Déjà Future

Significance is tied to context.

On November 3rd  I happened to participate in a gathering that seemed interesting enough on paper. The invitation was not without promise:

Meet up at the Neighbourhood House to connect with local residents, local business operators, land owners along Broadway East, people active in local service organizations, and other volunteers who are already doing original things to enliven our shared spaces in the community. Share images and stories of “great streets, great places” elsewhere, talk about which ideas make great sense for Broadway East, review what was heard during numerous walkabouts with people who live or work in the neighbourhood, learn more about intriguing activities that are already happening on or very close by Broadway East, and look ahead to next steps in the revitalization work and how to hang together as an action group. Oh, and there’s a lunch feast as well as a feast of images and ideas and good conversation!”

In the past two years I have participated in meetings held at the Collingwood Neigborhood House (CNH) on Joyce street in Vancouver. We were and still are detailing needs of the neighborhood’s residents and pro-actively participating in its development. In the mid eighties a similar process successfully generated the insights into community engagement that facilitated the establishment of useful amenities in the Collingwood Village area.  When I joined in 2010 the discussions for this round of community effort I was intrigued by the concept of collaboration for the sake of balanced urban development.

Based on this experience I was curious to see how things work in other neighborhoods. After all, if we can transfer insights and share processes between local societies, the whole city could benefit.

As I stepped into the gathering room of Mount Pleasant Neighborhood House (MPNH) it felt good. A relatively large audience gathered to participate in an evening that was thoughtfully facilitated by Sylvia Holland, an independent planner who was hired for her role in the process. East Broadway, a busy section in Vancouver of an urban arterial is in need of the already approved community plan. What worked well almost thirty years ago in Collingwood should have a similar impact in Mount Pleasant. If community engagement is maintained on the same level we’ve experienced this month at MPNH, we should be heading towards success.

This was one meeting in a planned series of gatherings (pdf). Vancouver has been changing ever since I moved here in 2002. As fast as changes have been, you don’t always notice them on the go. So when I got the chance to notice the degree of engagement in the room, the prospect of change was almost tangible.

When the meeting reached its conclusion my feeling was of history in the making.

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