Rooftop City - Could Victoria be Making Better Use of Our Building Tops?
Open up the satellite view of Victoria on Google Maps and the rooftops all look pretty black. Sure there is the odd green roof here and there but the vast majority of the city looks to be covered with tar paper or gravel. Across just the downtown area there must be acres of roofs and in my opinion they are being significantly underused, especially when you consider some of the things that these wide open spaces can be used for.
So what are we doing now? In Victoria we do have a few places where the roof of a building may be one of its most interesting parts. Most of us are aware of the Sticky Wicket Rooftop. This has been a magnet for summer fun downtown for decades. Despite the popularity, apart from the relatively new arrival of Splash Bar & Grill, there are no other roofs being used for public entertainment. Further on the fun side, a number of newer condo buildings in the city have recreation areas for residents on the roof. Almost every building built by Chard Development in the city, as well as the first of the Hudson District buildings have roof top gardens, BBQ areas or some even a rooftop movie area. These areas are usually small and have limited use from what I have heard, but it is still better than nothing.
Some building tops are being made to work for the building or the people living there. The Wade building being built on Cook Street between Johnson and Pandora will actually have roof top garden boxes for residents and growing food on the roof is not a new thing to Victoria. Topsoil, an urban farming company, used to have a roof top farm above Fort Street Common before moving to their larger space across the Point Ellice Bridge. Other buildings are also having their roofs work for them in different ways. There are at least two downtown daycare centres that feature rooftop play areas for the kids. Another building near Crystal Pool has covered their roof in solar panels in the hopes of defraying the heating costs of the building over the longer term. These are all exceptions though.
What more could we be doing? The city could be providing tax holidays like they do with heritage buildings that are refurbished to anyone that adds a rooftop amenity. Of course there would have to be criteria for what sort of amenity could be added. A roof top movie theatre for residents would not be okay. They would have to be confined to specific uses such as public access, farming or solar, but still may start having people think outside the confines of what a roof is and look and see what other cities are doing.
There are some pretty great thoughts of what we could be doing. Even KOA is envisaging the possibility of using urban rooftops as a campground. While a campground may be far fetched in Victoria there are some cutting edge ideas that could be considered for new buildings as they are built. In Japan, there is a roof top soccer field, while in China a suburban street sits atop a mall. And many many other things are happening around the world!
I know that I often hear that Victoria is either too windy or too rainy (Victoria is not a rainy city BTW) for this, but what are your thoughts? What else could we be putting on the rooftops of Victoria?