Saturday, April 7, 2012

Large Inner City Vacant Lot to become... Grass?

@DruhFarrell Site will be vacant for a couple of years so it will be grass

The Triangle Building & Lot continue to provide us with insights into how the city is failing to apply its own policies. The Municipal Government Act, section 5(b) clearly states that a municipality must follow the policies it sets for itself.
Powers, duties and functions
5 A municipality  (b) has the duties that are imposed on it by this and other
enactments and those that the municipality imposes on
itself as a matter of policy,

In the matter of the Triangle Building & Lot, we are witnessing first hand the deep hypocrisy ostensibly embedded in the City of Calgary as a matter of policy.

The management of the Triangle space has been a disaster for quite sometime. The space was occupied by the Calgary Housing Company Maintenance Department. In an ironic twist that ultimately hurts the taxpayer, the same folks that are responsible for the care of all the roofs of the city's subsidized housing inventory, allowed their own roof to fail. Or did they? 

An engineering report stated the roof had "failed". Although MSI dollars are available to  assist municipalities with building inventory "rehabilitation", The City of Calgary chose not to rehab the Triangle Building, as per this entry from the MSI statement:

2009 Calgary MSI Projects: Rehabilitate various local municipal buildings. $48,172,000

I requested a second opinion and coordinated a local roofing specialist to inspect the roof. They were denied access and I received this letter from the City of Calgary legal Department.

A group of citizens requested additional information on the Triangle's roof. One of them, Trevor Howell, a local journalist who is Editor/Manager of OpenFile & Zoey Duncan, a journalist with Openfile as well, wrote this piece on the Triangle Building.

Not long after, I gained access to the building when I discovered the door unlocked. The sprawling 30,000sq ft building had two levels. It was completely empty. The Triangle building had been empty for over a year, with no one allowed access. It was obvious the roof had not failed. I then met the individual from the city who was conducting a walk-through with the demolition contractor, hence the open door. He stated quite unequivocally that the roof was in good shape, but the building was slated for demolition.

So, in a scene eerily similar to the Anthill Building, which has gone unoccupied for 6 years, the Triangle Building was out of bounds to any and all citizen groups that could have used the building temporarily. Think ACAD students from just up the hill. Theatre groups, artists, farmer's market, production, presentation, programming, events, a community centre, all variety of ideas could have used the building as a temporary home had they been allowed access.

The Triangle building was then demolished.

The space previously occupied by the triangle Building is a vacant lot and will remain as such for a few years. Here's where the story takes another turn for the worse.

Here's a modified tweet (MT) from Ald Druh Farrell with reference to the recently demolished Triangle Building vacant lot:

@DruhFarrell Site will be vacant for a couple of years so it will be grass #yyccc #yyc

Recently, City of Calgary Parks identified concerns with their budget, which would impact the department's ability to maintain the present park & grass inventory, including an additional 106ha added to present land inventory through developer transfers.

Ald Shane Keating stated: “I really believe there’s a need for a strong debate on how we’re doing things.” 

Obviously, adding additional grass to the present inventory is not wise. The Triangle Lot is an example of locations in the city where responsibility for the care of the lot can be transferred to the community. In this, the concepts of AREA & ReSTART can be applied. 

The taxpayers of Calgary did provide $200,000 to theAld  Druh Farrell sponsored Council Innovation Fund application by Bow2Bluff & Sunnyside Corridor. This space is in the middle of the Bow2Bluff/Sunnyside Corridor Zone. How is planting grass innovative? It's not, yet again highlighting the hypocrisy of the policies of the city of Calgary. There is also a disturbing tone from Ald Farrell, as she continues to speak about the future of this space like it is out of the hands of the community and citizens. Farrell's "We've got it covered" attitude is in direct conflict with her rhetoric on community and urbanism. 

From the Office of Sustainability

-That short term decisions are linked with long term outcomes.

-The City of Calgary is committed to sustainability through its own operations and planning and through its policymaking and regulatory functions. In order for The City to continue to address both global and local challenges, sustainability must build on The City’s existing efforts and continued innovation.  

Considering the plethora of policy citing community and citizen engagement, this in fact is not happening. While private developers must engage the community, apparently the City of Calgary feels it is exempt from this important democratic process. Considering Mayor Nenshi's popularity  "has a lot to do with his citizen engagement strategy," it is additionally ironic that this space will not enjoy the benefits of a robust community use charrette to explore the ideas of a very active and well informed community and its citizens.

A number of individuals and groups, including the Calgary Food Policy Council, have asked that the vacant lot space become a community garden. Even though the very accessible Riley Park is only blocks away, the space will default to a very uninspired use... grass.

Petition:   Turn the Old Triangle Building vacant lot into a community garden.
You can sign the petition here.

Related links:
AREA Art+Rec+Education+Environment+Entertainment+Agriculture

ReSTART Real Sustainable Temporary Adaptive Reuse Tactic