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Living above the store: mixed-use residential


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#1 Holden West

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Posted 11 November 2009 - 11:26 PM

Globe feature on the pros and cons of putting residential above commercial in Vancouver and other cities.

Property Report

Living above the store

All-in-one projects with retail, residential and office components are attracting attention. But not everyone is onboard



FRANCES BULA
VANCOUVER — Special to The Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009 12:00AM EST Last updated on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009 12:23PM EST

In Vancouver, the Shaw Tower has divided a tower on the waterfront edge of the central business district with Triple A office space on the bottom and high-end condos on top. The city's Woodward's project near the Downtown Eastside combines condos, social housing, space for non-profits and city offices, a grocery store, a drugstore and Simon Fraser University's School for the Contemporary Arts, with its multitude of performance spaces.

But even enthusiasts such as Mr. Klein say that challenges come with building mixed-use projects. Often developers dive into them when they know how to do only one part well - the offices, the condos or the retail - but they add on the others, thinking they'll be easy gravy. It turns out they aren't.
Some uses just don't work together, with restaurants being especially problematic because of their smells, waste and noise issues.
Or developers don't think about timing problems and they end up with different groups of users clashing as one tries to leave while the other is arriving.
What does work best is when developers create multiple uses that appeal to a similar demographic.

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"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#2 masiyou

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 09:13 AM

There was a lot of this type of residence in Chinese towns that I visited. When I returned to Victoria, I thought about how nice it would be to have more of that here to create more density and "vibrancy".
However, there are a couple of differences between those chinese towns and the kind of developments described in the article. (I'm thinking of one particular town whose population is similar in size to Victoria's)
Usually, in China, families live above their own businesses so there's no conflict between residential and commercial in one building.
The commercial part of the building contains a business which exists according to percieved market needs, as opposed to the utopian mix of business and non-profit described in the article.
Lastly, Chinese people have a much higher tolerance for noise than we do here. This may be in part because even in small rural towns, they have always lived in very densely built areas.

#3 Bernard

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 10:05 AM

It can be good, but I remember my brother living above a restaurant in a new apartment building on W10th close to UBC. Most nights you could smell the grease.

#4 Caramia

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 10:09 AM

The commercial part of the building contains a business which exists according to percieved market needs, as opposed to the utopian mix of business and non-profit described in the article.


My impression of China was that in some ways it was way closer to free market capitalism than anything I've seen here. Ironic, given it is ruled by the CPP.

Lower Johnson Street is a good local example of people living above the shops. Several of the residents above are commercial tenants below or close by. Both commercial and residential units are usually 100% occupied.
Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

#5 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 10:17 AM

Or developers don't think about timing problems and they end up with different groups of users clashing as one tries to leave while the other is arriving.


I'm not sure what that line is talking about. Apart from not building a nightclub, what clashes are they talking about?

#6 Caramia

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 10:22 AM

Plan B has residential right beside it. Finding the right tenants who don't mind the nightclub noise is an art form. When I was managing that building I appreciated the chance to give some apartments to people who didn't fit the "cream of the crop" of renters. Young people starting out, night owls, and some of the more eccentric characters in the Victoria streetscape were prime candidates for that buildings, and the number of complaints we got from that building was very low. Without the nightclub, I would have been forced to choose yuppies for those suites too, knowing full well that while some of the people I turned away would find homes, many would not.
Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

#7 Holden West

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 10:29 AM

I'm not sure what that line is talking about. Apart from not building a nightclub, what clashes are they talking about?


I'm guessing with a building like Wall Centre when the five o'clock bell rings you've got office workers exiting the parkade while residents are arriving home. However, I can't imagine it being any more chaotic than the relatively smooth flow outside any city parkade at rush hour. I can't help recall the traffic chaos predicted by Humboldt Valley residents when they learned of the Chelsea condo's parking capacity.
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#8 G-Man

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 10:49 AM

Really this is just about "Buyer Beware" if don't like mustard don't buy pastrami sandwiches.

Some people are cut out for urban living and some are not. Unfortunately many people think it is cool and won't acknowledge their inner suburbanite. To those I say you are SOL.

#9 Baro

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 11:34 AM

I find it odd how the article seems describes this "trend" of residential and business being in the same district let alone same building as some new fad rather than the bloody norm for urban life for the last 3000 years or so, only recently interupted by the ridiculous fad of post-war extreme segregated use zoning. This is how humans live and always have.
"beats greezy have baked donut-dough"

#10 G-Man

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 12:36 PM

^ Good point.

#11 Caramia

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 01:40 PM

^^True
Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

#12 aastra

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 04:50 PM

^^^Indeed.

#13 aastra

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 05:02 PM

You can delude yourselves into thinking that having to take an elevator and an extended walk to some park or playground as a way to live your life, but I will be much happier being able to step outside my back door and be amongst my piece of nature.


Do some people fear that the suburban format will eventually be outlawed or something? If you don't like living in town then you'll always be free to live in the 'burbs. Different strokes for different folks.

#14 victorian fan

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 05:56 PM

I lived over a bakery in James Bay. Fresh baked bread smell every morning (except Sunday).

#15 phx

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 08:33 PM

I find it odd how the article seems describes this "trend" of residential and business being in the same district let alone same building as some new fad rather than the bloody norm for urban life for the last 3000 years or so, only recently interupted by the ridiculous fad of post-war extreme segregated use zoning. This is how humans live and always have.



Well, the fad started during the industrial revolution.

But don't let that stop you from pining for the pre-industrial days.

#16 Baro

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 08:57 PM

I was obviously speaking of the post-Crimean war period.
"beats greezy have baked donut-dough"

#17 G-Man

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 09:16 PM

Well, the fad started during the industrial revolution.

But don't let that stop you from pining for the pre-industrial days.


Not in Victoria. Old town is a completely post-industrial revolution creation and yet it is all mixed use. As Baro said the idea of creating vast segregated zones came into being on a large scale mostly in the 30 and 40 with it being most pronounced from the 1950s to the 1990s.

#18 aastra

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 09:19 PM

Well, the fad started during the industrial revolution.

But don't let that stop you from pining for the pre-industrial days.

Started again, I think you mean.

Insulae were constructed of brick covered with concrete and were often five or more stories high despite laws limiting them to 68 feet (21 metres), under Augustus, and then 58 ft, under Trajan. The street level characteristically housed artisans’ workshops and commercial establishments.

http://www.britannic...c/289442/insula

"Residential and commercial architecture were intermixed in ancient Rome."

This occurred in most street-front buildings, which commonly had shops on either side of an entrance hall leading into a residence behind the shops. Some one-room shops had back rooms as dwellings for the shopkeeper and his family...we can even see the close juxtaposition of a workshop with the houses of the rich. This is another contrast to the modern American urban form created by urban zoning laws which keep separate architectural classes geographically distinct. The same contrast is illustrated by the close juxtaposition of different levels of commercial operations -- the workshop and the tabernae -- where we typically separate such levels as light industrial and retail.

http://www.penn.muse...-2/Reynolds.pdf

#19 Holden West

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 09:39 PM

And of course the prime corner of your mixed-use project should have a fast food restaurant. Everyone likes soup:



Although if the tenants upstairs dislike the smell of fermenting anchovies they're S.O.L.

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"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#20 aastra

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 10:06 PM

Although if the tenants upstairs dislike the smell of fermenting anchovies they're S.O.L.


Bah. They can go find peace and quiet on a mountaintop outside of town if urban life annoys them so much.

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