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MOVments: Surviving the City, Reality TV, and E-Commerce

This week we look at the economic realities and struggles of big business, small business, and "anti-business." From the uncertain fate of the The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, to the changing landscape of independent bookstores in the city, and the meta-reality of the DTES anti-gentrification conflicts, we're exploring what it means to survive and succeed in Vancouver's economic wilderness.
 
Saving The Centre. Many in Vancouver's arts and culture scene are looking to the City to step in to save The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts. The Centre is set to be sold to the Westside Church after struggling with economically viable programming as a large-scale venue. Will The Centre survive as an art space? We'll have to wait to find out.
 
Struggling to Sell Books. Francis Bula explores the economic ups and downs of Vancouver's best-loved independent bookstores of the past and present in this recent article. Some of the culprits behind slumping sales are easy to identify - the rise of e-commerce to name one - but others are more surprising (and more Vancouver-specific). She also examines stores like Kidsbooks and Pulpfiction Books that are surviving and thriving against some pretty bleak odds.
 
Reality TV Gets Real. Did the reality presented in the television show Gastown Gamble contribute to the current anti-gentrification protests in the DTES? Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones of The Atlantic Cities seems to think so. The show follows Mark Brand's journey as the socially-conscious owner of Save on Meats. As Hinkes-Jones says, "For many of the at-risk locals whom Brand has hired, he's a legitimate hero. But there's also little doubt the show's subject — the renovation of a historic Downtown Eastside business to make it more appealing to upscale customers — is exactly the sort of effort that's caused much of the distrust among the protesters."
 
And On a Not Entirely Related Note...it's Bike to Work Week! Check out this neat initiative co-produced by Vancouver is Awesome with Penny Smash funds. Definitely some of the most fun you'll have getting to work in the morning.
 
At the MOVeum:
 
 
[Image: Shelves at Pulpfiction on Main. Photo by Richard Erirksson via Flickr]

MOVments: The Usual (And Not So Usual) Suspects

Housing affordability, the Marpole Midden, local design culture, and bike sharing are just a few of the continually evolving topics we revisit with some frequency here at MOVments. This week, we look at them all from some new angles, providing fresh perspectives on UBC real estate costs, the negotiations around the Musqueam burial grounds in Marpole, the recent IDSwest Design Show, and bicycle helmet laws across the globe.
 
Buying the Ivory Tower. It looks like there's another thing we can blame on Vancouver's astronomically high housing prices: brain drain. In an effort to attract more highly-qualified faculty to our little corner of academia, the University of British Columbia plans to reduce the cost of home ownership for professors and staff to 33% below market cost. As UBC's Pascal Spothelfer says, “If you look at the housing situation on the west side of Vancouver, for any younger or new faculty member ... it would be very difficult for them to find housing affordable for them coming from other jurisdictions where housing is less expensive. From a competitive point of view, we want to make sure this doesn’t become a hiring impediment and we can continue to hire excellent faculty.”
 
No Development on Marpole MIdden. The province has made a final decision to effectively halt development on a Musqueam burial ground in the Marpole neighbourhood. Members of the Musqueam First Nation have been protesting for months against Century Group which had already begun the development of a 5-storey building on the ancient village site. While the Musqueam First Nation is celebrating this as a precedent-setting resolution, the real estate developers are not as happy, complaining that there has been no offer of compensation and that the decision could be seen as a threat to private property laws. 
 
Meaningful by Design. While the Interior Design Show West in full swing this past weekend, the Vancouver Convention Centre was filled with pretty, sleek, modern things. But the show also highlighted objects that resonated both aesthetically and emotionally (a term not often associated with "design" or "mass-production"). For example, local furniture designer Henry Sun used part of a 200-year-old tree felled in Stanley Park (for safety reasons) to create a collection he calls Amber. For Sun, the design process is about much more than aesthetics; he seeks to imbue his pieces with meaning through a feeling of rootedness and sense of place (something that a 200-year-old tree seems particularly suited for). If you had a chance to check out IDSwest let us know in the comments below!
 
Safety First? The New York Times explores the helmet-law debate surrounding bike sharing systems in this insightful piece. We've heard many of the arguments before: in cities with mandatory helmet laws there are generally fewer bike-share users and hygiene issues make helmet-sharing particularly tricky. What we found particularly interesting was the suggestion that helmets increase the perception of danger among potential users. As Ceri Woolsgrove of the European Cyclists' Federation argues, “The real benefits of bike-sharing in terms of health, transport and emissions derive from getting ordinary people to use it. And if you say this is wonderful, but you have to wear armor, they won’t. These are normal human beings, not urban warriors.” Your thoughts? Feelings?
 
At the MOVeum:
October 10 - MOV Legacy Dinner
 
[Image: Artifacts excavated from the Marpole Midden, 1931. Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 371-2448]

MOVments: communities in action

Voting. After an extremely low turnout in 2008, the City of Vancouver is trying to make it easier for people to vote in municipal elections with social media apps, more advanced polling days, and translating information and ballot questions into Punjabi and Chinese. An earlier request by the city to test online voting during this election was turned down by the provincial government.

OccupyVancouver. The handling of the camp at the Vancouver Art Gallery has emerged as a major election issue and as the protestors become more entrenched, so too does the pressure to move them. City staff have began to talk to the people at the camp about ending the occupation, but have yet to figure out the course of action with the smallest amount of conflict.

Legal experts at UBC opine that since the Art Gallery is on provincial land, it exists in a complicated grey area where city bylaws do not apply, making it difficult for anyone to form a legal case for removing the camp.

Others complain politicians should instead focus on addressing the conditions that led to the protest in the first place.

Missing women. Families of the missing women have testified to years of frustration, as police repeatedly ignored missing persons reports and chose not to investigate or press charges after receiving tips as early as 1997. The deadline for the inquiry has been extended by six months, due to the volume of evidence and testimony, and how long the proceedings took to begin.

Liquor laws. Both the Rio and District 319 have come up against the province's outdated liquor laws that prohibit them from screening films after acquiring their liquor licenses.

Videomatica. Finally some good news about one of Vancouver's best video rental stores: after slumping business and rising rents forced Videomatica to shut down their West 4th store, they've announced that they will continue DVD sales out of the back of Zulu Records.

Community stories. A creative writing workshop at Onsite enables people in the Downtown Eastside to tell their own stories, while Hope in Shadows aims to do the same thing with photography.

In South Hill, residents have been using digital filmmaking to tell their stories and connect with their neighbours.

How a group of concerned community members saved the saved the hollow tree in Stanley Park.

Image: Karen Kuo

MOVments: gathered for change

#occupyvancouver dominates the news this week. Thousands of people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery for Occupy Vancouver's first General Assembly on Saturday. Many people are prepared to camp out for some time, though the ban on staking tents to the ground and cooking with propane makes this more difficult.

The Tyee asks people why they have chosen to take to the streets.

We Day. Meanwhile, another gathering for change: as 18,000 youth participate in We Day, where Mikhail Gorbachev and other speakers presented on the value of community service and youth engagement.

The Missing Women Inquiry is off to a rocky start with protests as several groups have chosen to not participate. Many groups are concerned that the lack of funding provided to advocacy groups for legal assistance for is a serious impediment to having their voices heard, and without their support for the process, it is uncertain whether the Inquiry will acheive its purpose.

Powwow. A huge powwow took place in the Downtown Eastside to honour First Nations elders.

Evelyn Lau was named Vancouver's next poet laureate in advance of the Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference later this week.

Re:CONNECT challenges Vancouverites to reinvision the city's eastern core and viaducts as a vibrant space.

No more pictures. Jeff Wall laments the loss of photogenic buildings in Vancouver.

Local food. A few months after being featured in MOV's Home Grown exhibit, the Home Grow-In Grocery closed suddenly, taking customers' deposits with it. Now the store has reopened with new owners, who are trying to regain the trust of their customers while building our local food infrastructure.

Ethnic enclaves. Is it time for Vancouver to have a Pinoytown?

Image: Ariane Colenbrander

MOVments: arts space in occupied Vancouver

#OccupyVancouver. While protests on Wall Street continue, actions are spreading around North America and a demonstration is planned for Vancouver on October 15. While there's little indication that it has the potential of becoming violent, it seems to have the Vancouver Business Improvement Association worried.

The movement has Vancouver roots, though some at the General Assembly at W2 on the 8th felt that given the colonial history of Canada, "occupy" is an inapproriate term for the event.

Digitization. The Vancouver Archives describes some of the work and new challenges they're facing in storing digital content.

Arts spaces. As Red Gate finally closes, the City of Vancouver debates a report about how to promote the creation and upkeep of artist studios around the city.

Building Vancouver has been posting some really fascinating material lately about the people who were involved with building many of Vancouver's historical buildings. It's worth a look.

Image: caelie_

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