Tag Archives: Downtown

Learning to walk again

So I have been walking about 25 kms a week the last two weeks.  I have learned a couple of things.

  • My House of Marley headphones rub on my face making a “swoosh swoosh” sound as I walk as the cord rubs across my beard.  Annoying so I am using a different pair.  It’s not like they are so great they are worth putting up with that noise.
  • It is quicker to walk through Nutana and go across Broadway Bridge and then through downtown and then Caswell Hill to get home than any other route.
  • It feels like it should be quicker to go to the University and then across the CP Rail Bridge but I am wrong.

Speaking of the CP Rail Bridge, I learned something while walking that route home.  I can’t go down stairs.  I kind of fall down stairs which was really concerning to me.

To skip back, on December 22nd, I had been consumed by a dangerously high fever for two days.  I was incredibly sick but I also wanted a cold drink so I got out of bed, walked down the stairs and passed out from the top.  I woke up in great pain at the bottom of the stairs with a couple of broken ribs and I realized that despite being declared infection free, the infection was running up my legs.  So to recap, I was laying at the bottom of my stairs, broken ribs, knowing that I was incredibly sick and still didn’t have a cold drink.  Ever since then I have been nervous about going down the stairs.

Since I have started walking long distances, I have learned that neither leg is working like they used to work.  One leg destroyed by infection.  The other leg destroyed by a large hole I accidently burnt in my ankle.  Great job.  Not only that but as I am walking they both respond differently from day to day which seems normal as they are getting into shape.

Yet going down stairs seems to be some sort of mystery and to be honest, it has been terrifying to me.  When I go down the stairs at the CP Rail Bridge at the weir, my heart rate goes up and it I find myself gripping the hand rail going down and instead of going down one step at a time, it’s kind of a controlled fall.

So on Sunday, Wendy and I went down for a walk along River Landing.  Part of it was me figuring out how to go down stairs again.

After shooting this, I found myself heading up and down the stairs.  As much as it freaked me out I made some progress.  Who would have thought when this started that two years later I would figuring out how to walk again.  Yesterday it actually felt like I had two legs again rather than just two things that hurt a lot but didn’t work well together.

The only other problem is that I have is stopping quickly.  It’s like my legs have bad brakes on them.  I am not sure why this is but it’s the next thing to figure out.   Years ago they did some tests on my reflexes on my feet and basically they no longer talk to my brain.  I am assuming that their lack of communication is what is causing me problems.

Other than that, it’s slow progress and feels pretty good.

Episode 004: Where would you place a downtown arena?

I saw Charlie Clark’s email newsletter this week and read his thoughts on the new arena debate.  I didn’t really buy his arguments or rather lack of argument but it started me thinking on where you would put a downtown arena if we wanted to build it.  I grabbed a camera and a tripod and went for a walk. 

I set up the tripod for the last shot and it worked a lot better.  I wish I had for the other ones but I was stopped a couple of times by both police and a City of Saskatoon employee.  All of them were super cool about it, they recognized me and wanted to see what I was up to but it was kind of through me off my game.  The next vlog will be better. 

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #30 – Third Avenue United Church

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #30 - Third Avenue United Church

Back in January I was out for a walk on a warm winter day.  I captured this with my Pentax K-30 with a 28mm f/2.8 manual focus lens.  Flickr seemed to like this more than I did.  That being said, Third Avenue United Church is a hard building to photography from the street.  The ugly pine tree and overhead wires take away a lot from a photograph of the building. 

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #31 Scotiabank in Downtown Saskatoon

Scotiabank in downtown Saskatoon

According to Flickr, this was my 31st most interesting photo of 2015.  It was taken with my Pentax MX-1 while walking along 2nd Avenue in March.  If I remember correctly, the Google Street View car glared at me when I pulled my camera out which confused me since he was driving a giant camera himself.

I’ll be counting down and posting a new one each day until the end of 2015.

Downtown Calgary

I realized that while Wendy had posted some great photos of Alberta, I hadn’t gotten around to them yet.  Here are some photos of downtown Calgary that I grabbed after we arrived in Calgary and took the LRT downtown.

Nexen Building, Calgary

The back of the Nexen Energy Building.

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You just about hear someone say, “I want no one to have any fun in this park, ever.”

Oliver breaking the rules in Century GardensIMGP0237

Century Gardens is an urban park located in Calgary’s downtown core that was originally developed in 1975 to celebrate Calgary’s Centennial. The Devonian Group donated the park land for the creation of a place of respite within the hustle and bustle of a busy downtown. Designed and built as an artistic expression of a landscape referred to as Brutalist; the fountains and water are symbolic of the area’s mountains and rivers. The City recognizes this park and its unique features listing it in Calgary’s inventory of evaluated historic resources.

What’s interesting is that Calgary points out that the park is pretty much worn out and is at the end of it’s lifecycle so they are planning to redevelop it.  Something that Saskatoon should start to do with Meewasin which is showing it’s age.

Westview Heights

Westview Heights.  A highrise building built in 1972 consisting of a parkade, commercial offices, and apartments. The apartments dominate the building, consisting of the 14th to 39th floors.

The parkade makes up the second to seventh stories of the building, while the commercial section of the building consists of floors 8 through 10 and the 40th and 41st floors. Floors 11 and 12 are mechanical floors while floor 13 (identified as "R" for "recreation") consists of recreational facilities for tenants (a swimming pool, exercise facilities, a lounge, etc.)
The building was renamed from Century Garden to Westview Heights shortly after a 2002 electrical fire.

Century Park in Downtown CalgaryThe University of Calgary’s downtown campus

The University of Calgary’s downtown campus.

Parkade in downtown Calgary

This parkade reminded me that parking garages don’t have to be ugly.  On the outside of it are reflective pieces of lightweight metal.  They provide a bit of protection for the cars inside but they also move and ripple in the wind so they do a good job of providing some visual interest to the street where there is none.

It is details that make a downtown great and all over Calgary you see that.

Western Canadian Place

Western Canadian Place consists of two buildings, the taller North Tower and the shorter South Tower.  It was designed by the architectural firm, Cohos Evamy (the same firm who designed Bankers Hall – East and Bankers Hall – West in Calgary) in late modernist style and was built in 1983.  It is the headquarters of Husky Energy and Apache Canada.

Around this time, I got a DM from Dave King who wanted to see if we wanted to grab a bite to eat in downtown Calgary.  We ended up at The King and I, an amazing Thai food place that if I say anymore about, Wendy will get upset because she is doing a review of it for Zomato.  So I’ll add a link to it when she posts it.

Calgary TowerCalgary TowerLewis Stationary Ltd.

Built in 1910 for the J.H. Ashdown Hardware Co. in 1910, this warehouse space remained a store for Ashdown’s overstock until the Lewis Stationery company purchased the building in 1972. In 1995 it became another addition to Calgary’s loft developments.

Home of Saneal Cameras, the Lancaster Building in downtown Calgary

Home of Saneal Cameras, the Lancaster Building in downtown Calgary.  The Lancaster Building was constructed between 1912 and 1918.  Designed by architect James Teague of Victoria, British Columbia, the building incorporates the Edwardian style of architecture. Calgary’s first 10-storey structure downtown, this building was named after the House of Lancaster, one of the sides in the British War of the Roses as the subject of history was an interest to the building’s original owner, J.S. Mackie.

National Beer Hall

Calgary seems to understand the importance of all sides of a building better than Saskatoon does.   This is at the back of the legendary beer hall in downtown Calgary.

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Banker’s Hall in downtown Calgary.

IMGP0272The Calgary Tower from a different perspective

So many good memories of the Calgary Tower.  It is now Oliver’s favorite spot in Calgary.  Especially the glass floor.  After we went to the top of the Tower and Oliver looked out every single observation binoculars, we headed towards The Bow.

The Hyatt in Calgary

Suncor Energy Centre

Wanderland in front of The Bow

View of The Bow

OurYXE Neighbourhood Guides

OurYXE was never intended to just be a podcast and if you have been paying attention at all, you will notice we are adding new features to the site in 2014.  We have started with adding Saskatoon neighbourhood guides and have the intention of creating a guide of the best and worst of each neighbourhood in Saskatoon.  So far we have done one for downtown, Riversdale, Nutana, and Mayfair.  

Creating them takes a lot of time and even more time is needed to take the photographs needed to bring the project to life.  I have been able to cheat by using some public domain images of Wikimedia, most of the photos have been taken by myself or those submitting to the growing OurYXE Photo Pool on Flickr (if you haven’t yet, please join and add your photos).

That’s the best part of the project.  Exploring Saskatoon neighbourhoods that no one thinks of or cares about.  Last year I was researching a project for Stewart Properties in what is the most uninspiring neighbourhood in the city.  As Wendy and I walked the neighbourhood, explored the parks, found shops and businesses that I never realized were there, I realized that I would really enjoy living there.  I later followed the same process for my own neighbourhood and created a site for Mayfair.  When you stop, sit down and write it out, there is far more to our neighbourhoods than you realize.

That is the plan for these neighbourhood guides.  I want to explore all of Saskatoon, find out what is cool, and share it with others.  I am already excited about visiting and writing about several parks, hidden stores, and exploring some odd urban planning decisions just to see what is there.

Of course my fear is that I find a neighbourhood that has no redeeming qualities and absolutely nothing of interest worth exploring.  If that happens I’ll make Sean or Hilary write that neighbourhood guide.

The inspiration for the OurYXE Neighbourhood Guides is Norm Fisher’s amazing guides that he has created for his real estate site.  His work is the foundation for many Wikipedia entries and our course our own guides.  While our focus is different, his neighbourhood guides are a great resource for anyone wanting to know more about their neighbourhood.

OurYXE Neighborhood Guides: Downtown Saskatoon

OurYXE would like to take you for a tour of Saskatoon and are launching local neighbourhood guides that are full of history, interesting sights, and even things to avoid.

The first neighbourhood guide is Downtown Saskatoon.

Downtown Saskatoon in 1950

You may know it by it’s formal name, the Central Business District or just simply as that place where they park on angles.  However you know it, we’d like to dig deeper and show you some of it’s nooks and crannies.  From there we will head west and explore Riversdale before heading to the old site of the Temperance Colony and visit Nutana.  The goal is to create a guide and photograph each of Saskatoon’s neighbourhoods by the time 2015 rolls around.  Wish us luck.

Saskatoon needs downtown drop-in centre

My column in The StarPhoenix

Saskatoon has been in an uproar over the suggestion the city spend $40,000 to remove the benches in the vicinity of the McDonald’s restaurant on Second Avenue and 22nd Street because people are loitering there all day.

Police officers and business owners with whom I have spoken have real concerns about the street corner. I have seen a couple of drug deals take place there, and there have been reports of violence and harassment of passersby.

Both the police and the Community Support Officers have done some good work to try to manage the problem. Over many lunch hours I have seen a police officer standing there. When the McDonald’s on Second Avenue becomes a police beat, it may be time to do something.

The problem with removing the benches is that it doesn’t accomplish what it is intended to do. I have gone into that McDonald’s over many lunches (Don’t tell my wife. She sent me to work with a salad). The staff is courteous and polite, and McDonald’s provides free coffee refills and sells a lot of soda for $1.

The combination of a friendly staff, free coffee, cheap soda and a centralized location where people can come to meet their friends have turned the restaurant into a downtown drop-in centre. I know people who come from miles away to meet their friends there daily. I am pretty sure that is not the business plan McDonald’s intended.

When you toss in the low fence in the neighbouring parking lot, the location lends itself to loitering. The solution isn’t to remove the benches, or to legislate behaviour. Other cities have learned it doesn’t work. Toronto has given out hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines to the poor and homeless. Numerous American cities have banned people from sitting on the sidewalks. Denver has made it illegal to be homeless by banning urban camping.

It’s the wrong approach. When you have nothing, what is the deterrent effect of a fine? Toronto’s inability to collect any of those fines shows that its policy is a huge failure.

The solution is to deal with the real issue. There are people in Saskatoon who are so far below the poverty line that to them, simple poverty looks like a welcome step up. Many are getting less in social assistance for rent than what their rent costs. Part of their rent has to come out of their living allowance – money that is supposed to be for food.

When people have very little, they at least want to be around their friends. These groups self-organize and find a place to meet. In this case it has become the downtown restaurant. Getting rid of the benches or even the entire McDonald’s won’t change that. They will organize and find somewhere else to meet.

Do we get rid of the benches on 21st Street or shut down the food court at the Midtown Plaza next?

Other growing cities have adopted drop-in centres. It’s not a new concept, as we have had them for youth and teens for decades. This needs to happen downtown for adults. An agency needs to step up and work with the city and downtown neighbours to create a space where people want to come, and at the same time works for neighbouring businesses. It isn’t easy, but as I have seen in visiting great drop-ins from coast to coast, it is possible to find that balance.

It takes a place where people can be warm on cold days, cool on hot days, and have something to drink, a bite to eat, and even some Internet access. From what we have learned in Saskatoon, cheap pop, coffee and hamburgers seem to be the formula people want. Just make sure they have a chance to meet their friends there.

Saskatoon has a downtown full of energy. People want to work, socialize and play there. We all want to be where the action is, regardless of our income. Other cities have learned that drop-in services need to be downtown, because that is where the people are going to congregate.

While this is a local problem, it’s also a reflection of provincial policies. Social Services needs to move beyond merely writing cheques and realize that it has a role to play in issues like this in cities and towns across Saskatchewan.

It was encouraging to see city council’s planning and operations committee look beyond the easy solution and realize there are much more complicated factors at play. Let’s see if council and the provincial government have the political will to address them.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Good for Saskatoon

I don’t know if you remember the scene from The Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader sends out all of the imperial probe droids to find the secret Rebel base on Hoth (Han Solo and Chewbacca destroyed it) but I am thinking of getting one.

ProbeDroid TSWA

They would come in extremely useful in doing anything social downtown.  One of my favourite places in Saskatoon is the Rook & Raven.  Last summer you could go down at anytime and get a table.  Now you can’t get in if your life depended on it.  Of course there is always State & Main but from the day it started, you can’t get in.  Winston’s is as busy as it is loud and this is even after they opened the basement up.  I don’t even like the The Woods Ale House and it is always busy.  O’Shea’s Irish Pub often has room but it smells like deep fryer grease and we never want to go there.   There is a new pub going into where Scratch used to be and that could help a bit but the opening of The Woods Ale House and State & Main has only made it busier.

It’s good for Saskatoon to have a vibrant downtown at night and I can think of many big cities that would like to have a similar feel downtown but it’s awfully annoying when you try to go out with friends.  That is where these droids would come in useful.  They could scout ahead, save some seats, and if there is a deflector shield or ion cannon, I would know in advance.  It would also be a new revenue source for Saskatoon Cycles… droid valet.

Changes in Saskatoon’s downtown

Sean is more than a talking head folks.  Dr. Shaw talks about the emergence of mixed use residential in Saskatoon downtown.

There are many poorly conceived and designed buildings starting to fill the ample room in Saskatoon’s downtown – the Holiday Inn and a couple other buildings in the once promising Warehouse District stand-out.

However, Saskatoon has started to reap the benefits supplied by some developers who are designing and constructing buildings that follow current best practices in architectural design and ensuring that their buildings interaction with the street is fully considered.

A recent example would be the River Centre building housed on the corner of 19th St E and 2nd Ave S (HERE). The building is characterized by ground floor commercial/retail (including the State & Main restaurant) and office space on the upper four floors. The all glass facade blends in well with the surrounding neighbourhood and river. Additionally, the restaurant has proven to be a popular attraction and has served to bring foot traffic even further down 2nd Ave, where it once mostly stopped at the Galaxy Theatre. The original requirement for a setback of a few metres for the fourth floor would have been a good addition, but given the building doesn’t reach any higher I think it can be forgiven in this case. Finally, the buildings website still indicates that it is striving for a LEED Gold certification. The developers – Tonko Realty Advisors – are supposedly looking to build a companion building on the northwest corner of 19th/2nd Ave as well.

There is more.  Make sure you read the entire post.