Suburbs, food deserts, and old-fashioned delivery trucks

April 21, 2008 at 11:27 pm | In cities, green, ideas, land_use, real_estate, urbanism | Comments Off on Suburbs, food deserts, and old-fashioned delivery trucks

As it happened, Christopher Hume’s follow-up story today in the Toronto Star on the Leslieville big-box debacle, Wal-Mart and the city an uneasy mix (which I blogged about here), made some points that coincided nicely with a story by Shannon Proudfoot, which appeared in yesterday’s Province (Vancouver), about food deserts in cities: Suburbs cause ‘food deserts’ in cities; People stranded in low-income neighbourhoods have little choice.

Let’s start with food deserts in cities. From Proudfoot’s article:

The migration of supermarkets to the suburbs has left some Canadian cities with “food deserts” in their most vulnerable neighbourhoods, according to new research that counters previous studies suggesting that phenomenon wasn’t happening in this country.

Residents marooned in these grocery wastelands — usually those who can least afford it — have no easy access to stores that stock fresh, affordable food, researchers say, forcing them to pay inflated convenience-store prices or eat junk food.

These conclusions are based on 40 years of data, and researchers found that the situation is getting worse, with “the poorest neighbourhoods …the most stranded.”

“If you think about a single mother with limited income without a vehicle — if you can’t hop in your car and drive to a supermarket, you must shop locally,” Gilliland says. “You’re going to be buying your groceries at local convenience stores.”

That forces people to pay an average of 1.6 times more for groceries, he says, perpetuating a financial “downward spiral” for those already in a precarious position.

Better-off urbanites are turning to Zipcar services (car sharing services), which they then use to make those big runs to the suburbs (and the big-box discount stores):

Now they use Zipcar for day trips out of the city or bulk-buying missions that are more convenient and budget-friendly.

“If you work during the day, get off and want to do a grocery run, the buses would be packed and I couldn’t imagine having to carry that many groceries on a bus for your entire family,” MacPhee says. “It really does come down to convenience.”

Proudfoot concludes with the researcher’s advice that city councils must boost population density in cities so that grocers will locate there, too.

But if the grocer is also a retailer like Wal-Mart, that can be a real problem for urban cores, as Hume’s article makes clear. This is where Hume’s common-sense suggestion to bring back the delivery truck comes into play. As he points out, it used to be the case that no self-respecting city person lugged home tonnage from a shopping trip …because the delivery guy would deliver your goods to your home within hours.

So, if you’re going to put a big-box store into a downtown, get rid of the acres of surface parking for individual cars, get public transportation in, get people to walk or bike in, and let the delivery trucks do the delivering again. The money saved on all that parking would surely pay for a small fleet of vans that ferry goods to their purchasers.

In Toronto, the opposition to this suburban monstrosity with an ocean of parking lapping up prime urban real estate is fierce. But Hume then adds:

One wonders how different the response would have been had SmartCentres announced that it intended to build the city’s first no-parking mall. Sounds ridiculous, but maybe not, on second thought. Already there’s a mall in San Francisco that has no parking. Why not Toronto?

From here it’s a short hop (’cause you’re not driving, see) to the idea of the delivery truck:

Then there’s that revolutionary concept known as the delivery truck. Remember that? There was a time when the big stores – Eaton’s and Simpsons – all had their own fleets. In those days, few shoppers even considered schlepping home anything larger than a breadbasket. And let’s not forget the IGA on Danforth at Pape, which to this day has no parking on its premises.

Clearly, the time has come to bring back the delivery truck, and Eastern Ave. could be a perfect place to start. Of course, the Wal-Marts would have nothing to do with such a concept, but being Toronto’s first green shopping centre, Wal-Mart wouldn’t be wanted anyway.

Shoppers would walk or cycle to the centre, make their purchases, then walk or cycle home. The goods would show up later. Now that’s convenience.

“We think delivery is a great idea,” says Smith, who also points out that, “this is a huge evolution for us. None of us has a lot of urban experience.”

The return of the delivery truck could also address the problem of “food deserts” in urban cores. There is enough density already if you include the people who can’t afford to drive to the store.

Here in Victoria, several of our core and downtown grocers deliver for free, same day, if you shop before noon or 2pm and your order is over $25. The liquor stores (non-government, that is) figured this one out, too: right below Market on Yates (“Your uptown downtown grocery store” is, I believe, their slogan) on View Street there’s Harris Green Liquors, which not only delivers, but takes orders for home delivery over the phone. Cheers, eh?

Harris Green Liquors truck

Market on Yates delivery plug
Above: Market on Yates delivery ad as seen on the website.

Left: Harris Green Liquor Merchants delivery truck.  They also use a regular       car…

Toronto gets it — will Victoria?

October 30, 2007 at 8:03 pm | In arts, canada, cities, innovation, leadership, real_estate | Comments Off on Toronto gets it — will Victoria?

Take a look at this article from CEOs for Cities: Artscape Helps Broker Triple-Win Deal in Queen West Triangle for the low-down on a fascinating & essential new project in Toronto.

What Toronto will do is provide space for artists — precisely the kind of people who provide the “infrastructure” that innovative, creative cities need, yet also precisely the kinds of people who, being on the lower end of the earning scale, typically get squeezed out when cities gentrify.

From the article:

An innovative partnership has been forged in the Queen West Triangle between Artscape, the City of Toronto, Westside Lofts (Urbancorp) and Active 18 that will see the creation of a 56,000 square feet artist live/work project within the Westside Lofts development at 150 Sudbury Street.

The development of affordable artist live/work units within a condominium complex is a first for Toronto. The deal also represents a new self-financing model for affordable housing development that requires only a nominal public investment.

“Developers, community activists, and the City have a strong shared interested in making the Triangle as creative and dynamic as possible” said Artscape President and CEO, Tim Jones. “There is no reason why this model cannot be replicated across the city to address the decades-old problem of the displacement of artists through gentrification.”

The value of the project has been independently appraised at $19 million. Artscape will purchase the units for $8.4 million, a price that includes the cost of construction but not architectural and other soft costs, land value contributed by the City in the form of free density, or profit.

Artscape plans to create up to 70 affordable ownership and rental units. Monthly rent for a one bedroom rental unit is targeted at $725 or roughly 80% of Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s average market rent for Toronto. Unit sizes and mix will be determined after consultation with potential purchasers and renters. Construction on the project will begin in January 2008 with completion projected for early 2010.

Obviously, cities like Victoria (not to mention Vancouver), which, due to housing affordability issues are in danger of losing their creatives, could benefit from schemes such as this. Seems to me it’s a pressing problem insofar as we don’t have the “other way out” for creatives at this point, namely having them merge into higher-paying industries. We’re still nurturing that along, too… Visual artists, musicians, theatre people: their support structures are just now moving from skeletal to skin-and-bones, yet our housing (UN)affordability is the 800-lb. gorilla with plenty of muscle.

Oct.31 update: Canada’s National Post also has an article about this, published yesterday, Oct.30: Details trickle out on Queen West Triangle deal. It includes more, …well, details. That article is in turn based on another one published by the same paper on the same day, City, developers reach a deal on West Queen West, and both article include photos (the former a photo of the site today; the latter, a rendering of what it might look like). Interesting quote from the “Details,” which points out the danger(s) of downtowns becoming condo-only communities that don’t have as many job-generating businesses or industries as the suburbs: “It could hopefully serve as a model. It’s not really just about the Triangle. It’s about making Toronto a place that doesn’t become a bedroom community for the suburbs.” The following bit made me sit up, since we also have an old Carnegie Library, sadly underused now and with no one knowing quite what to do with it anymore since it’s not big enough for a library, but awkward for office space, too:

“It’s a groundbreaking project in a number of ways,” Mr. Jones said, adding that the project’s self-financing model could serve as a city-wide template. “It means that if we can do it here in the Triangle, we can build hundreds of these units across the city.”

Landmark’s largesse is also helping transform the old Carnegie Library building, a nearly 100-year-old site with soaring ceilings that currently houses Toronto Public Health offices, into a “new performing arts hub.”

Here’s a picture of what the new proposal would look like:


Urban Land Institute’s Las Vegas conference webcast live

October 24, 2007 at 10:10 pm | In cities, innovation, leadership, real_estate, urbanism | Comments Off on Urban Land Institute’s Las Vegas conference webcast live

Not all of the Urban Land Institute‘s annual conference presentations are being webcast, but several key ones are, and furthermore they’re supposed to be archived for later viewing, too. Surf over to this site and follow the links:

ULI – the Urban Land Institute | 2007 ULI Fall Meeting

I listened to a fantastic presentation on P3s (public-private partnerships), by a panel that included David Leininger of the City of Irving; Robert C. Lieber of the NYC Economic Development Corporation; and John Stainback of Stainback Public/Private Real Estate. The panel was chaired by Patrick L. Phillips of Economics Research Associates. Lots of frank talk, from both sides of the fence (the private & the public side of the partnership). The fence will likely morph into something else entirely, as the panel described P3s as an “avalanche.”

This is definitely something to listen to again — I sent in a question, but it wasn’t read out, and I’m not sure this panel could have addressed it anyway. My question had to do with how Canadian cities can leverage P3s, given that we have not only a “weak mayor” system in Canada, but that Canadian cities are wholly the creatures of the Provinces, rely on property taxes for 53% of their budgets, and can’t raise revenues by collecting sales taxes (these go to the Provinces) or income taxes (they go to the Feds & Province). So how do we fund infrastructure — the responsibilities for which have been downloaded on to municipalities by the Provinces, which have had them downloaded by the Feds? And how do we offer incentives to the private side of the development that will give us — the city, the public — the control we want in shaping our own destinies? The Provincial government in BC is totally enamoured of P3s, but somehow it’s not so good for us (city) when the Province calls the shots, or tells the cities to develop via P3s without giving us the tools we need to talk turkey with developers.

Just some thoughts…

I guess it’s a question of leadership. If we had municipal leaders and mayors who just identified the right thing, committed to it, went all Terminator-like on our Premier (he gets Terminator, he’s buddies with Arnold, and gets the green agenda, too), and told him what we want and how we want it, maybe something good would come of it. But our city leadership consists of politicians who’ll go wherever the wind blows, who dream of other posts or something… We undersell and underassert ourselves, and the Province thinks we’re idiots.

Like I said, just some thoughts…

Here’s the line-up for webcasts tomorrow and the day after (see this page):

Webcast Session Schedule – NOTE: All times are Pacific Time Zone
Public/Private Partnerships: The New Underwriting Formula
David L. Leininger City of Irving 10/24/2007 2:15:00 PM
Robert C. Lieber NYC Economic Development Corp. 10/24/2007 2:15:00 PM
Patrick L. Phillips Economics Research Associates 10/24/2007 2:15:00 PM
John Stainback Stainback Public/Private Real Estate 10/24/2007 2:15:00 PM
Charting the Course for the Multi-Family Market: Overview and Outlook
William G. Lashbrook, III PNC Real Estate Finance 10/25/2007 9:45:00 AM
Ronald E. Zuzack BlackRock Realty 10/25/2007 9:45:00 AM
Geoffrey L. Stack Sares-Regis Group 10/25/2007 9:45:00 AM
Alan W. George Equity Residential 10/25/2007 9:45:00 AM
Hessam Nadji Marcus & Millichap 10/25/2007 9:45:00 AM
David Lazarus Lehman Brothers 10/25/2007 9:45:00 AM
Harvey Green Marcus & Millichap 10/25/2007 9:45:00 AM
Mega Mixed-Use Potentials and Realities: Complexity, Investment Value, and High Density Sustainability
Michael P. Buckley Columbia University 10/25/2007 11:15:00 AM
Luis E. Rodriguez Science & Technology Trust 10/25/2007 11:15:00 AM
John B. Lin Echelon Resorts – Boyd Gaming 10/25/2007 11:15:00 AM
Chris Marcinkoski Field Operations 10/25/2007 11:15:00 AM
Ramsey D. Meiser Forest City Washington 10/25/2007 11:15:00 AM
Dueling Economists
Nouriel Roubini   10/25/2007 3:00:00 PM
Susan Hudson-Wilson Hawkeye Partners, LP 10/25/2007 3:00:00 PM
Nariman Behravesh Global Insight 10/25/2007 3:00:00 PM
Catherine L. Mann Institute for International Economics 10/25/2007 3:00:00 PM
Strategy Planning in an Era of Change: Lessons Learned from the Real World

Charles A. Hewlett

RCLCO/Robert Charles Lesser & Co., LLC


11:15:00 AM

Michael P. Neal

H.G. Fenton Company


11:15:00 AM

John B. Slidell

The Bozzuto Group


11:15:00 AM

Gaudi Kaufman

Robert Charles Lesser


11:15:00 AM

« Previous Page

Theme: Pool by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds.