Finally housing designed for families with kids in the West End.

laneway housing wr

Photo of Block one of the handout material from workshop. yellow-placemaking, red- wayfinding, green-gardens grey-imporved surface treatment, blue-laneway housing opportunity. purple-maintain parking, dark green-rain garden

Handout material from the workshop

Laneway housing workshop 2.0 Wednesday June 5, 2013

The West End Planning Team wants to encourage and facilitate a new type of housing. The modest infill proposal is geared to families. Six sites have been identified as appropriate where redundant surface parking spaces could be converted to housing behind larger apartment building.

At the walking workshop on Wednesday June 5, starting at the West End Community Centre and ending at Barclay Heritage Square city planners presented an exciting new pilot project to redesign laneways in the West End which included plans to encourage more walking, enhanced design elements and new type of housing in the laneways.

The pilot project consists of 3 blocks starting at the West End Community Centre (West End CC), which has been named the “Heart of Denman”. The plaza of the Community Centre and alley between King George High School has been chosen as an area where more social “connectivity” could be facilitated. The area has a convergence of services and facilities such as Joe Fortes Library, the West End CC, BC Housing and the High School. But the area really lacks a sense of “place” and is heavy dominated by a bland functionalism.

The laneway re-design process is guided by seven principles, which are as follows:

1. Fostering Community Growth. Green, people-friendly laneways which encourage connection, interaction, and celebration that can add to the vibrant and diverse charter of the West End’s neighbourhoods.

2. Enhancing Tree and Leafy Laneway. The mature green, leafy charter of the West End provides a quiet, relaxing and gardens flourish. Laneways can be a gathering and green space.

3. Building Shared Spaces. Share creative , social and cultural spaces are important for a growing community. Laneways are great places to plant a community garden, fix a bike, make a new friend, or connect with a neighbour.

4. Strengthening Laneway Livability. Instill a strong sense of community along the laneways through building design, lighting, safety, and utilities management that can help make laneway more livable by creating new community spaces. Taking pride in these spaces will also help keep them clean and safe.

5. Improving Walkability. West Enders love to walk. Making laneways more pedestrian-friendly can create more safe and accessible ways for people to travel throughout the West End.

6. Strengthening Local Connectivity. Enhancing the physical and visual connectivity of laneways with parks and other neighbourhood assets can help strengthen peoples’ connections with community facilities, with nature, and with one another.

7. Activating Lanescapes. Incorporating laneway design elements and street features that engage pedestrian interest can help create active, dynamic spaces to live and play.

Critical for the possibility of re-thinking laneways in the West End is the fact that the laneways are the widest in the city at 10 meters (33 feet). So the narrowing of the laneways to incorporate new features and housing is not an un-tested idea, as this already occurs in the rest of the city. Also by way of a proven model of best practices of lanes in Vancouver, Molehill laneway has been working well for over ten years.

The re-thinking of the laneways has been heavily influenced by the Molehill model. Many of the features of the traffic calming, community gardens, community art, unique lighting standards and a over all sense of place were much discussed. While many of the ideas of Molehill such as raised cross walks seemed exciting and new 10 years ago now they seem to only make sense and are proven measures to create safer conditions for pedestrians.

The most exciting discussion of the workshop was around the creation of a new building type in the West End. In the 3 block pilot project 6 sites have been select for modest infill proposals. The design guidelines and actual zoning and density levels have not been specifically stated but, the general concept is to create a form of housing in the laneways that would be suitable for families with kids to live in. The new housing would be located on the back laneways of apartment buildings that have surface parking that is longer necessary. The new type of housing would have to be 100% rental which could make it a more affordable housing option for families.

Having housing for families with kids is really a critical issue for the West End. Typically couples start out with kids in the West End, but when the second child comes a long, the two-bedroom unit starts to feel a little cramped. Solutions to this problem are not readily available in the current stock of market housing and rental stock. Too few spaces that would be accessible to families are built at a price-point the works. For the city to change zoning and foster the conditions to make a new type of housing possible only makes sense, as with current zoning and land use policy are not working for many folks with kids.

Laneway Survey

One Response to “Finally housing designed for families with kids in the West End.”

  1. […] sees the Plan’s proposed laneway housing as another plus. To date, it’s been challenging in the West End to secure more spacious […]

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