PR BS for Commercial + Broadway

I went to the open house this afternoon at Federico’s Supper Club to see what the folks who control the Safeway site at Commercial & Broadway have to say. It turned out to be a PR trap, a Gary Pooni special.

First, let me say that having an event like this at Federcio’s on a Saturday afternoon was an excellent idea. The space is right in the heart of the Drive, making it convenient for shoppers. I was quite surprised that there was no street signage saying what was going on inside and so the passing trade was missed; I am sure all the people who attended knew about it before hand.

I also have to apologise for previously making some fun out of the idea that there would be face painting and balloon for the kids. It worked out well, and no doubt enabled some parents to come who might no otherwise have been able to leave their kids.

Now for the nitty gritty.

There were a couple of dozen poster boards around the room which attendees were led to read in a particular order. Many of the posters had colourful and attractive images. And many more were filled with aspirational phrases such as “revitalizing the node to match the eclectic nature of the Drive”, buzzwords such as “family housing”, and ideas based on a false history, such as “reuniting” the Drive on either side of the Cut.

There was nothing — nothing — in the way of genuine project information; not even  as conceptual ideas.  And the questions that were asked of the attendees were so broad as to be useless as data except for cherry-picking positive statements. So what was the point of the meeting?

It was, as I said before, a Brook Pooni special. Developers’ PR companies are well known in the city for their style of “community engagement” which attempts to manufacture consent, especially when it is clearly not there. And that is where this meeting comes in.  Pooni and the developers can now say they have had a community engagement, at which xxx people showed up and they collected xxx comments.  Just as importantly, they now have an email database of everyone who signed in.

This meeting met all the needs of the developer and none of the needs of the community. Glad I went, because the cannoli were excellent.


5 Responses to PR BS for Commercial + Broadway

  1. David Carman says:

    I also attended and concur with your take on it, Jak (though I preferred the meatballs). These consultations are all about posturing.Feedback that falls in line with what the developer/city already wants will be incorporated – all other input will be ignored. The developer/city will then go on to announce that the public has overwhelmingly endorsed their plans and a PR victory will be claimed.

  2. dbarkley2014 says:

    I also attended and saw no plans, only value statements and platitudes so I cannot believe anyone can say they took much away from it.

  3. pennystreet546 says:

    Yes. Thanks for your fine summary of the event; it’s exactly what I expected and why I didn’t go. I’m glad to hear the cannoli were yummy.

  4. tdurrie says:

    It’s just the same old same old song and dance that we’ve seen so many times.

  5. Keith says:

    Interesting take. I went and spoke to two architects. I got the following points:

    -they are looking for a building form that is not “tower and podium” that is the safe go to choice of so many Vancouver developers because it has been overdone in their opinion.

    -Safeway is insisting on having a traditional grocery store of the same size or larger with lots of parking. I asked if underground parking was an option, and the architect said he was in favor of a raised building solution like the Safeway on Robson street that would permit more flexibility. He would like to see green space on the roof of the Safeway.

    -I expressed a concern about affordable rental rates for small businesses, restaurants and office space to avoid corporate chains taking all the space. I was told they wanted to have cooperative creative space for artists and small businesses since it is so close to Emily Carr. The architect did not use the term “creative class” but I believe that was what he was describing in terms of living and working space.

    My belief is that this piece of land offers an enormous challenge and opportunity for the developer. The broad points sketched in the storyboards sound very difficult to achieve. The problem is that in so many developments we observe, the intentions of satisfying community negotiated affordable housing and other amenities seem to disappear in the final zoning negotiations when developers cry poverty or add extra height in order to pay for what the community wants, which isn’t luxuries but part of good planning process.

    Long way to go on this one, I will be watching with considerable interest.

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