Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A place to relax a bit: Brentwood Mall Food Court

With the winter weather not permitting of children playing outside for very long even on a nice dry day as was the case today, I took my kids for a stroll to Brentwood Mall to buy couple of things.  By the time we were done with the shopping and the kids hinting that they were getting thirsty, we decided to have a seat at the food court and enjoy a beverage from Orange Julius.

The best seating is located above the main entrance to the 
mall at the south end of the food court by the windows


The food court has become a favourite spot of mine to enjoy a fast food meal or drink while reading a newspaper, and the number of people at the food court on any given day indicates that it's become a favourite spot for many. Apart from the variety of food choices, a nice feature of the food court is the view of Brentwood Station and the high-rise towers sprouting up to the west of it.  Not to be overlooked when a discussion of the food court occurs, the washrooms next to the food court at Brentwood Mall were voted the best in BC.  It 's no small feat considering the fact that the rating was not limited to malls.  I must admit, the washrooms are fabulous.

The food court is a nice place to sit and look out at the ever-
evolving view that is the heart of Brentwood Town Centre.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Brentwood Station made the top ten in fare evasion rates

According to the results of a study released by the Vancouver Sun, Brentwood Station was 8th in fare evasion rates in 2009.  The study was conducted by Translink using a test sample of 500 commuters or more at each station. According to the study, of the 508 fares checked in December 2009, 8.7% of commuters were caught attempting to evade fares.  A total of 1, 217, 605 boardings took place at Brentwood Station in 2009.



Holdom Station finished 24th out of 25 stations included in the study and had an evasion rate of 4.7% with 576 fare checks conducted in December 2009. According to the study, a total of 767, 552  boardings took place at Holdom Station in 2009.  Gilmore station was excluded from the results due to less than 500 fare checks having been conducted there.

Monday, December 27, 2010

More car dealerships moving to Still Creek

The rezoning process is underway to allow for the addition of at least 2 more car dealerships on Still Creek Ave west of Willingdon Ave.  According to the City of Burnaby, the project at 4451 Still Creek Ave will be designed by CEI Architecture and is the second phase of a possible 3 dealerships

Perhaps the 2 dealerships on Lougheed Hwy between Willingdon and Beta Aves (Carter Dodge Chrysler and Carter GM) will make the move to Still Creek.  A move by the Carter dealerships would free up some of the largest area of real estate in the Brentwood core for development.

Th site of the future car dealerships sits across the street from 
both Morrey Nissan and McDonald's headquarters.

Morrey Nissan (below) was the first major car dealership to
make the move from Lougheed Hwy to Still Creek Ave.


The Carter dealerships occupy most of the area from Lougheed 
Hwy to Dawson Ave between Alpha and Willingdon Aves.







The only other 2 major dealerships that may make the move from Lougheed Hwy would be Coastal Ford at Holdom and Lougheed, and Destination Toyota at Madison and Lougheed.  Car dealerships along Lougheed Hwy seem to be out of place as the Lougheed Hwy street front changes and gives way to mixed-use developments.

The first dealership to make the move to Still Creek from Lougheed was Morrey Nissan which now occupies the corner of Still Creek and Willingdon Ave across the street from McDonald's regional headquarters.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

APPIA continues to build Brentwood

Earlier in the month, a reader pointed out the planned development on the SW corner of Willingdon Ave and Lougheed Hwy as displayed on skyscraperpage.com with a link to the designing architect's vision for the site. According to the info found in the link, the project is titled, "Brentwood Crossing"

According to the City of Burnaby's website under the heading "Major Projects", the latest APPIA project in Brentwood will add over 154, 000 square feet of commercial space, 566, 000 square feet of office space in the form of 2 high-rise office towers, and 105, 000 square feet of residential space in the form of 3 high-rise residential towers (509 units). The amount of commercial space is significant (the London Drugs at Brentwood Mall is 34, 000 square feet).

This is the fourth project by APPIA west of Willingdon Ave. The previous 3 projects are located north of Lougheed Hwy (Motif at Citi, Madison Centre and Buchanan North) across the street from 4420 Lougheed Hwy where the next project will be built.

The former site of the Morrey Nissan dealership sits next to Milestones restaurant which may have to relocate either offsite or into the new development. Hopefully the restaurant will remain in the neighbourhood to take advantage of the increasing numbers of residents and employees in the area.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reduced speed limit on cycling routes not a deterrent for speeders

The City of Burnaby has recently proposed reducing the speed limit for cars to 30 km/h on its cycling routes (Vancouver Sun article) to increase cyclist safety along those routes. While it is a good idea to legally reduce the speed limit along cycling routes, it would only be a small first step in creating safer roads for cyclists. It is one thing to officially have a lower limit, and another thing to enforce the speed limit in those areas.

A street like Delta Ave which has Brentwood Park Elementary and Holy Cross schools on either side still sees vehicles travelling in excess of 70 km/h during the day while the speed limit has been 30 km/h as per school zone standards for years. I have yet to see a car pulled over for speeding along Delta Ave near the schools during the day or night.

In order to make the idea work, the next steps after creating reduced speed zones should be to (1) add traffic calming measures to the affected areas (narrower road and wider sidewalk), and (2) speed enforcement by the police. Until the idea is fully implemented by including the 2 steps mentioned, it will not make cycling routes safer.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Moving to Brentwood was the right choice

Before moving into the Brentwood area in 2006 from the area near Broadway and Sperling, my wife and I had seriously contemplated moving to Port Moody with the news that the Evergreen Line was going to be built there. With the line that was supposed to be built by now still in limbo, I feel fortunate that we decided to opt for the more expensive but more convenient Brentwood neighbourhood. I am able to get to work in downtown within 30 minutes of going out my front door, walking to Brentwood Station from where I take the SkyTrain. The convenience of having Brentwood Mall steps away is a bonus.

With the Millennium SkyTrain Line in place, the Brentwood area is ready-made for transit users that work and play in downtown Vancouver. Hopefully the Evergreen Line will be built for the sake of those that moved into the areas along the proposed line in Burnaby, Port Moody, and Coquitlam in the hope that they would benefit from the convenience of rapid transit close to home.

Having lived in North Burnaby most of my life and now in Brentwood for 4 years, I can truly say that I am content to be where I am. As the neighbourhood changes around me, I hope that I am able to document the changes through this blog in a way that others will find interesting as a source of Brentwood history.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cycling lanes are not the problem

I've mentioned cycling-friendly infrastructure as one of the features that would make the Brentwood area better. The benefits of allowing people to be more comfortable getting out into the neighbourhood on their bicycles when running errands or going for a coffee are well documented. The environmental and health benefits of cycling are well known.

The recently-built cycling lanes in downtown Vancouver have created an uproar from drivers and businesses. In particular, businesses along the length of the the Dunsmuir and Hornby bike lanes have complained about a drop in customer traffic due to the loss of parking spaces that gave way to the bike lanes.

If the decision makers had taken the time to consider all possible options when designing the bike lanes, they would have foreseen the flaw in the current design and would have been able to retain street parking while building the lanes. Instead of being placed on the street between the sidewalk curb and the car lane, the bike lanes should have been placed on an extended/widened sidewalk with barriers separating cyclists from both pedestrians and automobile traffic. Both the sidewalk and the car lane would each lose a couple of feet or a combination thereof, and the parking spots could still be located along the street.

A simple rearrangement from the current setup would have resolved the parking issue for businesses as they would not have lost on-street parking. Of course, with space already limited in the downtown core, the suggested design may pose challenges there. In my opinion, this is a challenge that the city should have attempted to overcome.

The Brentwood area does not have the same space constraints as downtown Vancouver. Because the City of Burnaby still has the luxury of space in its town centres, it must consider building cycling lanes between on-street parking and the sidewalk, allowing for on-street parking to remain. This is not a new concept as it is used elsewhere. As the following image I found at cycletoronto.blogspot.com shows (below right), cycling lanes do not have to compete with parking space at the extreme level shown by their construction in downtown Vancouver:


The City of Vancouver could have spared itself from the ire of those negatively impacted by the poorly-designed cycling lanes by doing a little research online at the above mentioned cycling blog. Hopefully the City of Burnaby is not deterred from adding cycling lanes along commercial streets in areas like Brentwood just because of the problems that Vancouver has created with its cycling initiatives.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Steve Nash Fitness World coming to Brentwood

The building that formerly housed the Office Depot on Lougheed Hwy next to Tim Hortons and Boston Pizza will soon be the home to a new Steve Nash Fitness World. The arrival of the club will bring the number of fitness centres in the Brentwood area to four including:

REV's Fitness Centre which houses former IBO World Champion Manny Sobral's North Burnaby Boxing Club next to Holdom Station,

Fit City for Women at Beta Ave and Lougheed Hwy near Brentwood Station,

Gold's Gym next to Gilmore Station on Dawson Ave.


The new Steve Nash Fitness World location is steps away from Gilmore Station.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

A hotdog cart in Brentwood would be great

According to stories in the Burnaby Now and Burnaby Newsleader, the City of Burnaby's current bylaw make it nearly impossible to operate a hotdog cart in the city. Kathy Sullivan, a prospective Burnaby hotdog vendor, is currently bringing the issue to Burnaby City Council.

A hotdog vendor serves passerby at Commercial-
Broadway Station in Vancouver.


Food carts placed in parts of Burnaby's town centres would help to create a street-food scene that currently does not exist. If I were to see Kathy Sullivan's hotdog cart near the Brentwood SkyTrain station, I would definitely be one of her customers. I'm sure the bus drivers that stop for breaks at the bus loop as well as the numerous transit users coming and going also wouldn't mind having a delicious snack waiting just steps away. We shouldn't have to go into Vancouver to get a hotdog.

If Kathy Sullivan is successful in changing the bylaw, it will only improve the street scene by offering consumers an alternative choice when eating out.

Monday, November 29, 2010

More parks needed as density increases

For the first time, I attended a public hearing at Burnaby City Hall on Nov 23rd . It was uneventful as nobody spoke to the issue that interested me the most, which is the plan to amend the wording of the density bonus policy allowing for increased density and taller buildings in Burnaby's town centres. With nobody expressing their opposition to the proposal, it seems that town centers such as Brentwood will see increased building heights and densities for new developments. Increasing density and building higher up in town centers is a good idea from an environmental perspective as it allows for larger numbers of people to live and work in a concentrated area rather than in an outwardly expanding direction that increasingly encroaches into the surrounding natural environment and agricultural land as has been the case for the past 30 years with development in Metro Vancouver.

With the idea of having more people concentrated in and around town centres becoming increasingly accepted, the issue of park space and related recreational amenities serving an increasing population becomes obvious. Brentwood Town Centre has seen a dramatic increase in its residential population during the past 10 years. Local recreational amenities such as the Eileen Daily and Willingdon Heights Community centres, Kensington and Burnaby Lake arenas and local outdoor parks such as Confederation Park have served the area extremely well. With the exception of the Willingdon Heights Community Centre, all of the places mentioned are located well outside of the Brentwood area and require travel by car to reach such amenities.

With more residential and commercial development planned for the area, the building of park space evenly interspersed throughout the Brentwood area will be much needed in the future, if it isn't already needed.

Close proximity of a home to parks is one of the important features that attracts potential home-buyers to any neighbourhood. If designed well, park and recreational space can be efficiently placed throughout the Brentwood area to cater to a variety of needs.

The most basic park space is one that includes a children's play area. Such parks should exist within a 10 minute walk of every residence in the Brentwood Town Centre area. The ability to walk children to a park instead of driving them there is important in creating a pedestrian culture (at least within the neighbourhood) Other amenities such as basketball, ball/roller hockey space can be incorporated into a park setting to encourage locals to play a variety of sports. Parks that include large trees to create an oasis effect is important to making a park appealing to potential users (merely planting an open grass field does not qualify as creating park space).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pedestrian issues shouldn't be an afterthought

In my previous post, I mentioned the need for sidewalks and the reasons why many streets still don't have them in the year 2010. Just like cycling infrastructure that is currently being "forced" upon us (it's not a bad thing) after decades of automobile-centered growth in our cities, sidewalks seem to have been built as an afterthought, or without any consideration for good design and purpose. The result for pedestrians is a lack of safety due to uncontrolled automobile traffic, lack of safety due to poor lighting, lack of convenience due to poor connectivity from "point A to point B" and, among other things but perhaps most importantly, a lack of pedestrians.

This is why a pedestrian advocacy group is needed to brainstorm ideas, attend City Council meetings and public hearings, and to communicate pedestrian concerns to both the City and to the public in the form of letters to local newspapers such as the Burnaby Now and the NewsLeader.

Good sidewalk infrastructure is the foundation for building vibrant neighbourhoods where locals and visitors alike feel safe walking to school, work or the local store. I have already written about the elements of appealing sidewalks and how they would improve neighbourhoods and encourage walking. I know there are many people that have thought about the same issues that I have and certainly other issues that I yet haven't when it comes to pedestrian concerns. If anybody reading this shares the same view as I do and is interested in creating and/or joining a pedestrian advocacy group for Burnaby, please comment on this blog or contact me at brentwoodstation@ymail.com.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Local Area Service Program prevents sidewalk construction

There are many streets in Burnaby, some right here in the Brentwood area, that have no sidewalks in place to provide a safe place for pedestrians to walk along. One such street is Graveley St between Willingdon and Carleton Aves. Although new developments require the builder to provide sidewalks along the roads that they build on, many neighbourhoods that preceded current by-laws making sidewalks mandatory have been left without a place for people to walk (other than on the road).

The sidewalk on Whitsell Ave physically ends at Graveley Ave. A view of Graveley in either direction, shows an incomplete and inadequate sidewalk.

On the surface, the The City of Burnaby's Local Area Service Program seems to be a progressive, sidewalk-friendly program to improve neighbourhoods. However, when one looks at the steps required to have a sidewalk installed in a neighbourhood that already doesn't have one, it becomes evident that the program is an excuse not to build sidewalks.

On it's website, the City describes the program as a way for homeowners to improve their street and consequently "enhance" their properties. By wording it in such a way, The City is making it sound as if the sidewalk is of benefit only to the people living on the street and not to anyone else. It is a fact that sidewalks are a benefit to anyone that needs to get from one place to another by walking. Furthermore, it is not an issue of enhancement, but of safety. It is ridiculous that a parent must push a baby stroller along Graveley, on the road in between parked cars to avoid moving vehicles. In my opinion, it is the responsibility of both the City and property owners to have sidewalks built. A sidewalk is not private property over which homeowners have reign and is therefore the responsibility of the city and the public. That is what being a part of the community is all about.

Under the current program, residents of a street must canvas the neighbours on their block and obtain a minimum number of signatures supporting the building of a sidewalk. This is a major hindrance to sidewalk construction because many people will not support the idea if they are required to pay for its construction. In my opinion, the building of sidewalks in residential areas (where they already don't exist) must be mandatory, and the expense burdened by both the City and the residents of the street.

If funding is the issue, the City must get creative to raise funds. For example, if a company such as the Bank of Montreal funds the construction of 3 blocks of sidewalk in exchange for the right to advertise its brand and products on posts situated at intervals along its length, it might be a good option if done right. The only option that homeowners should have is on how to fund the sidewalk and not whether or not they want a sidewalk in front of their home.

In my opinion, the Brentwood area, if not all of Burnaby, needs a pedestrian advocacy group. I'm not talking about pedestrian activism, but about an organization that brings about awareness of important pedestrian issues that the City must consider if it wants to create complete neighbourhoods. Ultimately, sidewalks enhance not only the properties along which they are built, but the overall neighbourhood and city. I've already written about what elements could make sidewalks more appealing (Appealing Sidewalks). In the case of Graveley St, it would be nice just to have a sidewalk.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A place to buy organic produce: Kin's Farm Market

Whereas at one time the only place I could buy organic produce was at the Save-On-Foods at Madison and Lougheed, recently I've noticed that Kin' s Farm Market at Brentwood Mall has begun to add organic choices on its shelves. Although not having as much variety of organics as Save-On-Foods, the little produce store is beginning to get more of my shopping attention because it seems to have more "BC" or Canadian produce options than its larger competitor. If Kin's continues to add to its "organic" and "local"selection, I'll be happy to do more of my produce shopping there.

Friday, November 5, 2010

More density and taller buildings to come?


On November 23, a public hearing will be held at city hall at 7pm to discuss a proposal to change zoning laws to allow increased densities and taller buildings than currently allowed in Burnaby's town centres. Although not known who brought forth the proposal, it can be guessed that one or more of the developers currently holding properties in Burnaby are behind it.

Earlier this year, Brentwood Town Centre Mall was sold to Shape Properties, a local company that has stated its interest in redeveloping the existing mall and parking lots around it. The plan will very likely include a remodelling and expansion of the mall and a combination of residential and office/commercial development around it. Expect this project by Shape Properties to be the largest single development in the history of North Burnaby which will further entrench the mall site as the core of Brentwood Town Centre.


Hopefully, the project will be able to create more pedestrian-oriented accessibility to and from the site including the area immediately next to Brentwood Station and also consider the potential for developing a commercial zone just north of the station with quick access to and from the station to take advantage of the increasing numbers of commuters using the Millennium Line. Something similar to the shops in and around Commercial-Broadway Station would be a good idea.

The lot located just west of the station (right photo), formerly the site of Brentwood Brake and Muffler and a gas station, will most likely be part of a community amenity space and has been described as potentially being used as a public "celebration square" or "gathering place". Several other projects that have been on hold in the Brentwood area may be awaiting zoning change approvals to take advantage of the increased height and density allowances.

The benefit to the city in return for allowing more density is in the form of cash paid by the developer for a fund geared towards the building of public amenities and social housing or in the form of a public space or facility being built into the project by the developer at no cost to the city.

Since I will not be working during the evening of November 23, I will experience attending a public hearing for the first time in my life. It should be interesting and informative to hear varying viewpoints along with potential ideas associated with the proposal.

You can read more about this topic in the following Burnaby Newsleader article.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another Embassy Development for Brentwood

The old Canadian Tire site at Rosser Ave and Lougheed Hwy is now being excavated as the Vantage project by Embassy Development Corporation gets underway. The project will include 200 units of highrise and townhouse homes along with commercial and community amenities. The site is located 1 block west of the Brentwood SkyTrain station.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Terasen bringing jobs to Brentwood

Teresen Gas is bringing around 150 new jobs to the Brentwood area of Burnaby with the opening of its new contact centre in the Willingdon Business Park at 4370 Still Creek Ave between Willngdon and Gilmore Avenues. According to the Burnaby NewsLeader, the new facility will open in January 2012 and are within walking distance from Gilmore and Brentwood SkyTrain stations. A shuttle bus running to the Gilmore and Brentwood stations will transport employees during peak hours and will be offered by Willingdon Business Park (Burnaby Now).

Located close to rapid transit and Hwy 1, the facility will add to the mix of residential/commercial character in the area. Still Creek Ave has already seen the emergence of the Morrey Nissan dealership that moved from Willingdon and Lougheed.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Brentwood Station needs diversity of mom-and-pop shops

If you walk or drive through the Brentwood neighbourhood near Willingdon Ave and Lougheed Hwy at around 8pm on a Friday evening, you will see that the sidewalks are nearly devoid of people and that most of the businesses are either already closed or near closing for the day. With a major SkyTrain station and bus loop merely steps away, it is surprising that very little streetlife exists at Lougheed and Willindgon and outwards from there. With the exception of the strip mall complex featuring Miki Sushi, Fat Burger, and a soon-to-open Starbucks just west of the Petro Canada gas station, there are no businesses to draw the locals out from the surrounding residential neighbourhoods or from their cars as they drive through Brentwood. It certainly isn't anything like the Burnaby Heights district along Hastings St between Willingdon Ave and Boundary Rd. where a diversity of restaurants and retail businesses line the street. To make sidewalks even more appealing than as mentioned in my previous post (Appealing Sidewalks...), the right combination of amenities are required to bring out the pedestrians that currently don't have reason to frequent the area around Brentwood Station.
What does an area need to attract more people to its sidewalks? Although the area is slowly beginning to attract businesses, it has a ways to go.

Currently the only places open late are Save-on-Foods and a few major chain restaurants dispersed over a wide area between Willingdon Ave and Boundary Rd. What is needed is different types of shops to bring out different types of consumers, particularly 'mom and pop' shops that offer a variety of goods and services at the street level dispersed among the restaurants and cafes. Unfortunately, as older buildings are torn down and replaced with newer ones over time, the retail space that was once affordable for local independent businesses becomes even more scarce. When this occurs, 'mom and pop' shops are either forced to move away, or close down for good. What consumers are left with are the "cookie-cutter" chain stores that provide "cookie-cutter" goods and services. The newer retail space is usually built to a standard minimum size which is unaffordable for an independent entrepreneur with a great business idea but lacking a corporate-sized pocketbook.

Fortunately, this does not have to be the case every time a new retail development is built. Crystal Mall in the Metrotown area of Burnaby is a terrific example of a retail complex that houses a diverse range of primarily independent businesses. The retail and office spaces in this complex are not built to standard size, but range from smaller sized units to the standard larger sizes. The smaller space has attracted a variety of shops that offer specialty goods and services that would not otherwise be available in the usual chain stores that dominate our retail landscape. If I want to watch Asian movies or TV dramas, I won't find them at Rogers Video, but at Crystal Media in Crystal Mall. If I want to buy specialty Asian-style pastries or cakes, I would find them in one of the shops in Crystal Mall, not at Safeway. It is this type of retail space, at street level instead of an indoor mall-like setting, that would encourage businesses that are able to meet the specific needs of a diverse range of consumers.

In my opinion, the following types of businesses would bring life to the area both day and night:

-Asian or European-style tea or coffee shops
-small independent bars or taverns
-specialty dessert cafes or bakeries
-karaoke parlours
-non-chain restaurants to add to the flavour of existing chain restaurants
-specialty food stores
-convenience store that isn't a cookie-cutter gas station store (7-11 or Mac's would suffice)
-specialty meat or fish shop

I hope that someday I can walk around the Brentwood area and be entertained by a variety of retail businesses. As the area around Brentwood Station continues to develop and grow, I hope it will encourage independent businesses to become established and grow with it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Appealing sidewalks would make Burnaby's Brentwood better

Born and raised in Metro Vancouver, I never realized how poorly designed our neighbourhoods are from a pedestrian's perspective. I always accepted the fact that pedestrians get sprayed by passing vehicles on a rainy day in winter or get burnt to a crisp on a hot sunny day in summer and that it can't be helped. Then I realized during a trip to Tokyo that Metro Vancouver pedestrians endure such harsh conditions because municipal planners here either lack vision and/or don't care when it comes to sidewalk construction. Our cities have been built with automobile commuting as the foundation of their design. It's no wonder that for most people in Metro Vancouver that were born and raised here, their car is the preferred mode of getting around the neighbourhood and beyond.

An example of sidewalks that lack one simple feature (and would not have cost any more money to pave) are the relatively new sidewalks extending north and west from the intersection of Delta Ave and Lougheed Hwy. A stroll (climb if you're going up Delta) along either sidewalk on a bright sunny day will quickly turn into an unpleasant experience due to the glare caused by the sun's rays reflecting off of the white-coloured pavement. The reflection causes an unbearable strain on the eyes and irritation for the skin. Simply choosing a darker colour for the pavement would resolve that problem and may encourage more people to use those sidewalks.

Sidewalk on the east side of Delta Ave near Lougheed Hwy

Sidewalk on the north side of Lougheed Hwy near Delta Ave


Elements of an appealing sidewalk

A sidewalk should have at least 4 (if not all) of the following elements to make it appealing for pedestrians to use. The first 4 elements should be mandatory for all sidewalks, whether along side streets or along major roads.

  1. Ramps at both ends of the sidewalk to allow access for baby strollers and wheelchairs
  2. Textured markings for the visually impaired
  3. Adequate lighting for increased safety at night
  4. Non-glaring sidewalk colour
  5. Vegetative cover in the form of trees and vegetative barriers in the form of shrubs along the outer edge of the sidewalk
  6. Solid barriers separating the sidewalk from adjacent vehicle traffic
  7. Enough width to allow at least 3 adults to walk shoulder-to-shoulder along its length
  8. Safe intersections that include wide crosswalks with a significant setback for cars stopped at the intersection.

Ramps

Ramps that allow for wheelchair and baby stroller access should be a standard requirement for all sidewalks that have curbs. It is saddening to see a senior riding their scooter on the road because ramp access is non-existent on random sidewalks in Burnaby. Believe it or not, there are many places where a wheelchair-bound person will go down a ramp and cross the street only to come to a curb on the other side because a ramp was not included in the design of the next block.


Textured Markings

Textured markings at intersections and along the length of sidewalks have been used in Tokyo for more than 10 years and are becoming more common. They are an important element in creating a "barrier-free" sidewalk that considers visually impaired members of the community.


Lighting

A major deterrent to walking is lack of lighting during dark evenings and early mornings. When sidewalks are inconsistently lit, the issue of safety draws people to their cars for short trips even when a walk could have taken 10 minutes or less. The light in the street lamp should allow people to see the sidewalk (not just the lamp itself).


Non-glaring Pavement

A sidewalk that allows you to walk on it without you having to squint to see where you are going on a bright sunny day is preferable to this eye-straining slab of concrete (left) on Delta Ave. This sidewalk offers only 1 of the 8 elements of an appealing sidewalk (not so appealing).





The sidewalks leading up to this intersection in Tokyo are examples of non-glaring sidewalks that have 6 of 8 elements of an appealing sidewalk.


Vegetative Cover

While the trees provide shade on a sunny day, the shrubs situated along the edge of the sidewalk along the street provide protection from cars spraying water onto pedestrians.






Protective Barriers

One morning in 1990, as I walked along Parker Street towards Alpha Secondary School, I heard the loud noise of car tires skidding. As I turned around to see what was happening, a car jumped the curb and skidded towards me on the sidewalk. It skidded out of control for about 40 feet before it came to a halt 3 feet from where I was standing. The visibly shaken driver got out of the car, asked me if I was okay, got back into the car and drove away. I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn't seriously injured or killed and continued on to school as if nothing unusual had happened.

Every once in a while, a news story emerges about a pedestrian being killed by a vehicle entering the sidewalk during a crash. Protective barriers would not only prevent such unnecessary pedestrian deaths, but make pedestrians feel safer when using sidewalks.

Although the likelihood of a car entering a sidewalk may be low, as the following video suggests it is 100 % likely to happen if it veers towards a sidewalk during a crash if barriers are not present.


Fortunately, nobody seemed to be hurt as there were no pedestrians on the sidewalk during the accident.

Basic barriers to prevent cars from jumping the curb and smashing into pedestrians and minimizing the fear of it happening are good things.






Some barriers can add an element of beauty to a sidewalk and its neighourhood.







Some barriers provide a great place to park your bicycle.

Despite the lack of space in an old, densely populated city such as Tokyo, narrow sidewalks on slow side streets have the protection of barriers to make up for the lack of width.





Wide Sidewalks

Wide sidewalks allow one to pass oncoming pedestrians on a rainy day without having to bring down your umbrella because there is enough space. The sidewalk should allow enough space for 2 baby strollers to pass each other without one of them having to pull aside.


Wide sidewalks along major commercial streets allow large numbers of pedestrians to get around with relative ease which would encourage more people to get around on foot.

This is the kind of sidewalk (and commercial frontage) that is needed along at least 2 blocks in all 4 directions from the intersection at Lougheed Hwy and Willingdon Ave.



This sidewalk on the east side of Willingdon Ave, stretching northbound from Midlawn Drive to Pender Street, is not only scary to walk on, but embarrassing to look at. For a major road, this sidewalk is inadequate at best on my rating scale. It has 1 out of 8 elements of an appealing sidewalk (no glare on a sunny day).
If improved from its current unsightly state, this roughly 1.5 km stretch of sidewalk would serve as a major pedestrian route connecting the Brentwood area to the amenities offered by the Eileen Daily Recreation Centre, McGill Library and Confederation Park to the north. An important street such as this must have all 8 elements of an appealing sidewalk as it should serve as a walkway that connects pedestrians to and from the Burnaby Heights and Brentwood neighbourhoods.


Pedestrian-Friendly Intersections and Crosswalks


As is often the case, whenever a car overshoots the stop line during a red light, the car ends up encroaching onto the crosswalk, forcing pedestrians to detour around the car and dangerously into the path of crossing cars. This intersection (left) is an example of a pedestrian-unfriendly intersection at Lougheed Hwy and Madison Ave.



These are examples of pedestrian friendly intersections.
These Tokyo intersections provide a large setback for stopped cars and wide, well marked crosswalks that are not easily encroached upon by aggressive drivers. Notice the existence of a barrier at the intersection (upper photo).





Appealing sidewalks are an important component of pedestrian-oriented neighbourhoods. Their appeal should bring local residents out to explore their neighbourhood on foot and bicycle instead of by car, whether day or night.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ideas to make Burnaby's Brentwood better

On June 5th, the Burnaby Newsleader printed an article asking readers for their ideas to make Burnaby a better place. Many readers responded with a variety of ideas that ranged from making the city more hospitable for the homeless to creating pedestrian-only corridors linking various neighbourhoods. Both the article and the resulting responses from readers got me thinking about the area that is the subject of this blog.

The improvement of Brentwood Town Centre needs to involve a neighbourhood-focused approach that considers, among many things, the following elements:

- appealing sidewalks that encourage walking to amenities within the area as well as to amenities located outside the area

- cycling-friendly design of roads where cyclists can feel safe, and cycling-friendly design of sidewalks where bicycles can be conveniently locked

- diversity of street-level businesses that brings out locals and provide an entertainment destination for those living outside the area

- better-designed, smaller parks dispersed throughout the area to serve locals and that have facilities to accommodate the playing of a
variety of different sports including basketball, ball and inline hockey, lacrosse and soccer

- traffic calming measures and enforced speed limits on residential side-streets to discourage speeding by non-locals that are just speeding through

- local community police "box" staffed 24 hours by foot patrol or bicycle police officers that are accessible to the public to create a rapport with the community.

Over the next several posts, I will go into details about how such elements can be brought into the area and their potential impacts.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Holdom Station

Located on the eastern edge of Brentwood Town Centre at Holdom Ave and Lougheed Hwy, Holdom Station was the site of the first major residential development spurred by the completion of the Millennium SkyTrain line in North Burnaby.


The development at Holdom Station includes community service amenities in the office building situated directly behind the station, a convenience store, Starbucks coffee shop, Yoga Spirit, and more businesses to come. Immediately west of the station is REVS Bowling, one of the 2 remaining bowling lanes in Burnaby.


The corner at Goring Street and Holdom Ave (below) is destined to become the eastern end of the Dawson "village street" pedestrian-oriented corridor that will extend to Gilmore and Dawson and connect with Dawson via Douglas Rd. This will create a walkable route between Holdom and Gilmore without requiring pedestrians to venture along the noisier Lougheed Hwy to the north.

The area immediately south and east of Goring and Holdom is currently a light industrial zone that will eventually face pressure from mixed-use projects as the Brentwood Town Centre continues to fill in and build out between Holdom and Gilmore.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sushi Garden: A Place to Eat

Yesterday, craving sushi and not having enough time to eat in, my wife and I decided to try take-out at Sushi Garden at the corner of Lougheed Hwy and Madison Ave. Sushi Garden sits next to the Church's Chicken where, despite the rain, LiWen Tan was unfailingly plying his trade as a shakerboarder for the fast-food chicken outlet.

The food is not only good but well-priced for the budget-conscious sushi lover. Another positive about Sushi Garden is the fact that it is open all day everyday. For those of you that have felt the frustration of craving sushi on a Monday or between 1:00-4:00 pm when most decent sushi restaurants are closed, you know what I am talking about.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Brentwood Intersections: Dawson & Alpha

The intersection at Dawson Ave and Alpha Ave lies just south of Brentwood Station in Burnaby.

The Carter car dealerships that lie south of Brentwood Station occupy most of the large piece of land between Lougheed Hwy to the north, Dawson Ave to the south, Willingdon Ave to the west and Alpha Ave to the east. Although the Carter dealerships have been there for as long as I can remember, they are beginning to look out of place as the area around them begins to be developed into the town centre being planned by the City of Burnaby. With the building of an auto mall on Still Creek Ave just a few blocks south, it would make sense to have the dealerships relocate there to allow for the development of the "Carter Lands". With Brentwood Station situated right next to the site, it is an ideal location for a mixed-use residential and commercial development that would bring both residents and jobs into the area.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Brentwood Intersections: Gilmore and Dawson


On the western edge of Brentwood Town Centre is the neighbourhood around Gilmore Station.

Dawson Ave is beginning to develop into a "village street" as envisioned by the City of Burnaby Planning Department. The street-level businesses along Dawson Ave within 1 block of Gilmore Station now include:

Extreme Pita
Starbucks
Quiznos
Taco Del Mar

Gold's Gym
Wells Fargo Bank


Gilmore Station (below) is the last station in Burnaby if you are traveling west on the Millennium Line into Vancouver.

Brentwood Intersections: Dawson and Beta


The intersection at Dawson Ave and Beta Ave is relatively new as it came into existence along with the recent building of residences that line the street. Dawson Ave will be extended eastward and connected to Douglas Rd. The extended portion of Dawson will eventually be lined with townhomes and condominiums, creating a residential corridor between the Holdom and Brentwood stations. The new corridor along Dawson Ave, Douglas Rd, and Goring St will allow for easier east-west pedestrian access than currently exists. Just south of this corridor lies the Central Valley Greenway.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brentwood Intersections: Madison and Lougheed



A SkyTrain car passes overhead at the intersection of Madison Ave and Lougheed Hwy.


Save-On-Foods (below) is the first major grocery store to arrive in the Brentwood core to serve the growing population. Winners is also located in the same Madison Centre complex.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Perspectives changing at Douglas and Lougheed



The 29-story Perspectives high-rise development being built by Ledingham Mcallister at Douglas Rd and Lougheed Hwy has begun the transformation of the area between Beta Ave and the Holdom SkyTrain Station from an industrial to a mixed-use residential and retail, pedestrian oriented neighbourhood. Situated south of Lougheed Hwy across the street from the recently built Brentwood Gate complex (Delta and Lougheed), the Perspectives development will include 8 townhomes on Dawson Ave which will be extended eastward and be connected with Douglas Rd. With Perspectives nearing completion and the site of the Affinity high-rise development by Bosa just having been excavated nearby, the area around Douglas Road will look much different a few years from now.
The Affinity development will consist of a 24-story and 29-story tower and 10 townhomes. According to Bosa's website, the phase 1 tower is more than 90 percent sold. Another project that is to be built by Qualex-Landmark and titled The Luxe is currently on hold. The Luxe project will consist of 2 highrise towers along with townhomes and will be built next to the Perspectives site between Douglas Rd and the Dawson Ave extension.
Along with the extension of Dawson Ave from Yukon Court to link up with Douglas Rd, traffic changes will include the closing off of Douglas Rd to and from Lougheed Hwy. Future plans include the building of a pedestrian overpass from Delta Ave to Douglas Rd to provide safe north-south access for residents on either side of Lougheed Hwy. More mixed-use development will lead to the availability of more local retail and community amenities to serve long-time and new residents.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Major Changes Coming for Brentwood Mall


Early last month, the sale of Brentwood Mall to Shape Properties was announced. In a press release, the new owner has announced that it plans to "revitalize the existing Brentwood mall" and transform the 27-acre site into "a vibrant transit oriented mixed-use central core". On it's website, Shape Properties has listed Brentwood Town Centre as 1 of its 9 current projects with information and details to follow.

This exciting development has the potential to positively transform the unattractive parking lot around the mall into a nice mix of residential, office, and retail space including restaurants and cafes. Although the details of the project have yet to be announced, we can probably expect it to include the construction of multi-level parking to counter the parking space lost to the construction of buildings.

If I had a say in what should be part of the development, my wish list would include the following:

-cinemas (the only reason I ever go to Metrotown)
-Tim Horton's, Waves Coffee or both
-an ethnic food market such as H-Mart or T&T Supermarket
-community policing office to add an element of safety

Hopefully the development will attract some major corporate tenants that will create job growth in the neighbourhood.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Old Canadian Tire Building Demolished


2 days ago, the building at Rosser Ave and Lougheed Hwy that once housed the Canadian Tire store 1 block west of Brentwood Station was demolished and site cleared for a major development titled Vantage. According to the City of Burnaby website, the site addressed as 2085 Rosser Ave will be transformed into a 200-unit residential high-rise (30 stories) and townhouse complex along with a commercial and community amenity. The project is being built by Embassy Development on the opposite corner from the Motif at Citi project currently nearing completion. Embassy Development previously built the Legacy project next to the Holdom Skytrain Station on the eastern edge of Brentwood Town Centre. It will be interesting to see what the community amenity will be.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Brentwood Town Centre Skyline Takes Shape

For those of us who have lived in North Burnaby since the days when SuperValu existed at the west end of the old one-level Brentwood Mall, the opening of the Millennium Line's Brentwood Town Centre Station in 2002 was an important event in the transformation of this growing neighbourhood. Whereas the neighbourhood once mainly consisted of industrial and commercial buildings along Lougheed Hwy, the emergence of Brentwood Town Centre Station has resulted in the neighbourhood becoming a major transit hub for Burnaby as the skyline of high-rise residential and office towers takes shape.

Since 2002, the areas to the north and south of Lougheed Hwy between the Holdom and Gilmore stations has seen the construction of at least 17 residential high-rise towers and many low-rise residential and commercial office buildings, with at least 10 more high-rises either currently under construction or at the planning stage. The ever-increasing population in the neighbourhood will lead to ever-increasing opportunities for existing and future businesses to grow here.

As a resident of the area, I cannot help but be excited about the prospect of this area becoming a major transportation, residential, commercial and entertainment hub in Metro Vancouver. Through this blog and links posted here, I hope to highlight developments in this neighbourhood for those that are interested in living, doing business, or merely enjoying what the area around Brentwood Station has to offer.