On April 28, 2017, the site of a former vacant city-owned property was given new purpose: Tent-City. Unfortunately, this was not a temporary use accepted by the City. Perhaps an aesthetically pleasing art installation would have garnered more positive attention.
The City of Vancouver sought an injunction to have the tent city removed. However, Justice Neena Sharma dismissed the City’s application concluding that the safety and stability of the occupants outweighs the potential ham to the City.
The City cited development plans as the reason for requesting immediate removal of the tent city occupants. The site has been vacant for two decades with no activity to speak of. In fact, a tent city was erected on the very same site a decade ago.
What is the City doing about its vacant sites ? Spending public resources to keep them out of the public’s reach.
It’s time for Vancouver to create a policy and strategy regarding vacant city-owned sites the reduces inequality and enables access to land.
Watch CBC’s A walk through Main Street’s tent city
Read the court’s decision: Vancouver (Vancouver) v Wallstam, 2017 BCSC 937
A vacant space can truly be found anywhere and be used for anything. One vacant, underutilized space in particular caught the eye of documentary filmaker Nettie Wild, whose latest project “Uninterrupted” was projected into the underside of the Cambie Street Bridge. The film is about the Adams River salmon run, which aims at educating viewers of their role in maintaining the salmon run. A truly moving, education and unique experience in underutilized vacant space. What will Nettie come up with next?
For more, see “Uninterrupted”
As part of Unused Terrain, I regularly follow initiatives by organisations whose purpose is to revitalize, recycle, or re-use vacant lots. 596 acres, an organization based in New York and founded by Paula Z. Segal, first started activating vacant land when Paul came across a spreadshees of all the publicly owned vacant land in Brooklyn and created a map of it to distribute (easier said than done, if our experience in Vancouver is to be relied on!) The map was designed to be a tool to “let people know about the unharnessed potential hidden in plain sight throughout the city’s neighbourhoods.” Since then, 596 acres creates tools that aid citizens access and activate vacant city-owned lands. Their goal is to change the way people see vacant land in their neighbourhood and empower relationships and connections with land. Many of the tools created by 596 acres help citizens understand what is happening with vacant lots and promotes community development and education about sustainable land use. An admirable goal and something to aspire to!
For more information check out 569 Acres
In November 2017, a group of SFU students built a giant blanket fort for a music stage beneath the Cambie Street Bridge in order to showcase what can be done with underutilized public space. Under the giant blanket fort was a street festival, book exchange, and a musical patio jam space. The students were tasked with developing installations that reflect the growing needs in Vancouver. The blanket fort represented the increase in tent cities across the province. No indication on whether a permit was obtained from the City of Vancouver for the temporary space use.
For more information, check out: Students build giant blanket for music stage beneath Cambie Street bridge