Sustainability and liveability, keys to an enjoyable redeveloped neighborhood
By Roger Jochym for the Ry Arp Studio
The north side of Dorchester from the Eastern border of Westmount to Clarke has suffered decades of urban blight because of 20th century urban planning. The result has been traffic and parking lots, a terrible failure. But 21st century planning could give back to the community the sense of it being theirs. It could be at a human scale. To this end there are two requirements that work well together: sustainability and liveability. The first is quantitative, the second qualitative. They are the framework for an enjoyable urban neighborhood.
Sustainability is the calculable factor in the Southeast redevelopment of Westmount. What are the elements in the fields of energy, building envelope, transportation, water use, urban agriculture, etc. that will move this project towards being in balance with the environment? The answer is found in the evaluation system produced by the Canada Green Building Council, the the “Neighborhood Development Rating System.”
… 21st century planning could give back to the community the sense of it being theirs. It could be at a human scale.
This is the neighborhood accreditation method derived from the LEED system used for the new Westmount Recreation Centre. It seems natural that the Southeast redevelopment should follow along the same methodology of evaluation.
To help in energy design Concordia’s Centre for Zero Energy Building Studies might be engaged. It was the critical partner in the realization of the Varennes Public Library, the first institutional net-zero solar building in the country. This library has a very high energy performance with on-site renewable energy supply that together cover its energy needs when averaged over the year.
Liveability, the second factor, is qualitative and engages us to imagine the ideal neighborhood. Is there to be a small communal greenhouse for winter vegetables? What type of recreational equipment should appear? Outdoor badminton or volleyball courts, or even a mini-skateboard park? What type of night lighting so that the night sky with its stars is not diminished? Should Tupper become a ‘pedestrian park street’? Should there be ornamental storm water retention pools? Will there be roof top gardens? Green roofs? How will car’s omnipresence be undone within the urban spaces of this neighborhood?
‘Liveability… is qualitative and engages us to imagine the ideal neighborhood.’
In response to this last question, should not this redevelopment, as it is occurring on the edge of the dense downtown core, have a set of requirements for the majority of all residential units so that they are “urban cyclist friendly”? It is the other side of the coin to condo developments that are “car friendly” wherein they have underground parking with elevator service to each condo floor, along with direct access to a complete network of highly maintained streets and highways. But what is possible for urban cyclists has been built in Malmo, Sweden.
The Malmo project makes car-free urban living to be on equal par with vehicular dependency. They have access to an underground bicycle parking room of generous proportions with adjoining areas and tools for their maintenance. Elevator access is such that it is of bicycle accommodation-size so that a loaded bike with groceries could be taken to the owner’s condo floor. And there are a myriad of similar details that reflect an appreciation of urban cycling. And it goes without saying that this appreciated aspect of active transport would have a protected connecting path to the urban cycle path network. This is a key element that will make dense urban living enjoyable and invigorating.
‘… should not this redevelopment… have a set of requirements for the majority of all residential units so that they are “urban cyclist friendly”?’
The private car is detrimental to urban spaces at the core of a city. It is heavy metal dominating the prime urban spaces whether in motion or as a metallic wall of parked cars. In truth its only place is the suburbs.
These two aspects of sustainability and liveability must be fully present to allow for an enjoyable redeveloped neighborhood. What is possible has been demonstrated in Stockholm. A district of that city, Hammarby Sjöstad, had a reputation for being a run-down, polluted and unsafe area. Now, it is one of Stockholm’s most pleasant residential districts and one of the world’s most successful urban renewal neighborhoods. Images from there certainly wet our appetite for 21st century urban living.
Feature image: Andrew Burlone
Other images: courtesy of Roger Jochym
Roger Jochym is a 25+ year resident of Westmount. He is the founder of the Ry Arp Studio, a firm dedicated to generating 21st century planning ideas that are engaged in regaining the city for the human scale, interlacing it with nature, and invigorating it by culture, the arts, and sciences. His background is that of architecture from McGill and many built projects, notably the trans-border and international wings of Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport.