Thursday, October 18, 2018

Is This the Future of Vancouver?

When you see a lot of empty store fronts you get the idea that something has gone wrong with the economy. It's commonly seen in small towns but Manhattan? It's a tale that sounds all too likely to hit Vancouver eventually.

From The Atlantic, "How Manhattan Became a Rich Ghost Town."

These days, walking through parts of Manhattan feels like occupying two worlds at the same time. In a theoretical universe, you are standing in the nation’s capital of business, commerce, and culture. In the physical universe, the stores are closed, the lights are off, and the windows are plastered with for-lease signs. Long stretches of famous thoroughfares—like Bleecker Street in the West Village and Fifth Avenue in the East 40s—are filled with vacant storefronts. Their dark windows serve as daytime mirrors for rich pedestrians. It’s like the actualization of a Yogi Berra joke: Nobody shops there anymore—it’s too desirable.
...Separate surveys by Douglas Elliman, a real-estate company, and Morgan Stanley determined that at least 20 percent of Manhattan’s street retail is vacant or about to become vacant. (The city government’s estimate is lower.) The number of retail workers in Manhattan has fallen for three straight years by more than 10,000. That sector has lost more jobs since 2014, during a period of strong and steady economic growth, than during the Great Recession.
The article identifies three factors behind New York's retail decline: excessively high rents, the rise of online shopping and the loss of Manhattan's quirky joie de vivre and those once willing to pay to live with it.
What happens when cities become too expensive to afford any semblance of that boisterous diversity? The author E. B. White called New York an assembly of “tiny neighborhood units.” But the 2018 landlord waiting game is denuding New York of its particularity and turning the city into a high-density simulacrum of the American suburb. The West Village landlords hoping to lease their spaces to national chains are turning one of America’s most famous neighborhoods into a labyrinthine strip mall. Their strategy bodes the disappearance of those quirky restaurants, curious antique shops, and any coffee shops that aren’t publicly traded on the NYSE.

...“America has only three cities,” Tennessee Williams purportedly said. “New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” That may have been true once. But New York’s evolution suggests that the future of cities is an experiment in mass commodification—the Clevelandification of urban America, where the city becomes the very uniform species that Williams abhorred. Paying seven figures to buy a place in Manhattan or San Francisco might have always been dubious. But what’s the point of paying New York prices to live in a neighborhood that’s just biding its time to become “everywhere else”?
Vancouver is also losing its "boistrous diversity" to developers eager to transform block after block, neighbourhood after neighbourhood, into a grey mass of concrete condominiums, priced beyond the reach of all but the wealthy, usually from other lands.

Young professionals are deterred from setting up shop there. They want a better life and so they locate elsewhere. You can't get a doctor in Vancouver these days. I recently dealt with a specialist in Nanaimo, freshly out of UBC medicine and internship at Vancouver General. She said none of her colleagues want to work their fingers to the bone for forty years just to afford a ridiculously priced home. They want to live normal lives and that's no longer possible in Vancouver. There's no longer a single gas station in the downtown core. Restaurant owners struggle to find waiters and kitchen staff. The whole rotten thing is collapsing under its own weight, the victim of successive governments devoid of vision.


the salamander said...

.. a friend of mine proudly mentioned his daughter was certain to be accepted at UBC - her first choice. I suggested he ensure she applied to live in residence. In his view however, that would deprive her of getting immersed in the ambience of the overall city. Since he is paying the freight & she is now 18.. and he 'knows' Vancouver from when we both lived in English Bay in uh.. 1975..

I was amused of course.. Residence is expensive.. and the food probabably aint wondrous..
But I wonder how any student from outside of Vancouver and/or their family can afford the current rents.. near UBC or Simon Frazer. I myself am completely out of touch re the current reality of off campus housing there.. not just rental costs, but location and what quality of living standard, adherence to what a 'legal' apartment is, shared accom etc, public transit, grocery stores..

FYI - she is now frosh in residence.. killing her exams .. headed to be a marine biologist - save the whales - Her dad thankful the room & board is fixed.. and somewhat manageable per in residence on campus

The Mound of Sound said...

Vancouver, 1975, has departed this mortal coil. What an astounding place it was back then, eh? A city living so gracefully within the limitations of its magnificent terrain. From what I'm told a 1-bedroom apt. begins in the two thousand range, perhaps a bit under. Oddly enough, so does daycare. Puts single mothers in a real jam.
There's now a semi-nomadic community in Vancouver who work in the city but live in pick-up campers or small trailers. The city has lost its equilibrium, its municipal balance. Yet what's done is done. No going back now to the gentle days.

Deacon Jester said...

Vancouver is a capitalist wasteland.

Because Pictures! said...

Not a lack of vision but a failure of government, a letting the market decide.