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  #1  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2014, 7:43 PM
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Downtown West Public Forum

As you may have noticed Happy City is having a forum on the West End of Downtown St. John's. We have been invited to share our vision(s) and ideas with the forum. I will be attending and possibly speaking, if anyone else would like to join me they are more than welcome!

I would like for you to post (and quote/repost) your ideas, maps, renders/vision for this area of the Downtown and I will take what I can and bring it to the forum. We have had some good discussion on the area and concepts involving development regulations and even transit for the area.

Please Share

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Old Posted Jun 18, 2014, 6:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeddy1989 View Post
I would like for you to post (and quote/repost) your ideas, maps, renders/vision for this area of the Downtown and I will take what I can and bring it to the forum. We have had some good discussion on the area and concepts involving development regulations and even transit for the area.

Please Share
New Gower Street needs to make a more obvious transition from highway to urban street as northbound drivers approach the intersection with Barter's Hill. Increasing the sense of enclosure by building taller buildings on the east side of New Gower Street would help. So would forcing vehicles in the right lane of New Gower Street to exit onto Waldegrave Street and reducing New Gower Street to a single northbound lane with parking north of Barter's Hill.

Any building uses overlooking Water Street should be tolerant of port-related industrial activities. These could include residential uses as long as sound insulation is adequate and bedroom windows do not overlook Water Street. Any large-scale residential development (e.g. apartment towers) should include a full-service grocery store, since this is one of the few city centre neighbourhoods not within walking distance of a Sobeys or Dominion. Land uses along George Street West should be pedestrian friendly, providing eyes on the street and possible ground-level commercial space.

The blocks alongside Waldegrave Street show the best potential for redevelopment, since they align with existing tall buildings north of New Gower and are not the site of any current construction projects. The sections of Princes Street falling within the blocks shown in yellow should be made available to any developer able to secure all of the other properties in the block. Both blocks should be preemptively zoned to allow development of a height similar to the Delta Hotel.

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Old Posted Jun 18, 2014, 3:29 PM
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There should also be an obvious link between the T'Railway and Downtown. A dedicated cycle path passing behind the Railway Museum, under Pitts Memorial Drive, and along the existing port fence as far as Harbour Drive would be suitable. Relocating the port fence would allow for trees to be planted between Water Street and the cycle path to provide some shade and make the piles of containers on the other side of the fence less obtrusive.


Base map from Google Earth.
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Old Posted Jun 18, 2014, 10:41 PM
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^I like all those ideas!

I'm still thinking, jeddy (or actually may have just been a little busy.... ) so I'll post what I can when I can. I think this is an area that should ideally be used for higher-density developments, but the area as a whole will also need some of those amenities to make it a livable neighbourhood (like a grocery store, etc)
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2014, 7:00 PM
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That is a very small, yet important, area outlined in the Happy City graphic, hopefully the discussion will be around a broader area such as Hamilton Ave, Springdale St etc.

Done right, this could be a very significant growth area for both commercial and residential in the next 10 to 20 years.

Step 1 - increase height limits to 15 or 20 stories.
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2014, 7:38 PM
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Step 1 - increase height limits to 15 or 20 stories.
I think at the very least the height limit should be extended above the current 12 storey maximum. Land is at a premium and there isn't much of it. No company is going to want to develop a "huge" 30 floor tower in the city, there isn't enough demand for that much space. But something between 12-16 floors isn't out of the question. If we fill in all this premium space with lower density development we're not doing ourselves any favours...eventually there may be a need for more office/residential buildings with no downtown land available. This may result in more proposals for development along the waterfront/destruction of heritage buildings. Smart development of this heritage-less area of the city could alleviate the desires to develop in the heritage areas.

Also, if land is scarce in this area we should be promoting the idea of buildings with a smaller footprints (ie. tall skinnies) to increase density.

AND if we're going to try and add density to the area it'll definitely need better public transit access. I'm not sure the number of bus stops within that area of the downtown right now but I don't believe it's many. Maybe some sort of hub in the area would be nice.
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2014, 9:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marty_Mcfly View Post
I think at the very least the height limit should be extended above the current 12 storey maximum. Land is at a premium and there isn't much of it. No company is going to want to develop a "huge" 30 floor tower in the city, there isn't enough demand for that much space. But something between 12-16 floors isn't out of the question. If we fill in all this premium space with lower density development we're not doing ourselves any favours...eventually there may be a need for more office/residential buildings with no downtown land available. This may result in more proposals for development along the waterfront/destruction of heritage buildings. Smart development of this heritage-less area of the city could alleviate the desires to develop in the heritage areas.

Also, if land is scarce in this area we should be promoting the idea of buildings with a smaller footprints (ie. tall skinnies) to increase density.

AND if we're going to try and add density to the area it'll definitely need better public transit access. I'm not sure the number of bus stops within that area of the downtown right now but I don't believe it's many. Maybe some sort of hub in the area would be nice.
actually you'll be surprised at how many cities our size have 30 floor buildings in them.

Even Stavanger, Norway has 9 buildings over 12 floors (here are a few of them):





http://www.emporis.com/images/show/697620-Large.jpg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...ngs_in_Iceland

Reykjavik has at least 7 over 12 stories (here are a few of them):







These are very historic cities WITH highrises and they are both VERY similar in population to the St. John's area.
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Last edited by jeddy1989; Jun 19, 2014 at 9:17 PM.
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2014, 9:41 PM
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Here are some cities in Europe that have developed modern CBDs separate but adjacent to their historic city.

La Defense in Paris:


http://www.touristmaker.com/charts/skyscrapers-europe


Canary Warf in London:


http://gulfstatebusiness.net/news/new-region/qatar



The Barcode in Oslo:


http://www.e-architect.co.uk/images/..._m131212_2.jpg
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2014, 9:48 PM
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Never got a chance to visit La Defense when in Paris but it's pretty visible from pretty much everywhere, it looks amazing at night from afar!
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2014, 11:17 PM
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Transit

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Originally Posted by Marty_Mcfly View Post
AND if we're going to try and add density to the area it'll definitely need better public transit access. I'm not sure the number of bus stops within that area of the downtown right now but I don't believe it's many. Maybe some sort of hub in the area would be nice.
There aren't any bus stops between Waldegrave Street and Hamilton Avenue. You can view a map of all the stops in the city at the link below.

http://www.metrobus.com/google/stop_inventory.asp

I've always thought it would be nice to have more direct bus route between downtown and the Avalon Mall. Zig-zagging up Queen's Road, through Rabbittown, and to MUN on Route 10 makes a trip by bus a lot longer than it needs to be. Following the loop made by Route 6 through downtown, then travelling up Springdale Street and on to the mall via Lemarchant Road and Campbell Avenue would work well for this neighbourhood.


Directions from Google Maps.
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Old Posted Jun 20, 2014, 2:52 AM
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Most of the sites within the outlined area are in the process of being developed, or have plans already in the works. Maybe great emphasis should be placed on the importance of the public realm, especially for pedestrians (i.e. George Street itself) in this area.
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Old Posted Jun 20, 2014, 2:42 PM
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I hate to raise a notion such as “urban renewal”, and some of the negative connotations it may bring, but perhaps this area is one area of downtown where we need a new vision, a new plan, before there are any more spot re-zonings.

There are good things happening in this area, and a few more planned, but in my opinion there are a number of “tired” old properties for which the wrecking ball may be the best solution. There should be a moratorium on any further changes, and this includes those in the works such as the Hilton and the Delta parking garage, to this area until such a plan is developed.

In many ways it bothers me how the Fortis building is boxed in by less than desirable properties, taking away much of its “curb appeal”. I fully understand that you can only work with the land you own but it just seems a shame.

Let’s look a little to the east from Fortis and see another piece of prime real estate chopped to pieces, where Relish the Magic Wok and another building are. This needs to be consolidated into a single zone that will effectively restrict anything from going there that is NOT at least 12 stories tall.

Then there is the Delta parking lot and an outstanding proposal for a 4 or 5 level garage. This would again be a waste of prime land. We can do better. Bury the parking, build something on top.

The city is crying out for affordable housing, here is a thought, allow someone to build a 10 or 12 story apartment building next to Riverhead Towers.

I could probably go on and on, one property at a time, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Maybe what we need is a “design competition” for someone to come up with a vision for this area, a mix of commercial, residential, retail, hotel and whatever would make it a great place to live and work.
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Old Posted Jun 20, 2014, 2:59 PM
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I hate to raise a notion such as “urban renewal”, and some of the negative connotations it may bring, but perhaps this area is one area of downtown where we need a new vision, a new plan, before there are any more spot re-zonings.

There are good things happening in this area, and a few more planned, but in my opinion there are a number of “tired” old properties for which the wrecking ball may be the best solution. There should be a moratorium on any further changes, and this includes those in the works such as the Hilton and the Delta parking garage, to this area until such a plan is developed.

In many ways it bothers me how the Fortis building is boxed in by less than desirable properties, taking away much of its “curb appeal”. I fully understand that you can only work with the land you own but it just seems a shame.

Let’s look a little to the east from Fortis and see another piece of prime real estate chopped to pieces, where Relish the Magic Wok and another building are. This needs to be consolidated into a single zone that will effectively restrict anything from going there that is NOT at least 12 stories tall.

Then there is the Delta parking lot and an outstanding proposal for a 4 or 5 level garage. This would again be a waste of prime land. We can do better. Bury the parking, build something on top.

The city is crying out for affordable housing, here is a thought, allow someone to build a 10 or 12 story apartment building next to Riverhead Towers.

I could probably go on and on, one property at a time, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Maybe what we need is a “design competition” for someone to come up with a vision for this area, a mix of commercial, residential, retail, hotel and whatever would make it a great place to live and work.
I like the idea of a design competition actually, it could really bring out that creative spark within everyone involved. Play simcity with the land available and see what you can come up with. The best plan would be something that can incorporate a little of everything needed in the area. Residential, high and low density commercial, transit, public space, etc.

Some of those buildings on Springdale next to Fortis are downright atrocious. The savlation army and adjacent building are slated for demo, which is a good start. There was some talk by the SA of building a 10-12 storey building with included affordable apartments which I think is a great idea.

Even more....why stop the development ideas at the highway? Water Street West is a run down, underused and high potential area as a whole.
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Old Posted Jun 24, 2014, 8:48 PM
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I've gone through some of the smaller threads on the forum and gathered some quotes for ideas for the west part of downtown. I'll keep adding to it as I go along, but if anyone else comes across anything post it here. Jeddy1989 will be talking at the Happy City event so any ideas we can give him to talk about the better! I'm sure there will be many different types of people at this event, and many may not share the same views as us. It's important that every view gets heard, council will probably be listening pretty closely to this discussion

Anyway here are a few posts, with more to come later this evening:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Townie709 View Post
I agree, not in that location anyway. (even though I would still support it)

But such a proposal as Chris described (23 story office tower, 13 story residential building, 6 floors of retail, underground parking etc. would really be the ideal development to "vitalize" the west end of downtown and bring it to life. I would love to see something along those lines proposed for the Ultramar site.

As somebody mentioned before, the west end is absolutely dead after 5:00pm and is downright scary. What the west end needs is residential and most importantly, retail. That is why I believe council should be pushing for height minimums, and retail space requirements for all land/developments between the Deacon Site and Waldegrave.
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I also hope that the Salvation Army building stays. Properly incorporating it into a larger, taller, residential development could be really cool, and has been done elsewhere.



Obviously nothing this big is going there, but using the old fascade as a base is a really neat thing to see.
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Any mayoral candidate who wishes to establish a highrise district in the west end that will not allow lowrise developments has my vote. We have at least 10 great spots aligned in a grid in the west end. One is being wasted on the stupid steele hotel which shall forever resent, another by the stubby stantec proposal and the other this possible development which I am not expecting much out of unless the zoning changes which desperately needs to happen.

I like the idea of preserving heritage buildings as the base of new towers and there's no reason why we can't do more of that. I'm sure it would be possible with the Salvation Army building, but if I was made to choose between a modern tower or that concrete block, I would choose the the modern tower any day.
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Originally Posted by AnUrbanLife View Post
I actually like the harbour light building, it's run down, but personally I think the proportions and symmetry are excellent. Not in that location though, I agree something taller with street level retail would be great.

Too bad they couldn't save that building though, move it somewhere else.
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I'm a big fan of the Trillium, but I feel that's exactly the type of development that people would be up in arms about if it were to go in downtown. For one, I'm quite sure its too tall. Secondly, I feel there would be resistance to the modern look in "historic downtown".

Its a shame really. I think a few buildings like that could really add to downtown, but there is just so much opposition in the city. With new buildings like the new Fortis and Deacon office buildings going up on the southwest side of the harbour, that area may be in position to become a little more modern. Meanwhile, the view of the classic St. John's waterfront could maintain its historic charm.
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Originally Posted by SignalHillHiker View Post
My dream for St. John's:

Right now our entire downtown core is basically a straight line along the harbourfront. There's some added visual interest because our midrise and highrise buildings aren't all lined up. But we have no curve.

If we could plan to build a few highrise buildings in the Downtown West End that basically follow the curvature of Pitts Memorial Drive (but to the southwest of it), our downtown would have a curve in it. It would look great from every possible angle, including Signal Hill, and the view from buildings constructed in this area would be basically the view from Shea Heights - gorgeous. They would be The Battery of the Downtown West End.

And that might even push us to create denser, better planned, more valuable industrial/commercial developments on Southside Road.
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Originally Posted by J_Murphy View Post
I agree with all of this. I would like the west end of water street (Job to Victoria Park) to feel like walking through the upper west side of New York or something.
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Originally Posted by Townie709 View Post
I agree completely. That horrible parking lot should be developed into a modern extension of downtown. But, I see that as maybe 25 years or more down the road. What I think should happen before we extend further west, is all the land from 351, west to the Deacon Building be rezoned to have a 50m minimum at least. That will help fill in all those slum-ish areas and force developers to build up. If you look at google maps, there is already basically a grid there with many pieces of land that should be demolished and redeveloped.

Here's a diagram I did a few months ago of possible highrise development sites in the west end of downtown between Waldegrave Street and Springdale Street alone. There are also a few more spaces that I overlooked that could be added as well.


West by Newfie97, on Flickr

This is what the area looks like now...




While I do agree that the Oceanex parking lot should be developed, I think we should ensure that we use up all the land we have right now that's closer to the downtown core. I definitely see that area getting developed, just not in the near future.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrjanejacobs View Post
I just toured the west-end area of the study area (not including the Oceanex parking) on Google street-view. This is a really cool couple blocks - I never properly appreciated it because it was/is such an undesirable area. I like how it's actually a couple blocks, somewhat gridded, narrow streets (historically scaled widths) that are not on a slope. There is a lot of potential in this area. What concerns me is a lack of planning. i don't think it's good enough to just have developers come in, one by one, building up on one parcel at a time. If they are just going to do this, then they might as well not do it at all, because it certainly won't do any favours for the livability of the area. We need urban design standards, landscape standards, public space standards - not to mention a comprehensive design strategy that will help integrate public transit, connectivity and other important elements for quality of life, like a policy requiring a minimum amount of tree planting and landscaping, not to mention a policy requiring that new buildings be built directly at the street front, unless an urban design argument can be made for creating a surface level plaza or something.

I would also propose that these buildings be maintained:



I say this just because I think they have a quality that is hyper St.John's-esque. It would be really neat to have a modern addition to the existing buildings or have some construction hover over or curiously cling to the side of these buildings. Plus small remnants of the past help maintain the character of the City. If we flatten the area - it will look like any other downtown - I don't think that is ok. I would much rather see our modern developments have a conversation with the historic buildings, rather than to antagonize or ostracize them. It doesn't have to be the this vs. that argument.
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Originally Posted by jeddy1989 View Post
Council should add a nice modern pedestrian plaza/space to the west end DT, they obviously need to spruce it all up over on that side anywat, maybe they can convert one of the small parking lots or one of the streets to pedestrian only and do it up as a nice space for people to be in
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Originally Posted by Architype View Post
Christopher, IMO - I think the core can stay heritage in the east, it can expand in the west (and some in the central area), and when it runs out of flat land you can begin to develop up the hill in the west end. The steep grades do not have to be a deterrent as they were in the past. Buildings can be connected for pedestrians using systems similar to pedways, incorporating escalators, elevators etc. to overcome the grade changes if necessary. That does not mean there can be no development in the east end, but it will just be more regulated as it is now.

Last edited by Marty_Mcfly; Jun 25, 2014 at 1:08 AM.
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Old Posted Jun 24, 2014, 10:15 PM
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I like the possibilities for this area of town, personally I would like to see George street west renamed, to anything else really. I've met many a tourist who has gone looking for the much hyped George Street and wound up at the wrong one, much to their confusion and disappointment.

I would also look to making George Street West into a pedestrian street, with as much street level activation as possible, maybe another entertainment street, one that isn't solely focused on the drunken stupor-hook up, not that there's anything wrong with that but variety is nice.

I'm thinking, theaters, an old school movie house, comedy club, a couple medium size music venues and give it a bohemian type vibe with some space made for artists and local businesses.

With the number of office towers and hotels, convention centre etc in the area, George street west could support an really interesting mix of urban life. That's my wish.
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Old Posted Jun 27, 2014, 12:52 PM
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So how'd it go?? I couldn't make it after.. I was rotted haha

Edit: sorry didn't check the main thread
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Old Posted Jun 27, 2014, 2:55 PM
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I would have liked to have been to the Forum however I wasn’t able to. Thanks to those of you who did attend for filling us in, it sounds like it went quite well. I was expecting a bit more of the “don’t block my view” crowd.

I don’t want to sound too negative (I NEVER do that) but it would have been nice to have had this forum a year ago before the municipal Plan was complete. I realize that there were MP sessions at that time so hopefully some of the same arguments came forward then.

I think we are all in agreement that this part of the downtown is ripe for the kind of development we generally want to see. It is practically a clean slate with no significant obstacles (other than a lack of a plan) to modern, well thought out development.

There are some great ideas in the previous posts and I’d like to expand on a few. George St West probably could use a new name because of the obvious dissection of the street. It would be cool as a restaurant/café type of commercial environment to take advantage of the office buildings, hotels and convention center. Green it up a bit where possible by planting a few trees. Leave the “other” George St to the bars.

MrJaneJacobs likes the older, smaller, buildings around Patrick St., an area I like to call “Antiques Row”…lol. (Okay, so it is mostly second hand junk shops but they are antiques to me). With more of these smaller retail outlets in that area it gives a nice transition from the commercial (our new high rise office block) to the residential. I believe the Republic Properties proposal for the old Irving station is looking at street retail with residential above. Let’s hope that happens.

If someone (Council??) can convince Oceanex to give up or reconfigure some of their property along the street it would provide even more opportunities for creative development. One can only wish.

Let’s hope that we see exciting things happen in “Downtown West” in the years to come.
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Old Posted Jun 27, 2014, 6:29 PM
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I have it on good authority that Oceanex are looking for space in CBS. Not sure if they are just expanding their port space or if they are looking at re-locating.
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Old Posted Jun 27, 2014, 6:33 PM
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That'd be so awesome. They talked at length last night about what they could do with that space, even if they could just plant some trees to block the contains being visible from Waldegrave as you round the corner to what's left of the small vessel dock.
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