A unique example of downtown revitalization in Japan

I want to share one of the most inspiring moments from this year’s Walk 21 conference.  This morning there was a presentation given by a former professor who is now a university student.  He and his fellow researchers are all in their 60s, and their submission won a contest for a downtown revitalization project.

It involves subsidizing seniors to open and operate their own part-time businesses in the downtown core.  A truly unique and innovative idea, there is a lot of support for this within the community. As baby-boomers around the world reach retirement age, and are generally living longer, healthier, more active lives than previous generations, this is something more cities and countries may want to consider.

Communities everywhere need to plan and design for seniors, both in terms of mobility and amenities.  As I’ve mentioned before, if cities are accessible by seniors and children, they’re accessible by all.   As demographics shift and an unprecedented proportion of the global population reaches retirement age, there is more demand by seniors to live centrally,  where they have easy access to transit, amenities and community.  So let’s also provide tools and support for them to remain active and engaged in our communities!

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HASTE & Sustainable Cities

I’m very excited to be collaborating with two fantastic organizations!  HASTE (Hub for Action on School Transportation Emissions) and Sustainable Cities International.  The work I’m doing in coordination with HASTE involves about 60 grade 5 students in New Westminster – read about the project here.    And Sustainable Cities has invited me to give a memory mapping workshop as part of their International Youth intern training happening at the end of June.  These are both great opportunities and I look forward to doing more work of this sort in the future.

Pedestrian City at Walk 21

I received some very exciting news this morning.  My proposal was accepted for the Pecha Kucha session at Walk 21 Vancouver this fall!  Walk 21 is an international conference on Walkable and Liveable Communities.

This will be the second one I participate in.  The first was in Toronto in 2007, where I displayed a poster presentation of Pedestrian City, which was still very much in its infancy then.  I’m incredibly honoured and excited to have been accepted for this, and look forward to showcasing the evolution of the project.

For those of you unfamiliar with Pecha Kucha, here’s some background.

Plan-It Earth

Last Friday I participated in Plan-It Earth, a student-organized forum that engaged about 120  high-school students in designing a sustainable future for the GVRD.

Facilitated by students at Prince of Wales Secondary with the help of Bruce Ford and Vanessa Lee from Metro Vancouver, participants were invited to look through the lenses of urban planners and decide where the next 10,000 people in the region should be located and what those communities should look like.  There was a lot of focus on building up instead of out and having work located close to home to reduce commute times and transit-related emissions.  Solutions to meet energy and food requirements were presented, and concerns about how to handle waste were expressed.  A number of innovative green technologies were highlighted, as well as the need for inclusive communities and education.

By mid-morning students were engaged in a variety of workshops.  Ian Marcuse presented a cob house demo, there was a student-led workshop on  backyard chickens, and Kevin Millsip presented the Vancouver School Board’s Sustainability Plan.  Amanda Mitchell engaged students in thinking about how the 10 goals of the City of Vancouver’s Greenist City 2020 Plan can be met, and I had students participate in a memory mapping exercise focused on their routes to and from school, with a focus on walking and active transportation.

After a lunch of organic locally sourced salad and pizza, it was time for City on the Wall.  An engagement process developed by architect Stanley King, the founder of Co-Design and a firm believer in the importance of engaging youth in urban planning and design processes.  Students were split into 10-12 groups, each with an artist to design their ideal livable community.  Most of these reiterated the values identified in the morning sessions with a focus on sustainable, complete communities that accommodate a range of daily activities and requirements within the radius of a few blocks.

During the Green Mapping workshop I was surprised to learn that a number of students don’t know the names of  streets in their neighbourhoods.  One participant commented that she doesn’t need to know street names because she knows where things are and has no need to remember the names.  I’m curious to know whether this a common occurrence? Not just with youth, but in general.  I can still fairly accurately recall the names of the streets in almost every neighbourhood I’ve lived in (and there have been many).  While some are a bit foggy, I think I could still draw a map and correctly label the streets of the neighbourhoods from my childhood and youth.

This was an incredibly inspiring and valuable experience.  I gained a lot of insight into the world of youth engagement, and look forward to doing more of it in the future.  Thank you everyone!

New Directions

I find myself venturing into new territory with Pedestrian City, engaging a new demographic and exploring other possibilities to get involved with schools in Vancouver.  As my first foray into this new world, I’ll be presenting a memory mapping workshop at the student organized Plan-It Earth Youth Forum at Prince of Whales School.  The presentation will focus on active and sustainable transportation and routes to school, engaging students in a memory mapping exercise and encouraging them to present their maps to the group.

This will likely be my largest audience yet, and I’m both excited and nervous!

Current Projects

Now that summer is nearing the end it’s time to focus on work again.  There are some exciting things happening in the world of Pedestrian City!

  • Come out to the west end (location TBD) for Park(ing) Day on Friday Sept. 17th to add some green to the sidewalks!
  • The Green Map project that began almost a year ago will resume again in Spring 2011, with a new and improved plan of action!  In the meantime, you can find us at the Liveable Laneways event on Saturday Sept. 25th.

Other collaborations are in the early stages of development and include teaching highschool students about memory maps, and animating abandoned spaces.

Check the news section for details.

Carnivals & Gypsy Jazz

An ‘Alphabet Walk’ for children, a ‘Seniors Fun Walk’, walks about food, farms and beaches, history and neighbourhoods. There’s even an oportunity to join a ‘Carnival Band’ on Commercial Drive! Be sure to get yourself on the waiting list for this year’s Jane’s Walks if you haven’t already signed up.

And on the following weekend, dust off your fedora, don your feathers and get ready for the long-awaited, much anticipated follow-up to the Moonshine Soiree!