By Frank Murphy
I live downtown and I think that my neighbourhood has three things yours doesn’t. Before I tell you what they are let me say that here’s what we have in common: we’re both very fond of our neighbourhoods.
Permit me a broad brush stroke when I say I’ve lived in your neighbourhood and was also very fond of it. Raised the kid, enjoyed its almost rural feel with nearby trails and parks. Good schools and playing fields.
Nanaimo has terrific suburban neighbourhoods, but my downtown one has some things they don’t.
u Jobs. Hundreds of them. Jobs in tailor shops, offices, restaurants and pubs. Jobs in medical and dental clinics, law and accounting offices. Jobs in auto repair and warehouses and printing shops. Dozens more at the fire hall and the police station and city hall.
Inner city neighbourhoods like mine are economic engines. On my morning walk, I enjoy the buzz and vitality of people arriving in my neighbourhood, very often by bus, to their workplaces.
Some arrive to attend courses at the music conservatory or trade school. Through the day they patronize the coffee bars, restaurants and specialty retail stores.
u Diversity. My inner city neighbourhood has a much greater demographic mix than your suburban neighbourhood. Within a 10-minute walk, I can enjoy, by quick count, 10 restaurants that feature cuisines from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Different languages are often heard on the streets of my neighbourhood, for example as young people from around the world studying at VIU travel through on their way downtown.
An immigrant support office recently opened. Business people who continue to work in the neighbourhood have, over the past 20 years, made large investments in both commercial and residential developments – condos and also quality rental housing, an important element that adds to the economic diversity of the neighbourhood which also often means more young people.
u Walkability. Along with good, convenient transit, I have access to everything I need on foot. I can, and have, walked to my dentist, my doctor, my lawyer, my accountant. Happily, none of which I have to do very often.
Many neighbourhood residents live within walking distance of their work and could easily do without a car. An inexpensive bus ride from the end of my block takes me quickly to B.C. Ferries.
On the other side there’s generally an express bus waiting and a half hour later, and all for well under twenty bucks, I’m at the corner of Granville and Georgia. Kids in my neighbourhood can, and mostly do, walk to school.
The main reason my neighbourhood has these features and yours doesn’t is because more people live more closely together in mine. Because of this, it contributes per square kilometre vastly more property tax revenue to city hall than yours does. It supports an old-fashioned shopping street like the ones all our neighbourhoods used to have before we started designing our cities for cars.
Frank Murphy lives downtown and thinks that his neighbourhood has some things yours doesn’t. What do you think? Murphy’s urbanist website is www.thesidewalkballet.com.