This is a follow-up post regarding the Sage townhouse development in Harbour Landing. I took the above picture this summer, the accompanying quote can be found here under ‘neighbourhood.’ The quote says a lot about what’s necessary to sell this project. It also has me thinking, “maybe I should have majored in Dreamography…”
Going into City Council Monday, I was hoping for some questions to be posed about the Sage project. Unfortunately, no discussion occurred beyond a few positive remarks from Mr. Fougere who introduced the motion. The Ward 4 councillor mentioned that Sage was looking to have some rental units, though he admitted no numbers were currently available, and that would benefit the vacancy rate.
I’m conflicted about the out-look for Sage going forward. I haven’t been following urban development long enough to experience how new neighbourhoods form. There is a process to it, individual builders make piece meal decisions derived from the zoning framework set out from the start. But at this early stage belief and imagination are the only contextual tools at the ready to evaluate how well a particular development will integrate with its future neighbours and surroundings. One must assume everything will fall in place and individual decisions become complimentary overtime.
But all I can imagine is the near term where walking from Sage to the ‘town centre’ seems very unpleasant to me. I spent part of an afternoon rolling down an empty Harbour Landing Drive this summer. The large Gordon Road boulevard was as comforting as the airport tarmac little more than a kilometer to the north. The hectares of parking lots to service the Wal-Mart Super Centre and future boxes to line its edges, provided no more amenity than Wal-Marts in East or North West Regina. It’s tough to see thoughtful planning in one parking lot that looks and feels the same as a mistake-of-planning parking lot somewhere else in the city.
Yet there is a plan, on paper there will be side walks, crosswalks, green ways and a strategy to bring people to the centre. The amenities touted to city commissions and councils or included as requirements met by city administration cannot be argued on the face of it. You can’t deny that a Wal-Mart Super Centre provides shopping. Plus, the Grasslands’ plan has every intention to diversify that shopping further, as the retail district reaches maturity, to include different retail types. It come down to a fluid question: where are the lines between personal preference, current best practices and the desires of the majority?
I still feel some of the ‘green’ initiatives the Sage developers mentioned at planning commission, and that were included in the report to council, are context specific. Having bike lock up is great, but encouraging people to bike requires the infrastructure for bikers; bike lanes, nearby amenities and safe bike storage at destinations. I find current box developments unfriendly for walking but I imagine them to be even more hazardous for bicycles. Tight, curving roads with no shoulder, high-speed limits and endless parking lots with few traffic controls. Biking within Harbour Landing doesn’t look promising, how about biking from Harbour Landing into the city? Are people comfortable biking on the Lewvan and are drivers comfortable with bikes on the Lewvan?
My hope is that Harbour Landing does get a successful mix of retail and office space in their town centre. That major roads have bike/bus lanes and car traffic is not high-speed. I hope that sun and wind do not play havoc with pedestrians. I hope Harbour Landing is largely a self-contained, multifaceted place where someone living at Sage can comfortably bike or walk to shop, work, or go to school. Suburban areas need to be walkable and self-supporting and there is no excuse for new developments to be found lacking in that way.
Will the usefulness of hopes, wishes and dreams outweigh the helpfulness of geography?
I suppose only time will tell.