc (Mississauga ON) Development Planning + Project Management Consultants and Gerontology & LTC Consultants
13:34:22 From Ralph Cipolla : hello from Ralph Cipolla in Orillia Ontario Canada
13:34:35 From Mary W. Rowe to Peter Vaisbord and all panelists : Hi Peter!
13:34:54 From Canadian Urban Institute : Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
13:35:27 From Mary W. Rowe to Kate Fenske and all panelists : Hi Kate!
13:35:36 From David Low : Vic Park is always calm, yesterdays fun was Beltline 🙂
13:36:00 From Jay Boyce to All panelists : Hello. Jay Boyce from Calgary located in the Treaty 7 Region of S. Alberta.
13:36:11 From James Lima to All panelists : Greetings from NY NY!
13:36:21 From Mary W. Rowe to James Lima and all panelists : 🙂
13:36:36 From Jay Boyce : Hello. Jay Boyce from Calgary located in the Treaty 7 Region of S. Alberta.
13:36:46 From Karen Dar Woon : Third generation settler whose family arrived at Turtle Island from China circa 1910. Born, raised and grateful to remain on UNCEDED lands of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples.
13:36:49 From Brad Krizan : Hello, Brad from Calgary!
13:37:17 From Karen Dar Woon : (also known as Vancouver downtown)
13:37:23 From Donna Franz to All panelists : Hello from Kelowna , in the Okanagan BC
13:37:27 From Reg Nalezyty : hi Reg from Thunder Bay
13:39:14 From Kate Fenske : Winnipeg sure looks good! 😉
13:41:02 From Mary W. Rowe : great shots from Winnipeg!
13:41:22 From Diane Dyson : Social media hashtags are #RestoreTheCore #BringBackMainStreet #CityTalk!
13:41:40 From Mary W. Rowe to Frances Bula and all panelists : Hi Frances – how are you? I LOVED the laneway house saga 🙂
13:43:10 From Ian Scott : Can we hear some thoughts regarding Community Benefit Agreements for new construction to maximize positive social, economic and environmental impacts?
13:43:38 From Linda Weichel to All panelists : How does the point about 1-person households relate to the previous point about CBDs not being family friendly?
13:43:56 From Linda Weichel : How does the point about 1-person households relate to the previous point about CBDs not being family friendly?
13:44:43 From Gay Stephenson : Building along the transit core with mixed uses and heights is very appealing! Would love to see this in more cities.
13:45:00 From Ralph Cipolla : what is going to be the effect of climate change to communities
13:47:05 From Canadian Urban Institute : You can find transcripts, presentations, and recordings of today’s sessions at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
13:47:15 From Kate Thompson : Thank you, Johanna. Excellent points and I’m glad to have your strong voice at the table.
13:48:05 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Timothy Papandreou, Founder and CEO of Emerging Transport Advisors https://www.linkedin.com/in/timothypapandreou/
Timothy is the founder and CEO of Emerging Transport Advisors providing strategic guidance to companies, investors, startups and governments on the active, shared, electric, connected and automated transport transition. As the former strategic partnerships manager at Google X and Waymo, he collaborated with teams to prepare the commercialization of the company and set up first-in-kind partnerships to launch the world’s first fully self-driving ride hail service in Phoenix, while being fully immersed in automation technology and its implications for the broader society. He co-founded City Innovate, a smart city platform matching governments, companies, and startups to accelerate innovation through the STIR (startup in residence) program.
13:48:10 From Donna Franz to All panelists : Excellent Johanna – appreciate your comments re: removing barriers to create inclusion – it will lead to diversity
13:48:39 From Donna Franz : Excellent Johanna – appreciate your comments re: removing barriers to create inclusion – it will lead to diversity
13:48:49 From Donna Franz to All panelists : sorry panelists
13:54:53 From Johanna Hurme : Linda to your question: How does the point about 1-person households relate to the previous point about CBDs not being family friendly? – Point was really just entice developers to provide more ‘right-sized’ development here, where 62.5% of all housing stock consists of single family homes that keep sprawling out. The mid scale multi family housing should absolutely include a mix of unit sizes, tenancy types, and price ranges suited to families as well.
13:55:56 From Linda Weichel : Thanks Johanna.
13:56:13 From CS : How long do you think it will take for the rent prices to climb back up to the pre-pandemic prices?
13:56:33 From Brad Krizan : Isn’t car free another form of NIMBYISM?
13:57:34 From Karen Dar Woon : I’m so grateful for the activists in 1970s Vancouver who stopped the development of expressways through the city.
14:02:46 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Alexander Josephson, Co-founder, Partisans
Architect Alex Josephson is the co-founder of PARTISANS. He studied sculpture and architecture at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture and at the University of Rome, where he graduated as a President’s scholar. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and exhibitions including a New York Prize Fellowship awarded by the Van Alen Institute for Architecture. While studying and living in Italy he worked in the studios of Massimilliano Fuksas and Doriana Mandrelli. His thesis work on Islamic architecture has been the subject of numerous awards and reviews. In 2010 he was admitted to post graduate studies at the Architecture Association school (AA) in London England, but left to found PARTISANS in Toronto. Alex was most recently recipient of the Globe and Mail Catalyst Award for architecture.
14:02:49 From Gay Stephenson : I’m grateful for the panelists drawing attention to building inclusive cities, together in the future where all groups and people can thrive together!
14:04:47 From Jay Boyce : Alex we are seeing your powepoint program and not your slide show presentation.
14:05:31 From Timothy Papandreou San Francisco to CS and all panelists : CS I hope the rent prices won’t don’t come back at these levels, but without affordability controls it will only be a matter of time.
14:06:39 From Brad Krizan : This is collaboration !!!
14:07:25 From CS : Just leave it there and click on the slides one at a time
14:07:42 From Diane Dyson : Always gotta have a Zoom moment!
14:08:31 From Robert Plitt : Its okay.. just go for it
14:08:40 From Diane Dyson : Bravo!!
14:08:59 From Linda Weichel : We’re all in this together!
14:10:02 From CS : Love the house at the bottom!
14:10:14 From paul mackinnon to All panelists : who’s house is that on the bottom? LOL
14:10:31 From paul mackinnon : who’s house was that on the bottom? LOL
14:11:45 From Kayly Robbins : Hello from Barrie, ON. Very excited to see Innisfil and the Orbit!!
14:13:28 From Cherise Burda to All panelists : We need more solutions like these to disrupt “tall and sprawl” formula of developing municipalities
14:14:02 From Cherise Burda : We need more solutions like these to disrupt “tall and sprawl” formula of developing municipalities
14:16:12 From Cherise Burda : burning man informing planning.love it
14:16:54 From CS : What’s the population count?
14:18:16 From Louroz Mercader to All panelists : Love it!
14:18:30 From Timothy Papandreou San Francisco : this is looking like a real smart city! Make sure it has affordability controls for both residents and businesses
14:18:33 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Jacquelyn West, Co-Creative Director, So Good City https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacq-west/
Jacquelyn West is a professional who passionately builds physical places and enablement programs to contribute to the success and global reputation of the cultural industries in Canadian cities. She works to build and strengthen the authentic cultural ecosystems with solutions and sustainable contexts for creative economy stimulus, beautification of public space, and community connection. Her programs and pilots positively impact place identity and develop generative cultural destinations in Toronto, Montréal and in 2021, Vancouver. Her approach to placemaking enables local entrepreneurs and artists foremost and catalyzes places of inspiration in public art, creative entrepreneurialism, local cultural engagement, and community relevance. Her portfolio has directly impacted policy decisions and generated 7 figure investment into the creative community of Toronto through private art commissions, job creation, cultural program design, and philanthropy. She is the Co-Creative Director at So Good City, and spends her time between Montréal, Toronto, and Nosara Costa Rica.
14:19:03 From Alison Theodore to All panelists : @CS Do you mean population of Innisfil? It’s about 37,000
14:19:04 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Lee Clarke, So Good City, and Co-Founder & CEO Galileo Collective https://www.linkedin.com/in/lee-clarke-80181046/
Lee is a British registered Architect from London, England. He has amassed 15 years of post-qualification working experience in the field of Architecture, Design and Construction, and worked in London, Bermuda, Vancouver and most recently Toronto. After four years based in Vancouver working on a team of Architects specializing in Vancouver to Toronto business expansion, he started his own design studio in Toronto toward interior architecture and commercial podium tenant improvements. Motivated by requests of assistance from struggling clients entering into the legal cannabis landscape, in 2020 Lee co-founded Galileo Collective, a cannabis retail consultant and build team. Lee is a passionate member and has been fundamental in the momentum of Ferrotype, a group of black professionals, rooted in mentorship of new talent into the industries of construction, design and finance. The group’s mandate is to act as a beacon to younger generations that includes but are not limited to financiers, architects and land developers of colour, offering guidance and advice where possible.
14:19:31 From Donna Franz : Alex thank you for mentioning accessibility when speaking of your future design, it looks wonderful !
14:19:35 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Ravi Jain, Founder, Why Not Theatre
Toronto-based stage director Ravi Jain is a multi-award-winning artist known for making politically bold and accessible theatrical experiences in both small indie productions and large theatres. As the founding artistic director of Why Not Theatre, Ravi has established himself as an artistic leader for his inventive productions, international producing/collaborations and innovative producing models which are aimed to better support emerging artists to make money from their art. Ravi was twice shortlisted for the 2016 and 2019 Siminovitch Prize and won the 2012 Pauline McGibbon Award for Emerging Director and the 2016 Canada Council John Hirsch Prize for direction. He is a graduate of the two-year program at École Jacques Lecoq. He was also selected to be on the roster of clowns for Cirque du Soliel. Currently his adaptation of The Indian epic Mahabarata will premiere at the Shaw Festival in 2022 and What You Won’t Do For Love, starring David Suzuki will premier in Vancouver in 2022.
14:19:45 From Alan McNair : A dream come true for the developer, but lacking any serious opportunity for public participation, input and NO option for appeal , due to a Ministers Zoning Order! Provincial plans and growth targets ignored by Town and Province!
14:20:57 From Jay Boyce : I appreciate the research and exploration of the Innisfail project Alex and the willingness to break away from the norm.
14:20:59 From John Brown to Canadian Urban Institute(Privately) : We are ahead of time. What do you want me to do when this presentation is finished? Take questions from the chat? Ask Mary to make comments? Pass the time saving along to the next set of presenters?
14:28:55 From Jessica Lynch : Culture must live on! Moments of inspiration and connectiveness are key. Thank you for highlighting the importance of creative placemaking.
14:28:56 From Jacquelyn West : Merci à tous, Thank you everyone. Be in touch, Jacquelyn West, Co Creative Director, So Good City | firstname.lastname@example.org | @sogood.city
Lee Clarke, Co Founder, Galileo Collective | email@example.com | @galileo.collective
14:30:11 From Robert Plitt : Best production of Hamlet Ravi!
14:31:35 From Brad Krizan : Quite an innovative approach…you are wise to stay flexible vs get a building. Would love to see you take a spin through Calgary in the future!
14:33:55 From Karen Dar Woon : I am very interested in more info about Meanwhile leases
14:34:45 From Jacquelyn West : yes! Meanwhile leases will be an important tool in alleviating temporarily the challenges of vacancy at the commercial grade
14:35:02 From Robert Plitt : Similar cool transitory space work happening in Montreal. http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/PROJ_URBAINS_FR/MEDIA/DOCUMENTS/rapport_mtltransitoire_vf_2017.pdf
14:35:57 From Robert Plitt : Entremise as well . https://entremise.ca/
14:36:02 From Mariya Postelnyak to All panelists : May have missed it, but what is the name/title of this initiative Ravi?
14:36:05 From Jacquelyn West to Robert Plitt and all panelists : thank you Robert! are you based also in Montreal?
14:36:06 From Robert Plitt : Brad we should chat about this idea
14:36:38 From Brad Krizan : Good idea Robert, DM me!
14:36:58 From Shahinaz Eshesh : I am also interested in learning more about this initiative and Meanwhile leases. City of Brampton owns a number of heritage buildings in the Downtown that we are looking to activate. Great initiative Ravi!
14:38:37 From Jessica Lynch : So many vacant buildings right now in our cities
14:39:34 From Louroz Mercader to All panelists : Love it! Thanks Ravi!
14:39:40 From paul mackinnon : Ravi, who spearheaded moving theatre into the buildings? Did you need to convince the landlords, or were there other influencers (ie, BIAs, etc.)
14:40:00 From Brad Krizan : Great energy folks….loved the ideas and presentation
14:40:19 From Brad Krizan : We have LOTS of space for meanwhile leasing in Calgary!
14:40:26 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Cherise Burda, Executive Director, City Building Ryerson at Ryerson University https://www.linkedin.com/in/cherise-burda-12493817/
Cherise Burda is Executive Director of City Building Ryerson, university-wide collaboratory for research, learning and engagement to advance sustainable urban solutions. Cherise’s previous positions include Ontario Director of the Pembina Institute, Program Director for the David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver and senior researcher with University of Victoria’s Eco-Research Chair of Environmental Law and Policy. Cherise holds an M.A. in environmental policy from University of Victoria, a B.Sc. in environmental science and a Bachelor of Education, both from University of Toronto. She has authored over forty research and policy reports, academic articles, book chapters and other publication, she serves on a number of government advisory groups and is a regular panelist and presenter. @CheriseBurda
14:40:29 From Suzy Godefroy : Great discussion and amazing ideas!!! We need to prioritize activating our spaces in our downtowns!
14:40:33 From Ravi Jain to All panelists : Paul- we focused primarily on rehearsal and not performance, so no audiences
14:40:37 From Robert Plitt : Thanks John!
14:40:40 From Ravi Jain to All panelists : Lour! so nice to see you!
14:42:18 From Ravi Jain to All panelists : https://whynot.theatre/work/space-project/ (for more info)
14:42:40 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Alkarim Devani, Co-Founder, Chroma Property Technologies https://www.linkedin.com/in/alkarim-devani-45964a24/
Alkarim’s vision is to make thriving communities through elevated design and innovation. He wants to connect more people to the simple pleasure of living in a walkable neighbourhood full of vibrant, local businesses and modern spaces. Seeded in his hometown of Calgary, he is committed to improving the urban life and connection of people everywhere. As Co-Founder of RNDSQR and as Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of CHROMA, his ideas are reflected in each build. Emphasis is placed on living, connecting and creating sustainable homes where people can make it all fit. In addition, Alkarim is a board member of D.Talks, a partner at NHBR Coffee and No Island Co-Work, places to connect with his community and maintain a pulse on the needs of Calgarians.
14:42:45 From Diane Dyson : https://pop-upshops.ca/ provides some good guidance and case studies on one version of Meanwhile leases.
14:48:48 From James Lima : exactly, focus on what stresses and motivations tenants and landlords have and what barriers they face in order to find new ways to use street-level spaces. #theeconomicsofplacemaking
14:51:50 From Gay Stephenson : Meanwhile uses are a great way to use empty spaces…. https://pressbooks.library.ryerson.ca/popup/
14:52:45 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Tł’akwasik̕a̱n Khelsilem, Council Member of Squamish Nation https://www.linkedin.com/in/khelsilem/
Khelsilem hails from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh-speaking communities of Xwmel̓ts’stn and Eslhá7an and the Kwak̕wala-speaking tribes of the Na̱mg̱is’ and Ḵwiḵwa̱sut̓inux̱w. He grew up and lives in the city of Vancouver. He is currently the Programming Director for Kwi Awt Stelmexw – a Coast Salish arts & education non-profit. He is also a Lecturer at Simon Fraser University in an Indigenous language program that focuses on adult immersion. He is a second-language speaker of the Squamish Language. Prior to becoming an Educator, Khelsilem worked for many years as a graphic designer and communications consultant. He has with different First Nations and organizations on community engagement projects that engage members to provide policy feedback to leadership.
14:53:47 From paul mackinnon : If talent really drives location, what things can BIAs do to make downtown a MORE appealing place than working from home, so that a downtown location is preferred by employees?
14:54:15 From Mike Kasij : sutera-inground.com… our work in city and town centres is largely focused on rethinking urban waste management… we can categorically say that DOG WASTE needs to be moved up to the top of the list of what needs to be done at the greenspace/street level to better address impacts of population growth and infill. Through the creation and execution of our own specialized dog waste landfill diversion program, used now by dozens of municipalities; and now in multiple countries – we have learned some shocking realities of what is one of the largest sources of contamination from urban waste runoff… Planners and politicians need to do a better job to account for this subsection of our population (one that can be seen as outpacing human population growth in many instances) – beyond placing a few cans or bins on a stick for people to use and empty by hand… from the most recent Ontario Parks Association magazine as a frame of reference: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/904052/23/ ….
14:57:12 From Gay Stephenson : Bike parking is very much appreciated in Vancouver! Wow. Stunning designs.
14:58:31 From Kathleen Dale to All panelists : The design looks very green which is great. Love that the focus is bike parking vs car parking.
14:59:03 From Kathleen Dale : The design looks very green which is great. Love that the focus is bike parking vs car parking
14:59:03 From Canadian Urban Institute : We love your comments and questions in the chat! Share them with everyone by changing your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees”. Thanks!
15:01:44 From Patricia Barnes : This is a great development proposal. Would be fantastic if the City of Vancouver could look at this process and speed up their approval process and make it more flexible
15:01:49 From Timothy Papandreou San Francisco : Need to jump. Thanks for having me- look forward to connect firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!
15:02:02 From Jay Boyce : Khelsilem this is such an inspiring project! This shows how our current municipal processes are limiting innovation and opportunity to build better!
15:03:34 From Alkarim Devani : This is truly amazing. Great work Khelsilem!
15:05:47 From Shahinaz Eshesh : This is incredible and an exciting inspiring project. Very important messaging here and appreciate that you were given the platform to speak to us today
15:06:26 From Jill Tipping : Such a fantastic project!
15:06:32 From Gay Stephenson : I’m very inspired to see this type of development coming!
15:06:48 From Donna Franz : Absolutely fabulous Khelsilem will look forward to seeing it in the future.
15:07:33 From James Lima to All panelists : incredible. we need to take inspiration from this for similar approaches in the US
15:07:35 From Karen Dar Woon : Thank you Khelsilem, for taking the time to share this important education for settlers.
15:07:39 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Ray Walia, CEO, Launch Ventures
Ray Walia is a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in both the entertainment and technology sectors. Ray founded Launch Ventures which owns and operates a network of private incubators, innovation labs, and investment funds. Ray has contributed towards the development of the technology ecosystem in North America and has assisted countless entrepreneurs in building sustainable and financeable businesses, including over international companies from over 100+ countries through various Launch Academy programs. Ray has hosted and run events that have been attended by international dignitaries and ambassadors, the Canadian Prime Minister, CEOs and Founders of Fortune 100 companies with the most recent being the TractionConf.io event in both Vancouver and San Francisco.
Jill Tipping, CEO, BC Tech
Jill Tipping is a passionate advocate for BC and BC’s tech-enabled future. As BC Tech’s CEO she is determined to make BC a place where tech companies are supported not only to startup but to grow, export and scaleup; and where BC technology is deployed to build resiliency and growth in every industry sector.
15:08:19 From Karen Dar Woon : I’m excited to see the project develop in coming years.
15:15:32 From Brad Krizan to All panelists : I like that you called in from an unconventional workspace today Ray !!
15:17:08 From Karen Dar Woon : The reality for a lot of younger/entry level workers is that they lack appropriate work from home space.
15:20:13 From Jocelyn Phu : Echoing the comments above regarding the changing demographics of the workforce with Zoomers desires and needs. Their ability to own/rent large enough homes that can accommodate home offices is a real challenge but the other side of this are alarming trends around mental health in isolation
15:20:34 From Sophia Seng : Agree with the demand for flexible spaces for co-creation and open dialogue. What’s the name of the CH room?
15:22:25 From Kay Matthews : Sorry just jumping back in, is the downtown discussion still going on?
15:23:52 From Tamarisk Saunders-Davies : Looks like that CH room is called VANCOUVER BASED CREATIVES
15:23:55 From Mary W. Rowe to Kay Matthews and all panelists : you you’re hearing the presentation from the tech perspective
15:25:01 From Donna Franz : Jill – appreciate your comment – “more responsive world” – I would like to add responsive to accessibility, that creates inclusion which achieves diversity – the spice of life!
15:27:33 From Sophia Seng : Thanks Jill and Ray
15:27:48 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Michel Lauzon, President and CEO of LAAB https://www.linkedin.com/in/michellauzon/
Michel Lauzon is a creative mind at the crossroads of design, real estate and business strategy as well as an acclaimed out-of-the-box thinker. An accomplished architect and urban designer, Michel is proficient in design-driven problem-solving for complex projects in a variety of typologies and markets: mixed-use, hospitality, commercial & offices, retail, multi-unit residential, high-rises, cultural, entertainment & sports, transport, tourist destinations & themeparks, new city design and emerging niches such as creativity hubs and co-working. Michel has a proven track record of design success featuring over 50 awards, landmark buildings and 12 winning competition proposals. Thought leader and reputed key note speaker on the topics of creativity, design thinking, innovation by design and brandscaping. His work and design approach have been featured in acclaimed media such as the New York Times, Architectural Record, Canadian Architect, Domus, Azure, Frame, Dwell and Wallpaper.
15:41:44 From Robert Plitt : Check out Aspen Institutes City as Platform. https://csreports.aspeninstitute.org/documents/CityAsPlatform.pdf
15:41:44 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Kevin Katigbak, Senior Strategist, Gensler
As a sought-after strategist and consultant, Kevin Katigbak brings the aggregate of his 15+ years of experience to the forefront, often with a fresh, new perspective which helps clients and colleagues approach design from a different angle. Kevin has demonstrated success in strategy for financial, commercial, public and institutional, government, healthcare, and higher education projects. He is experienced in building and site program development, strategic real estate portfolio development, and optimization studies.
15:45:51 From Brad Krizan : They hybrid model addresses many issues, from work life balance to loss of productivity via commute times, to even safety with less ‘windshield’ time.
15:55:43 From Karen Dar Woon : I appreciate that our building of ~250 units includes multiple common access spaces which could be used as WFH spaces. If only there was wifi 😉
15:56:46 From Brad Krizan : Proforma’s are a challenge with those conversions. I wish the civic leaders in Calgary were more willing to look at Detroit as the analogous case for what’s happening in our city….not Denver or Pittsburgh
15:56:52 From Jenna Dutton : It’s actually now at 30% in Calgary (https://www.policyschool.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Office-Vacancy-Graham-Dutton.pdf) 🙂
15:57:23 From Gay Stephenson : Fabulous to see all that research, Kevin.
15:57:44 From Canadian Urban Institute : You can find transcripts, presentations and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk Keep the conversation going #restorethecore #bringbackmainstreet #citytalk @canurb To support CityTalk and the Canadian Urban Institute’s other city building initiatives, please donate at www.canurb.org/donate.
15:58:32 From Patrick Murphy to All panelists : Thank you
15:58:57 From Robin McPherson : Incredible day!
15:59:00 From James Lima : Detroit’s older offices had much smaller floor plates than Calgary’s 60’s-80’s stock that work nicely for residential. what to do with not so old and BIG 1960’s-80’s office floor plates?
15:59:01 From Michel Lauzon : thanks to everyone for a great sharing of ideas.
15:59:02 From Donna Franz : Thank you, have to run, really appreciated all the the information and innovative thinking, thanks again!
15:59:07 From Canadian Urban Institute :
Bruce Katz, Founder, New Localism Advisors & Director at Drexel University https://www.linkedin.com/in/brucekatz1/
Bruce J. Katz is the Director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University. The Lab seeks to find multi-sectoral ways to finance the inclusive city through new instruments, intermediaries and institutions. Katz is also the Co-Founder (with Jeremy Nowak) of New Localism Advisors. The mission of the firm is to help cities design, finance and deliver transformative initiatives that promote inclusive and sustainable growth. Katz regularly advises cross-sector urban, metropolitan, national and global leaders on public reforms and private innovations that advance the well-being of metropolitan areas and their countries. Katz is co-author of two books, The New Localism and The Metropolitan Revolution, which focus on the rise of city networks as the world’s leading problem solvers.
Theodora Lamb, Executive Director, Strathcona BIA https://www.linkedin.com/in/theolamb/?originalSubdomain=ca
Theo is Executive Director of the Strathcona Business Improvement Association where she is responsible for place management across 44 city square blocks in Vancouver, British Columbia. She advocates on behalf of 850 business members operating in one of the most diverse and challenging commercial districts in Canada. Theo served six years as an elected Board Director with Canada’s 10th largest financial institution and BC’s largest Credit Union, Vancity, as Chair of both Governance and the Digital Transformation committees. Prior to her work with the Strathcona BIA, she ran Cicada Community Consulting where she worked to support Provincial and National non-profits in conveying their memberships through digital advocacy. She identifies as a passionate business advocate, settler, mother, and feminist.
Damien Silès, Director, Quartier de l’Innovation de Montreal https://www.linkedin.com/in/damien-sil%C3%A8s-b9095b10/
Damien Silès has a solid educational background in international trade and has been serving as Executive Director of the Quartier de l’Innovation de Montréal since 2014. Previously, he served for six years as Executive Director of the Société de développement social de Ville-Marie, North America’s first social solidarity agent, which he founded in 2008. His accomplishments at the helm of this organization were lauded by the media and he was twice named person of the week by La Presse-Radio-Canada (February 2011 and June 2013).
16:02:20 From Voncelle Volté : ⚡ Although I’m on my 3rd conference on multiple screens from 3 different countries at hour 9, this is so good and worth the last lap!!!!! Thank God, for 2 ears. #TeamMary 🙏🏃♀️
16:02:29 From Linda Weichel : Key themes: people want to socialize; flexibility; agility; ‘meanwhile lease’; opportunity.
16:02:35 From Christina Sisson : Fascinating day with lots of inspiration – thank you for your dedication!!!!
16:03:02 From Mary W. Rowe to Voncelle Volté and all panelists : lol always great to have you! stamina!
16:04:40 From Jenna Dutton : Wasn’t able to attend all the session but points that stuck out: We need to translate policy to social experience/ Informal housing needs to become affordable housing/ 15 min cities are technocratic and top down – needs to be more community focused/ There is a magic of human interaction and spread of ideas/ We need to rethink zoning and policy and build up trust and social capital
16:07:18 From CS : Reoccurring themes of the day – change is continuous and happening at a faster more frequent rate, adapt or die; regulations roadblock creative change; experiential is at the core of the core; human connection is key; we are all people who seek social interaction. I will end with this…why did it take 5 people, in three different departments, 3 “nos” and 2.5 months to get a city to approve the hanging of a sign?
16:08:23 From Alan McNair : Can Bruce comment on the need for local reinvestment in its own community?
16:09:31 From Voncelle Volté : ⚡ Canada is the most advanced North American country on so many levels
To chime in on the day of panels, there have been so many golden nuggets from the day …
However, the presentation from the politician of 1st Nations in Vancouver was the most enlightening. He expanded my view of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Commercial Real Estate and in general.
16:09:32 From paul mackinnon to All panelists : How can we make our downtown projects more attractive for all of this private capital? What a great opportunity!
16:10:00 From paul mackinnon : How can we make our downtown projects more attractive for all of this private capital? What a great opportunity!
16:10:08 From Canadian Urban Institute to paul mackinnon and all panelists : Hi, Paul! Can you change your chat settings and re-post? Your comment only went to panelists. Thanks!
16:11:48 From CS : $212B is what we saved
16:14:11 From Cheryl Cohen : I am fortunate to live near Danforth, in Toronto, and will never stop shopping locally at the independent stores.
16:15:26 From Bruce Katz to All panelists : For Paul’s question, I think the Buy Local, Invest Local movement is going to realize its full potential post pandemic. Supplier diversity is one of the most critical challenges, given the avalanche of federal spend. We need new mechanisms — lease-to-purchase, community equity trusts — to move more people and small enterprises into ownership positions.
16:16:01 From paul mackinnon : BIAs are well positioned to actually deliver programs that can really transform downtowns, in both USA and Canada. Are we prepared for that potential infusion of cash?
16:16:12 From Robert Plitt : The what meets the how.
16:17:27 From Kay Matthews : We are all in the same storm, but some do not even have a raft and some are in a yacht – so we are not in the same boat.
16:17:48 From Gay Stephenson : Thank you for articulating that so clearly Theo! Absolutely agree.
16:18:18 From Kay Matthews : Yes, Paul
16:19:38 From paul mackinnon : Montreal seems to have the best combo of supports from city and province. What drives that?
16:20:55 From Robert Plitt : Question for Bruce – how local can these command centres get to devolve decision making to the community?
16:22:23 From Kimberley Nelson : What can a national advocacy group do to help push these measures – what is the “big ask” that we should focus on?
16:23:10 From Theodora Lamb She/Hers : Book recommendation for better understanding how to work with millenials to Damien’s point: “Can’t Even” By Anne Helen Peterson
16:25:43 From Bruce Katz : For Paul’s question, the Buy Invest, Local Invest movement is going to realize its full potential post pandemic. We need new mechanisms — new supplier diversity intermediaries, lease to purchase products, community equity trusts — to give residents and enterprises ownership positions
16:26:01 From Michel Lauzon : merci Damien. we will figure out the magic wand together. Innovation is all about process.
16:26:10 From Mike Kasij : Innovation in not born in the public sector. We can only hope that our public sectors adopt innovation sooner rather than later.
16:28:39 From Michel Lauzon : Someone said the challenge is more about the how? since we will have funds and equity as well as the opportunities. how can we coalesce our common momentum to stimulate and frame action at ground zero.
16:31:29 From Jay Boyce : To address the issues Theodora noted that affect areas like Strathcona and East Van is to build on what Damien noted about those of us working in the city building industry to embrace academia as partners. The innovation & research academia is exploring can bring fresh respective to professionals in finding solutions to solve the challenges we have and will need to address moving forward. Collaboration and knowledge sharing is key (IMHO).
16:31:52 From Jay Boyce : *perspective
16:33:29 From Jay Boyce : Additionally, we need to engage community to truly understand the context of the places we will be bringing those solutions too. Today’s panels have been truly inspirational! Thank you.
16:34:22 From Marcy Burchfield : Example of muni/innovationhub/start-up collaboration to solve muni challenges and engage them in procurement process. https://dmz.ryerson.ca/press-releases/town-of-innisfil-partners-with-dmz-to-scale-startups-and-increase-government-procurement/
16:35:13 From Michel Lauzon : Damien is right. it is about posture and disposition of decision makers to be inclusive to grass roots, private sectors and non-public actors to contribute to agile and relevant solutions. this has been a challenge since the start of the pandemic. Incredible intellectual capital and creative capital has been squandered by authorities who want to do well but all alone and in silos.
16:36:16 From Mike Kasij : here here.
16:37:55 From Amy Robinson : Here! Hi and thanks.
16:38:28 From Marcy Burchfield : These innovators(DMZ)/start-ups engaged smaller municipalities b/c penetrating procurement in larger municipalities and cities were very difficult. We need to fix that to engage the local innovators.
16:38:35 From Amy Robinson : This is a great article on how the CoV is influencing local purchasing and employment in new developments. https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/city-of-vancouver-community-benefit-agreements-2018
16:39:29 From Mike Kasij : Does that kind of marketing only appeal to people who are already set in buying local? How does that reach people who might otherwise not see any skin in the game?
16:39:56 From Robert Plitt : Need to stop the tinkering.
16:41:14 From Robert Plitt : amen to that Bruce.
16:41:16 From Lisa Cavicchia : This morning we heard about Asian cities offering financial incentives to go downtown and spend money
16:41:34 From CS : Why can’t we integrate shared ideas across the country. Do you find that often we’re working in silos. E.g. Does Halifax talk to Vancouver, Calgary to Toronto?
16:42:22 From Lisa Cavicchia : https://www.lepanierbleu.ca/
16:42:49 From Lisa Cavicchia : Also, check out citysharecanada.ca for lots of examples and stories from across the country.
16:43:01 From Anne Basque : Bravo Damien!
16:43:10 From Canadian Urban Institute : You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk Keep the conversation going #restorethecore #bringbackmainstreet #citytalk @canurb To support CityTalk and the Canadian Urban Institute’s other city building initiatives, please donate at www.canurb.org/donate.
16:43:39 From Jay Boyce : An interesting model that charities have been looking at due to the decline in donations is to merge their efforts. What ever they collect they would share among each other. Is this an approach cities could look at for addressing key issues and ensuring equality across the board for funding?
16:45:02 From Michel Lauzon : my take-away would be : now is the time to act, no more wait and see. things take time and we need to start doing. we can think while we are doing. and adjust going forward.
16:45:54 From Brad Krizan to All panelists : Great closing session! Thanks for your perspectives.
16:46:01 From Mike Kasij : As a cross border CAN/US business — we Canadians need take some cues from our neighbors and just do it
16:46:06 From Diane Dyson to All panelists : Fabulous panel!
16:46:18 From Voncelle Volté to All panelists : ⚡ Thank you, for an amazing day. 🌻🌻🌻
16:46:22 From Michel Lauzon : thanks CUI for the day! best wishes from Montreal.
16:46:26 From paul mackinnon : great day! Thanks.
16:46:28 From Robert Plitt : Fantastic day1
16:46:30 From Dave Waldron : Thank you, to CUI and all, for a wonderful series of creative provocations!
16:46:31 From Marcy Burchfield : Great day!!
16:46:32 From Ed Landry : Thanks for the great day CUI and all the panelists.
16:46:33 From Anne Basque : Great sessions! Great Day!
16:46:33 From Amy Robinson : Thank you all and too CUI. Inspiring day!
16:46:34 From Julie Bourgoin : Thanks CUI!
16:46:34 From CS : thank you for a wonderful day everyone
16:46:35 From Mike Kasij : Great discussion. Thank you all
16:46:35 From Marcy Burchfield : COngrats