This isnâ€™t a theological post so donâ€™t worry. Itâ€™s actually about urban design and itâ€™s a problem that Safeway/City of Saskatoon created, City Centre Church just inherited. For those of you who donâ€™t know, City Centre Church bought an old Safeway store on 20th Street. I walk by periodically and something about it has really bothered me. Now the obvious would be the graffiti on the side of the building, I am a bigger fan of Bon Jovi than I am of hip hop but the art is well done and I donâ€™t think it takes away from the neighbourhood, in fact it adds to it. I like the blue paint that they painted the building in so that isnâ€™t it (Itâ€™s a slightly different blue than the photo below). As I walked down 20th and was looking at it, I realized what it is that bothers me about it, itâ€™s parking lot.
Like all old Safeway stores (and new ones as well), they are dominated by a large parking lot in front of the store. While at the 33rd Street Safeway or the Co-Op on 33rd, you donâ€™t notice it because of the amount of people parked there during the day but with a church, itâ€™s parking lot sits empty much of the week. The size of (empty) parking lot kills any pedestrian flow on the street, especially when it takes up an entire city block. It almost ends the commercial district on 20th. Even worse, the city has a bus stop right in the middle of it that doesnâ€™t have a bus shelter which means that when it is â€“40 degrees out, it is possibly the worse bus stop in all of Saskatoon to wait at.
The solution isnâ€™t too hard but would come with a cost to the City Centre Church parking lot and the city`s budget (in a commercial business, the loss of a couple of parking spots could be offset by a reduction in taxes but since City Centre is church, no such luck). The photos from Google Street View are out dated and don`t do the church justice. The church has a nice sky blue/grey paint job that looks pretty good. I would steal an idea from Winnipeg and do two things, I would find a way to revitalize the sidewalk and incorporate the streetscape into the church and bring some of the church, into the streetscape.
The sidewalk is already a double wide sidewalk which would be perfect for trees and benches along the same look and design as what is front of White Buffalo Youth Lodge.
It would soften the front of the parking lot, provide some continuity to 20th Street (trees stop for some reason at 20th and Avenue E) and it would provide an opportunity to do something innovative with the bus stop (3093) in front of City Centre Church. Instead of putting up one of the rather bland and poorly proportioned bus shelters that the city is putting in (often on a slight angle that drives me crazy), why not do what Winnipeg is doing and that is incorporating bus stops into nearby buildings by using their architecture to inspire the bus stops. The bus shelter below is from Winnipeg and features design features from the office building in behind it.
The obvious design implementation would be the paint job from City Centre Church. While the design isnâ€™t classic, it does feature the curved Safeway roof that would be fun to mimic. I am sure an agreement could be made with the church that if they change their color scheme, the bus stop would be repainted as well in matching colors. If you really wanted to go all out, you could use some of Charlie Clarkâ€™s ideas to make the city more liveable in winter and heat the shelter during the winter. As I wrote before, I was amazed that even in â€“40 weather in WInnipeg, I was able to take off my toque, undo my jacket, gloves and actually use my Blackberry in the shelter without freezing any extremities. Whatever you think of the current Saskatoon Transit bus shelters (I donâ€™t like them), they provide no shelter from the cold and even then not much shelter from the wind and the rain. In addition to the money it would cost the city to build, it would also cost the church a couple of parking spots although if it was up to me, I think the addition of something like an architecturally congruent bus stop may be worth it. The other advantage, especially in the case of City Centre Church is that it would be a great place for servant evangelism.
I am not just picking on City Centre Church. The same could and should be done to the Safeway on 33rd bus stop (itâ€™s at an angle, drives me crazy), Mayfair United Church, in addition to a variety of places downtown. Basically any building along a commercial street that is backed away from the street and changes pedestrian flow. Architecturally sensitive bus stops would be a great addition to a variety of these locations, including Innovation Place, downtown, and even by some of the malls. It would soften the streetscapes, create some community focal points/landmarks, and make riding Saskatoon a lot more pleasant in the winter.
Update: I believe the Riversdale Local Area Plan calls for some improvements and continuity to the streetscaping along 20th Street but my paper copy is at the office and the City of Saskatoon`s website is timing out while downloading the PDF. So much for storing things in the cloud.