Category Archives: urban

Bridge City 2.0

I have been asked a lot lately if Bridge City is now fixed.  For those of you not keeping track at home, I crashed Bridge City a few months ago and lost about 500 posts and photos.  I was devastated and felt like giving up on the project to document most of the important buildings and landmarks in Saskatoon. 

The Calgary Tower

Since then I have been uploading and putting back parts of the site that I had thought I had lost.  It’s a slow process but one that is making progress.

Right now there are 373 posts on the site with a new one going live each day from now until basically early 2017.  If I keep shooting at this pace, we should be okay through the end of 2018 in a few months.  That is awesome.  I am also backfilling a lot of posts on the day that I took them.  So if I took a photo in 2012, I am uploading it the day I took it in the timeline.  The good news is that it gives the photos their correct chronological context, the bad news is that I didn’t do that with version 1.  So a photo that I once posted in 2015 may be now posted in 2011. 

Some of you have criticized the travel sections because they are not from Saskatoon.  To that I say, “meh”.  I travel, I like taking photos and I like reading about the architects who build stuff.  You can deal with it.

I have also been asked what is the local response.  Traffic is up but engagement with builders, property owners and architects is also up.  I have also had some question the accuracy of what I have written here because their documents are different.  Those conversations are a lot of fun because mysteries or contradictory information is fun to resolve. 

The goal is 1000 posts by New Year’s Day.  90% of that will be Saskatoon.  So if you want to keep up to date, check back daily and browse the archives. It’s a ridiculous project and in some ways I wish I had never started but someone had to figure out the history of every building in the city didn’t they?  What’s that?  They didn’t?!  Darn it.

Review of the 2016 Ford Flex

Ford CanadaA couple of weeks ago, Ford Canada was cool enough to lend me a 2016 Ford Flex for a week to review it.   We drove it in the city, we took it on the highway, and we took it on a road that was under heavy construction and kind of scary.   Here is what I learned about the crossover.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

Mark and Oliver liked it.  Especially Oliver.  The third row of seats is amazing when you have children.  There is no fighting, no arguing, just peace and quiet.  When they are sitting beside each other, it is like an uneasy truce both sides are trying to break.  When they are separated, it is peaceful, calm, and relaxing.

The second row of seats is large enough for myself and I am 6’4.  The rear row was fine for Mark and was large enough for Oliver to think he had his own apartment back there.  It is a legit third row of seating.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

I should say that the 2016 Ford Flex broke Mark’s heart.  I have been reviewing Ford automobiles for the last couple of years and each one of them, Mark has been too young to drive anything other than his mountain bike.  In his mind, when he turned 16, he was going to get behind the wheel and put it through his paces.   He just turned 16.   Then I told him he had to be 18.  He was crushed.  Devastated.  Forlorn.

So I asked him what he was going to do about it?  I suggested he tweet at Ferrari that he was kid in the middle of Saskatchewan and if they could lend him a vehicle for a week to review.  Mark was like, “Really?”  I then told him to compare his Twitter following to Kim Kardashian’s and evaluate his chances.  Yes, I troll my own kids from time to time.

Oh well, there is hope for him in 2018.

Driving Around Town

I took the Flex to work with me for the week and we pretty much parked the Chevy HHR.  It is pretty agile around town.  It has a tighter turning radius than you would expect and quite a bit tighter than my old Dodge Caravan which made it a nice commuter vehicle.  While I drove it pretty conservatively, I had to stomp on the gas once to avoid a careless driver and it unexpectedly tossed you back into your seat.  For a vehicle that long, you don’t expect it to handle and have the power of a sports car but does.

The kids liked it.  I had to drop Mark off at Bedford Road Collegiate for his school’s canoe trip.  The response was, “When did you get that SUV?” and “Is that a new Ford Flex?”  Not a huge sample size but it is approved by high school students who love to explore.

At least the 2016 Ford Flex looks stylish

If you want to take a moment to point out that Mark did up the hip straps on his backpack to load it into the car so I could drive him like three kilometers to his school, go ahead, I don’t know what he was thinking.  The Flex had a lot of room for his gear but could barely hold all of the geekness.   The design may be a bit polarizing but the shape means there is all sorts of storage.  if you get the optional luggage rails and then add a luggage rack or pod, you have a vehicle that begs itself to be taken for long road trips.

Driving on the Highway

We took the car to Prince Albert National Park where we intended to hike the trail along Kingsmere Lake to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

My sherpa, I mean my son loads the gear in the 2016 Ford Flex

There were four of us and the dog.  We had a cooler full of cold drinks when we were done and three and a three quarters expedition sized backpacks.  They all fit comfortable in the back even if the dog was confused why she wasn’t driving.   Check out Mark loading the gear in he back when were done.  There was lots of room.

Marley and her backpack

It was a quiet drive using the cruise control on the way up but it’s a great highway vehicle.  Lots of room, Sirius XM radio, nice sound speakers and heated and air conditioned chairs.  It was excellent.  A combination of a long wheelbase and Ford’s suspension made for a smooth and comfortable ride.

Years ago a friend of mine bought a Ford Grand Marquis when his father retired from work.  He picked his dad up, tossed him in and they drove the Trans Canada highway to the east coast, came back, went south and joined up with Route 66 and drove that from coast to coast before heading north to Highway 1 again and headed back to Saskatoon.  I always wanted to do that and have always thought of the Ford Grand Marquis as the perfect vehicle to do that with.  If I was going to do a trip like that, it would be the Ford Flex. 

I do have a funny story though about the Ford Flex.  As we were turning into Prince Albert National Park right at LT’s Food and Fuel, I heard a horrible sound from the Flex.

LT's Food and Fuel near Prince Albert Provincial Park

I immediately slowed down but the noise go louder, I pulled into the parking lot and was about to call Ford over the still going loud noise when I realized that it was a Diet Coke I was holding.  I hadn’t done the lid up tight and the road was rough which shook up the pop until air and fizz started to leak out making this noise that had us all convinced there was something wrong with the car.  For the rest of the weekend, every time something in the Flex would make a noise, Mark would go, “Dad, the Flex is breaking! Better stop.”  I deserved that mocking.

The Ford Flex was quiet on the highway and while I didn’t have a lot of traffic to contend with, when I had to pass, there was power to pass which is what is really important.

Leaving the Pavement Behind

The main reason we didn’t complete the trip was that Kingsmere Road was under heavy construction during the week and was closed.  In what we had hoped would be a three day hike instead turned into a two day one which was more than Oliver could handle.

The construction did allow me to see how the Flex handled off the pavement on some soft and sloppy roads.  Parks Canada warned us about the roads before hand.  She said that it was passable but unpleasant.  I took the warning seriously but despite the soft spots, the Flex handled it easily.  Even coming back from trailhead after a large storm the night before where the road was worse, I didn’t worry.  Well there was one part of the parking lot where there was a D6 Cat that looked stuck, I avoided that part of the road.

Final Thoughts

Over a week, I developed some strong opinions about the 2016 Ford Flex.  Let me share them here.

  • For a family like ours that loves to travel, the extra space was amazing.  Three rows of seats but the second one was large enough for the boys travel comfortably without them bugging each other.  It’s the vehicle you want when driving to Disneyland, the west coast or Waskesiu for the day.
  • ESPN Radio.  It may not be your favorite thing on a roadtrip but it is mine.  Sirius XM radio is worth the money and if the car you purchase has it built in and ready to go, you are one step ahead.
  • Heated seats / air conditioned seats.  When you just walk a bazillion miles in the Canadian Shield, things hurt.  Heated seats make that pain go away.  Air conditioned seats cool you down.  They are amazing.
  • Cup holders up front, in the back, on the sides…. Let’s see we had coffee cups, pop bottles, and water bottles all going on the way home.  There was room for all of them.
  • The front and rear sunroofs are a nice touch.  The rear one is split.  At one point Oliver had his one open and Mark had his one shut. 
  • Designed to seat seven adults, the Flex is equipped with large, plush, overstuffed front and second-row seats.
  • The third-row seat dumps into a well in the vehicle’s floor, similar to a minivan, and because the Flex has a nearly vertical rear window and a square roofline, it provides an impressive amount of cargo room even when traveling with a full house of passengers.
  • For the 2016 model year Ford gave us the company’s new Sync 3 infotainment system in the Flex. Sync 3 replaces the MyFord Touch infotainment system, and it represents a significant improvement.

    Highlights of the new system include:

    • Capacitive touch screen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability
    • Improved graphics, faster response to inputs
    • Upgraded voice recognition technology
    • Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
    • System updates available via Wi-Fi
  • Fuel mileage wasn’t bad.  You can check out Fuelly and see what other Ford Flex drivers are getting.  The average seems to be about 18 mpg.   I get around 25 mpg with my Chevy HHR but it is a much smaller and less powerful vehicle.

I am a fan of the Flex.  It’s styling isn’t for everyone but I have come to love it.  If you are a family who loves to travel or just wants a comfortable ride to the great outdoors, the Ford Flex is worth looking a closer look at, you will be impressed at what you see.

Sturdy Stone Centre

Sturdy Stone Centre in SaskatoonSturdy Stone Centre in SaskatoonSturdy Stone Centre in Saskatoon

It’s ugly no matter what angle you photograph it from. 

This 13 story building was built in the Brutalist style of architecture and opened in 1977. Floors 3 to 7 are used as a parkade, with the remainder of the building being office space. It was designed by the architecture firm of Forrester, Scott, Bowers, Cooper and Walls.

This was formerly the site of the Standard Trust Building, a seven-storey office building. It was built in 1912-1913 and demolished in 1976 to make way for the Sturdy Stone Centre. Public concern raised about the demolition of that building caused the Saskatoon Heritage Society to be formed.

Albert Community Centre

Albert Community Centre in Saskatoon

The Albert Community Centre was built in 1912.  It  is a designated Municipal Heritage Property located in the Varsity View. Originally built as the Albert School, the two-and-a-half story brick building served as a public school until 1978 when the building was sold to the city and became the Albert Community Centre.  It is one of the “castle schools” designed by local architect, David Webster.

The reality of politics

During the federal election, I remember watching long term Parliament Hill reporters in shock at some of the NDP and Conservative MPs who were losing.  They all said the same thing; they were hard working, not hyper partisan, and cared a lot about constituent issues. 

I was reminded of the same when Cam Broten lost tonight.  I have known Cam for five or six years and have seen him work extremely hard as an MLA on a lot of different issues.  Because of Wendy’s job and the neighborhood we live in, she has referred many people to talk to Cam and seek his help.  Most times they have reported to her that Cam’s office was able to help them sort out their problems; even if it wasn’t a provincial issue.  He was a great MLA.   I was always happy to see him and he has been in Wendy’s and my home.

For a bunch of reasons, it didn’t work out for him as the leader of the opposition.  Winning such a tight leadership race which was essentially the centric base of the NDP versus the left wing made it impossible to consolidate the party.  It also probably didn’t help that the “socialist” Bernie Sanders was making inroads in the Democratic primary and the left wing Rachel Notley is Premier of Alberta (even if she won because of a right wing civil war).  There was this feeling amongst many is that Broten was too centrist for the NDP, even if that is the kind of leader that Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert were.  I don’t think the comments from Ryan Meili were overly helpful.  Neither was him not getting involved to help move the party forward.  It hurt Broten, it hurt the NDP.

Also, Brad Wall is incredibly popular.  How do you attack an incredibly popular Premier without upsetting people.  I keep hearing people he should have gone negative even more but that’s hard when people won’t believe it; remember, you have to believe in it for negative ads to work.  Also without the NDP having any rural strength, how do you actually act like a government in waiting.  This election was going to be bad regardless.  I said the upside was 20, the low was 5.  I predicted 14.  They got 10.

In the last week I could feel the vote collapsing for the NDP.  You could feel voters making the move to the Saskatchewan Party.  I don’t know why it happened but once it happens, it’s almost impossible to stop.   If Cam wasn’t the leader of the opposition, he would have survived with his seat but he was and Saskatchewan loses a hard working public servant.  That’s the reality of politics.

Tonight, the NDP need to do some soul searching.  Their party doesn’t exist outside of the inner city Saskatoon, Regina, and part of Prince Albert and now they have the same problem they came into this election with, a new leader, a caucus that didn’t run under the new leader, and nothing close to a rural breakthrough in sight.    It is a party that is a centre left party in a province that has swung to the right.  So whoever it is that is the new leader, have fun because one thing that we have learned is that being the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP could be the most thankless job in Saskatchewan.

Chicago — nicknamed ‘Chiraq’ — sees murder rate rises 80 per cent as gun crime reaches crisis level

Something is horribly wrong in Chicago

There is no doubt Chicago is facing a gun crisis. In the first three months of this year murders are up more than 80 per cent compared with the same period in 2015. A total of 135 people have been shot dead, more than in New York and Los Angeles combined.

At least 727 people have suffered gunshot wounds in the most violent start to a year in two decades. Guns are changing hands for less than US$50. Most of the shootings take place in parts of the city’s South and West Sides, where gangs have splintered into small factions fighting over a few blocks.

Increasingly, death is preceded by social media taunts in what has become known as “cyberbanging.” 

Professor Arthur Lurigio, a criminal justice expert at Loyola University Chicago said: “You have to be hyper-masculine, so if you get insulted on Facebook the only face-saving thing is to go shoot someone. The problem is they can’t shoot, they’ve never been to a practice range, so innocent children are getting hit.”

One of those innocent children was Zarriel Trotter, 13, who had recently appeared in an award-winning Internet campaign against guns. In the film Zarriel says: “I don’t want to live around my community where I’ve got to keep on hearing people getting shot.”

Last week Zarriel was himself shot in the back as he walked home from basketball practice and was left in a critical condition in hospital. According to witnesses, he was passing by as two groups of young boys opened fire following an argument over a girl.

Other incidents also stand out. One was the assassination of Tyshawn Lee, nine. He was murdered in an alleyway, allegedly by gang rivals of his father.

Actually the problem is that they are shooting each other after being insulted on Facebook.

The 501® Jean: Stories of an Original

Levi’s made a short documentary film about the history and cultural impact of the brand’s signature 501 jeans.

We trace the 501 Jean’s roots as a utilitarian garment for coal miners, cowboys, industrial workers, all the way to the creative workers who continue to wear it today.

Also: Just to troll the NDP, there is a lean consultant in the video.

The Abandoned Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard

Wired has some more on it.

REACHING THE MARSHY spot on southwestern Staten Island where good boats go to die requires a car, sturdy footwear, and a willingness to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Though a sliver of the Arthur Kill ship graveyard is visible from the nearest road, the site’s full grandeur only becomes apparent once you sneak beyond the “No Trespassing” and “Beware of Dog” signs and hack through a miasma of seven-foot-tall reeds that stink of brine and guano.

The thicket finally dead-ends at a colossal pile of junk: thousands of splintered beams of lumber mixed in with broken engine parts. Just beyond this debris field lie as many three dozen ghostly ships in various states of decay, abandoned decades ago in this isolated corner of New York City.

The Arthur Kill ship graveyard was never meant to become such a decrepit spectacle. In the years following World War II, the adjacent scrapyard began to purchase scores of outdated vessels, with the intention of harvesting them for anything of value. But the shipbreakers couldn’t keep pace with the influx of boats, especially once people started to use the graveyard as a dumping ground for their old dinghies. Plenty of ships fell into such disrepair that they were no longer worth the effort to strip, especially since many teem with toxic substances. And so they’ve been left to rot in the murky tidal strait that divides Staten Island from New Jersey, where they’ve turned scarlet with rust and now host entire ecosystems of hardy aquatic creatures.

Urban Giants

Between 1928 and 1932, Western Union and AT&T Long Lines built two of the most advanced telecommunications buildings in the world, at 60 Hudson Street and 32 Avenue of the Americas in Lower Manhattan. Nearly a century later, they remain among the world’s finest Art Deco towers—and cornerstones of global communication. “Urban Giants” is an 9-minute filmic portrait of their birth and ongoing life, combining never-before-seen-construction footage, archival photographs and films, interviews with architectural and technology historians, and stunning contemporary cinematography.

Suburban Office Complex’s are Obsolete

Something for Saskatoon business owners to remember.

What tenants want in an office building is changing, and the old model of the isolated suburban office park is going the way of the fax machine. That’s according to a new report from Newmark, Grubb, Knight and Frank [PDF], one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the world.

Suburban office parks are losing their luster, industry analysts say.

The old-school office park does “not offer the experience most of today’s tenants are seeking,” according to NGKF. As a result, the suburban office market is confronting “obsolescence” on a “massive scale.” More than 1,150 U.S. office properties — or 95 million square feet — may no longer pencil out, the authors estimate, though a number of those can be salvaged with some changes.

“Walkability and activated environments are at the top of many tenants’ list of must haves,” the report states. Office parks in isolated pockets without a mix of uses around them must have “in-building amenities” –including a conference center, a fitness center, and food service — to remain competitive, according to NGKF: “If tenants are not going to be able to walk to nearby retail or a nearby office property to get lunch, they had better be able to get it at their own building.”

This is the same for many businesses.

The study took a close look at suburban office submarkets in and around Denver, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. In the “southeast suburban” Denver office district, for example, office buildings within a quarter-mile of the new light rail line had a 1.7 percent vacancy rate. For those outside a quarter-mile, vacancy rates were nine percentage points higher.

NGKF’s findings don’t mean that office tenant preferences are in perfect alignment with walkability, however.

This explains the tension in Saskatoon’s governance who are older and therefore prefer to drive.

Parking was also important to the marketability of buildings in suburban Denver. The report notes that a lot of older management personnel prefer to drive, while younger workers want transit access. So buildings that offered both were in the highest demand.

So do you build a office complex (or a city) for the past or for those you want to attract.  So far around here, it is about building for the past.