Tuesday, 30 August 2016

It's not how dense you make it...

All right, everyone, now say it with me!  "It's not how dense you make it; it's how you make it dense."

Good.  Now with that out of the way, let's explore how we can have exciting new buildings in our city that have a positive effect on existing architecture, and more specifically heritage buildings.

By integrating heritage buildings into the design of new builds from the get-go as a foundation for the new construction, a city keeps its character while allowing for higher density.  Responsible and forward-thinking land owners will maintain the buildings on their properties right up until the time of construction, and throughout, in order to preserve the integrity of the existing structures.


Camden Terrace in 1988.  Photo courtesy of the estate of Lois Marshall. 

Lately in London, we have had quite the opposite, from the demolition of 505/507/511 Talbot Street to make way for another uninspired concrete monolith (think of the hideous Renaissance towers on Ridout Street North between King Street and York Street) to the pending destruction of 175/179/181 King Street (although thankfully 183 King Street will remain) for another 30-storey tower.

Now don't get me wrong: we need a proper mix of high-rises, mid-rises, and low-rises in the downtown.  New buildings are always going to be required to regenerate and grow a city.  Making them the right density in the right locations builds a city inwards and upwards, which is what is needed instead of outwards and sprawling.  Urban infill is a good thing and a necessity; however, it has to be done with consideration for the existing built environment and adaptive reuse in the forefront, not as an afterthought.

Camden Terrace (479 to 489 Talbot Street) is under threat of complete demolition.
These row houses have a significant and rare form and style, designed by the renowned London architect Samuel Peters (click for short video on Peters and Camden Terrace).  This brilliant gem in our downtown core tells the story of how our city grew and evolved, and warrants a respectful integration with this infill development.  Instead, the developer prefers to tear the building down to make way for a 9-storey mixed commercial/residential building as the first phase, with plans for two towers (also mixed use) on the north (29 storeys) and south (38 storeys) as the second phase.  Plans also show a three-storey parking garage in the back.

I am a fan of the mixed use: it is ideal for a city where we want people to work and play all within walking distance of their home, which has huge benefits economically, socially, and environmentally.  The design of the nine-storey first phase can easily integrate the entirety of the original row houses, with appropriate modifications to permit the desired entranceway as proposed in the designs.


Camden Terrace in 1987.  Photo courtesy the City of London planning department.

The London Plan aspires for no more aboveground parking, and rightly so:  parking in the inner core start to disappear with driverless cars and rapid transit, and therefore the people who are living and working downtown are less likely to own a vehicle.  The proposal has four levels of underground parking and three levels of aboveground.  In reality, the aboveground parking will become obsolete in the very near future and would be better use of space to expand the nine-storey construction: this keeps the nine-storey portion virtually unchanged (or potentially larger) and allows room for Camden Terrace to remain. Talk about win-win! The investment for the developer and the city will be huge if all phases are built: don't we want this done right for ourselves and for future generations?

Adaptive reuse has become prominent recently with the Cornerstone Building, the London Roundhouse, The Cube, and many more.  Not only does it maintain a city's character, it is also easier on the environment by not sending tonnes upon tonnes of building materials into an already-strained landfill site.  

Camden Terrace must be given designation and maintained in situ, as any needed changes to the buildings can be considered through a heritage alteration permit.  In fact, the London Roundhouse remains in place and will have a tower built behind it: why can't we do the same here?

Heritage needs to have a voice at the table, and be included from the beginning of projects impacting our shared historical buildings.  A mature city values its heritage.  Other mid-sized cities in Ontario have been willing and able to push the creative inclusion of heritage buildings into new developments of various size:  isn't London good enough to have the same?  Shouldn't we demand better for ourselves?

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Disastrous dyke design

Last Monday, June 13, a public information centre took place regarding the plans for the West London Dyke Replacement – Phase 3.  (Disappointingly, the files for the latest information centre are not available on the City's Web site.) The display boards showed plans for a replacement of the existing dyke between Rogers Avenue to Carrothers Avenue, an uninspired design that would extend the current sheer cliff constructed in 2007 from the forks of the Thames to Rogers Avenue.


The area of the dyke to be replaced, running from Rogers Avenue north to Carrothers Avenue. (April 2014 aerial photo from City of London)

While many (yours truly included) enjoy the pathway portion of the 2007 reconstruction as a means of recreation and transportation, there is a significant lack of shade (i.e. no trees) and no means of interacting with the river, something that Londoners over and over again have said is a top priority for rejuvenating Askunesippi (AKA "the Thames").  It very much conveys an oudated mindset of constructing the built environment as a "concrete jungle" by dividing humans from the natural environment.  Even the guardrail – aside from being ugly as sin – with its prison-like bars evokes the sensation of separation, as if the river was an exhibit at the zoo.


A view of the West London dyke, with the 2007 replacement visible in upper-right. (February 9, 2013)

As seen in the photo above from 2013, the sloped dyke almost has an amphitheatre vibe to it.  Instead of replacing this slope with a vertical wall, we need an imaginative concept that would allow for citizens to transcend the dyke, perhaps with a stepped design to allow people to walk and sit along the river in a safe and enjoyable manner.  What would it be like to have a concert or play happening on the banks of the river in Harris Park, with the audience taking it in while seated in a stadium-like setting across the water? Sounds like an ideal setting to me!  Isn't that what the "Back to the River" project is supposed to be all about?

Don't get me wrong: the design isn't a complete failure.  I do like the aspects of having a sitting area at the top of the dyke situated at the end of each of the beautiful dead-end streets in Blackfriars akin to the one at the terminus of Rogers Avenue.  The displays also included a variety of options for guardrail that don't include prison bars.


A view of the West London dyke, with the 2007 replacement visible in upper-right and existing guardrail along the right of the photo. (July 8, 2012)

In addition to the shortcomings of the dyke design, current plans include taking down at large number of trees, including some majestic cottonwoods that primarily thrive along rivers and other damp areas.  Removing this canopy coverage is hugely detrimental to the pathway along the river.  While one can understand having to remove the myraid of trees that have grown in the dyke (although it could be argued that trees will hold up a slope better than any man-made construct), removing any along the path will take decades to replace.  Trees do not grow overnight, and need to have their value fully considered and not simply viewed as an obstacle to construction.

Finally, the existing guardrail allows folks to view the river with ease, and also to get up and down the dyke without hiking for kilometres to the nearest access point.  I fully encourage reusing the current style of guardrail, and even better would be to use the current materials: they have a charm unlike any other spot along the pathway and mesh wonderfully with the culturally significant Blackfriars Bridge.

Comments are being accepted until Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016.  This construction project won't only affect the denizens of the Blackfriars neighbourhood, but the population at large: we have a chance to make something beautiful out of something so mundane. Be sure to get comments in by sending to:
Cameron Gorrie, P.Eng, Stantec Consulting Ltd.
600-171 Queens Avenue, London, N6A 5J7
cameron.gorrie@stantec.com

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Council haste makes heritage waste

"The wrecking ball cometh."

These words (apparently) bring music to the ears of eight members of London's council, given that they voted against designation of 759 Elizabeth Street (AKA the "Carling Cottage") as a heritage property at the November 10th council meeting, the winning decision in an surprisingly-close 8-7 vote.  A week before at the Planning and Environment Committee meeting on November 2nd, the committee voted 3-2 against designation, with those voting against using flawed logic to guide their decision, including red herrings like the condition of the roof and the outdated furnace as reasons to allow demolition.  The two voting for designation made great arguments for not demolishing the cottage, specifically the historical context of the building and the fact that its orientation predates the surrounding road network.  Not only that, but heritage designation does not preclude applying for a demolition permit.

505 Talbot Street, at left, undergoes deconstruction after the demolition of 507 and 511. (Nov. 11, 2015)

This scenario has played out all too commonly with the current council:  we recently also lost three heritage buildings at 505, 507, and 511 Talbot Street (the building at 511 formerly home to The Shire pub) to be replaced with a very uninspiring skyscraper.  While I fully support intensification when it comes to new developments, councillors would do well to remember the following adage: "It's not how dense you make it, but how you make it dense."  Developing bland concrete blocks at the expense of cherished heritage buildings is reckless and irresponsible.  Unfortunately, only one councillor – Bill Armstrong – voted against the demolition.

To justify the demolition of heritage buildings and endure the resulting loss of history and culture, the structures replacing the existing must provide a positive net benefit to the community.  Unless plans for the new highrise include some beautiful architecture and mixed use, a net benefit will not be in the cards for the Talbot properties. It is certainly not the case at 759 Elizabeth where the developers are proposing to build a duplex in place of the cottage.

The Carling Cottage, as seen in the London Free Press on Nov. 2, 2015.

Now, the Carling Cottage may not be a grand mansion or the home of anybody famous, but it provides an impeccable example of vernacular architecture.  The cottage was built in the "Regency" style, as outlined in this description of the property from the 2010 MLS listing (462279):
A unique Ontario cottage purchased by the owners great grandfather from Sir John Carling at the time of the Wolsey Barracks purchase in about 1878. “Carling Cottage” as it is known, is one of the first brick homes in the district built in 1827. Initially it faced Adelaide St which was the concession rd at the time and the carriage house was located on Oxford St, now demolished. It has been maintained in the style period having original pumpkin pine flrs, fireplace, large 6x6 Georgian windows, many original glass, however the whole house has been refurbished, which inc. the fireplace, wiring, new plumbing, shingles(07) new sub-floors (kit, bthrm and mudrm) and the large covered front porch (30.8ft x 6.2ft) to its original design where you can sit in one of 4 black rockers. If you appreciate a perfect peaceful piece of London history this is the cottage for you. Large 8 x 12 storage cottage also located on 78 x 150 ft lot(exclude chandelier in DR)
This property is steeped in history, originally belonging in London Township.  Charles Henry and his family lived there, on lands owned by Sir John Carling of brewery fame, to work the farm. The house's front orients toward the forks of the Thames, which would have provided a wonderful view over the farm fields leading into the town of London. Years passed and the city grew up around this place as it endured for over 150 years. 

Preserving vernacular buildings is just as important as keeping Eldon House and other large, elaborate homes: we don't save nearly enough buildings that represent the working-class person of the day.  A good example of this is the number of plantation houses saved and restored as compared to the slave quarters, even though the humble slave quarters were lived in and represent the lives of many more people.  We should pay special attention to and cherish those rare small buildings from the past that provide insight into the lives of everyday folks.

I applaud the seven councillors who voted to save the Carling Cottage, and thank them for their serious consideration of this important home.  The members of the community who supported keeping the house intact also require recognition for trying to conserve an important property. 

Everyone needs to know that the greenest building is the one already builtUnfortunately, the demolition equipment has arrived and deconstruction is expected to begin tomorrow (December 3), so we must bid farewell to the Carling Cottage.  Maybe you can pick up a piece of history from the rubble and pay tribute to the past inhabitants.


Monday, 15 December 2014

Do worry, bee not happy

Most people know intuitively the importance of pollinators to the food chain. Pollinators include bats, birds, and primarily a variety of insects such as bees and butterflies: without them, about one third of our food would disappear. Bees in particular play a very important role, ensuring pollination of food crops and plants in the wild.

The past few weeks have highlighted the importance of pollinators. On November 24th, Plight of the Pollinators: making London pollinator friendly took place at the Central Library and attendees packed the Wolf Performance Hall. Experts in the field told the audience how bee populations are suffering, mostly from the advent of the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on food crops and even in plants at garden centres.

The next day, the provincial government released a discussion paper entitled Pollinator Health: a proposal for enhancing pollinator health and reducing the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in Ontario.  It calls for a reduction in over-winter the mortality rate of honey bees to 15% by 2020, and reducing the number of acres of corn and soybean treated by neonicotinoids by 80% by 2017.  

On December 9 (last Tuesday), two Ontario ministries held a public forum to have input on the discussion paper.  I sat at a rather insightful table with three farmers and three local-food activists. 

The representative from the agriculture ministry told us that in 2014, honey bees experienced a 58% mortality rate.  In 2012 and 2013, 70% and 75% (respectively) of the dead honey bees had neonicotinoid residue.

One of the farmers at the table tends to just under 100 acres, and she claimed that reducing the use of neonicotinoids would just mean farmers would have to find other pesticides, possibly reverting to older products that potentially pose more harm.  While she doesn't use neonicotinoids on all of her crops, she believed in the necessity for her sweet corn and snap peas.  Luckily for her, sweet corn currently falls under the exception list for the proposed ban.

The other two farmers had a larger operation, planting soybean for many seasons. They claimed that they saw very little difference in pest control between the untreated seeds and the seeds treated with neonicotinoids, and in fact that the treated seeds grew with more difficulty.  The only problem now: they can't purchase untreated seeds.

Applying neonicotinoids has the goal of killing insects that eat the plants; however, it has a detrimental effect on the good insects doing the pollinating.  The substances are derived from nicotine and gets used on almost 100% of corn crops and about 60% of soybeans - which, according to the representative from the environment ministry, gives little to no benefit for the latter.

In all, the proposed ban focusses on where the pesticides are needed and eliminate needless application. The way the neonicotinoids attack the nervous system of bees leads to the question of the effects on human health: we eat the very food treated with these pesticides.

Pollinator garden at Church of the Transfiguration

I have had the great opportunity to visit some pollinator gardens in London, three of them located at churches in the city (Church of the Transfiguration, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Andrew Memorial).  I encourage you to visit them and learn more.

There are some easy ways to help your local pollinators, including planting a pollinator-friendly garden (check out the University of Guelph's Honey Bee Research Centre), ensuring that the plants you purchase at the garden centre are free of neonicotinoids, and pull those weeds instead of using any chemical pesticides.  Make sure those plants are native species, too!

If we take good care of the bees, the bees will take good care of us.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Keeping PACE with our energy use


During this term of council, I have been proud to serve on London’s Advisory Committee on the Environment (ACE). The committee provides input, advice, and makes recommendations to City Council on environmental matters affecting London.

Aside from firsthand experience with how thing get done at City Hall, serving on the committee has given me a chance to discuss exciting new ideas for improving our city’s environmental performance with smart and committed fellow citizens. One of these proposals I think is so promising that I have included it in my platform: a Property Assessment for Clean Energy (PACE) program.

Here’s how it works: property owners make energy improvements to their homes or buildings. This may include installing high-efficiency furnaces and water heaters, new windows and doors or other air sealing measures, renewable heat sources such as solar and geothermal, and more. Rather than paying the cost of these improvements up front, property owners would pay for them over several years in instalments added to their property tax assessment.


There are several benefits. By making our homes more energy efficient, we reduce carbon emissions that are contributing to climate change. Property owners who participate save money on utility bills, since they are using less energy.  They money they save goes toward paying the loan back, and what remains left over can be spent in the local economy.

Energy improvements are beneficial, but they can have high upfront costs. A PACE program will put these kinds of improvements within reach for families with a wider range of incomes, allowing them to save money and lower their carbon footprint as well.

Another upside to PACE is that even if a family plans to sell their home within a few years, energy improvements still make sense. The new furnace, windows, or other improvements stay with the home and continue generating savings for the new owner. The cost also stays with the property, and the new owners who are seeing the benefits of a more energy efficient home continue to pay for the improvements on their property tax assessment until they are paid for.

The other part of this win-win-win situation is economic stimulus.  There will be many local jobs created for the vendors and installers of qualifying equipment, which means the money being spent by property owners will go to companies in London to employ workers living in the city.

The City of London is currently investigating the benefits of such a program and how it could be implemented here. An ACE proposal in 2013 was passed by City Council, with staff investigating in 2014 for a planned pilot project in 2015. Several US states have made this kind of program available already. Toronto also approved a pilot program in 2013, which they call the Home Energy Loan Program, or HELP.

I have championed a PACE program at the Advisory Committee on the Environment and will continue to do so on City Council. It makes sense to provide Londoners with easier ways to improve energy efficiency at their homes and businesses, and to create a stable environment for employment in this sector. We can help people save money, create jobs, and make London an environmental leader at all at the same time.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

How taxes work for you


Taxes are nobody’s favourite. Most people don’t enjoy paying them and don’t enjoy talking about them either. Doing both is important, though. Since property taxes provide the annual budget for crucial city services, Londoners need to understand how they work and so we can discuss how to make them work better.

There’s a brief video by the City of London that explains how property taxes are calculated – using the cost to provide services and the value of properties. It’s even more important to understand where this money goes. Even if you’re not a homeowner, you pay property taxes indirectly through your rent.

About 15% of your property tax bill is a provincial tax to fund education. The rest goes into the annual budget for city services. That includes everything the city provides  police, fire, and ambulance services, roads, sidewalks, transit, parks, trails, museums, recreation centres, and libraries. A breakdown of how much goes to each of those services is available on the city Web site.  Keep in mind that Ontario municipalities receive only 9% of total tax revenues, yet are responsible for over 50% of the infrastructure.


These are things we need as a city, so obviously I can’t promise to make your taxes go away if I’m elected. What I can promise is that I will consider with every decision and vote, whether the proposal at hand provides good value for taxes that Londoners pay. I also will strive to provide you with clear information on how well the city is delivering its services. The city has a responsibility to provide the services that Londoners rely on. It also has a responsibility to collect only as much in tax as it needs to deliver those services, and to do so in a fair and transparent way.

That doesn’t mean we can get rid of everything that isn’t police, garbage collection, or transit. The other parts of the city budget – things like culture and recreational facilities – are also crucial to making London a good place to live, but they need to make sense.

Part of being respectful of the taxes that Londoners pay is making sure that the city grows in a responsible and sustainable fashion. As noted in The London Plan, all growth patterns are not created equal. The more spread out the city becomes as it grows, the less efficient and the more expensive it will be to provide adequate transit, waste removal, and utility services. That means the city would need a higher tax rate to provide these required services.

On the other hand, if London grows in a more compact way – growing up rather than out in areas that can handle it, and finding infill projects that are a good match for the existing community – it will be much easier and less expensive to maintain and improve city services.

On council, I will support budgeting and planning decisions that provide Londoners with good value for the public dollar. I will work to ensure that your taxes are spent in meaningful ways that improve the city, that we take into account how we are going to provide services over the long term, and that you have access to information about how well the city is doing on both of those things.

Taxes still may not be your favourite thing, but you can have more confidence in how they are being used to build and maintain our city.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Common courtesy for your neighbours


I have heard many ideas and concerns from Ward 6 residents over the last eight months of my campaign. There’s one issue though that has come up at every single debate, and more frequently than others at the door. That issue is student housing.

Londoners are proud of our college and our university. We know how many people they teach and employ; however, they can sometimes be a source of neighbourhood conflict for those living nearby. Ward 6 residents have reported untidy lots, buildings with heritage value left in disrepair, and safety concerns with large numbers of people sharing a single-family home.

How do we find a balance between making sure there is affordable housing for students and young people, while maintaining the character of our neighbourhoods? There are a number of things to consider.

First, there is legal precedent that more than three unrelated people sharing single home makes it a lodging house. Lodging houses are not allowed in R1 residential zones, where only single detached homes are allowed. Some neighbourhood groups would like to see this implemented in London, and in general, I support the idea. Not everywhere is an R1 zone, so lodging houses would still be allowed in higher density residential areas – places that are more likely to have the services, like transit, to support the extra people.

Fixing transit in London will also help our neighbourhoods over time. If students can get quickly and efficiently across town by bus or bike, more will be willing to live farther away from campus. That means they will get to know the city beyond the campus bubble better, and hopefully start to think of London as home. It also means that housing all of the city’s students won’t fall to just a few neighbourhoods in the same way it does now.

In many cases though, students or tenants aren’t the problem at all. Some landlords neglect their properties, putting in the minimum amount of time and money it takes to find renters. This is where we see uncut lawns, buildings in disrepair, and where we start to worry about the safety of some of our student neighbours.

I hope there aren't any properties as bad as this in your neighbourhood!

Some of these landlords aren’t concerned at all about how their properties are reflecting on the community because it isn’t their community. Many live in Toronto or even further away, and own property in London either because their children were once students here, or merely see it as a good investment. We need to make sure these property owners do their part, even if they aren’t around to live with the results.

Most of the things neighbours complain about are covered under existing by-laws, whether it’s maintaining the yard, disposing of waste, or making sure that fire safety regulations are observed. The trouble is that most of these by-laws are only enforced when a complaint gets filed.  

London can do better at holding absentee landlords accountable, for the sake of both long-term residents and renters. We can increase inspections under the Residential Rental Licensing program, and also step up by-law enforcement in targeted areas near campus.

All of these measures will help maintain the character of our neighbourhoods, while keeping all residents safe and allowing them to enjoy their community.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The need to feed


In my last post I talked about London’s thriving biotechnology sector. Now, I’d like to talk about one of London’s other economic strengths, and arguably a more widely recognized one – agriculture and food production.

London is geographically blessed in just about every way that matters to the food supply chain. When it comes to growing and producing food, processing it, distributing it, and finally, consuming it, London has everything it takes to be a hub for fresh, delicious Ontario food.

First, we have the farmland. Although most Londoners live in urban areas, London is actually over 40% rural. As The London Plan reminds us, about 90% of the land London annexed in 1993 is Class 1 agricultural land. Only 0.5% of land in Canada is Class 1 agricultural land, which means our ability to grow high-quality produce is valuable.


London is also well-positioned for food processing and food distribution. Dr. Oetker chose London for its new plant because of our skilled workforce and easy access to key markets (as well as some help from the province). We have the right people for the job. More than 6 000 Londoners are employed in the food and beverage processing sector. We’re also conveniently located on two 400-series highways, close to two of the county’s busiest border crossings, and within a day’s drive of 150 million consumers.

Finally, Londoners have a keen interest in consuming food that is locally grown or locally produced. Londoners flock to food-related festivals whenever given the chance. We have an expanding network of farmers’ markets. We have spots like the Western Fair Farmers’ Market that also acts as a start-up space and incubator for new food businesses. We also have three new craft breweries that have opened in London in the past year.

Londoners know instinctively that growing, processing, distributing, and celebrating food are things we do well. Along with medicine and other biotechnology, this is a sector London’s next council should focus on nurturing. We must also make sure that message gets out far beyond our city boundaries, so that other potential Dr. Oetkers know about our advantages. Let’s show the world all of the delicious things London has to offer!

Friday, 17 October 2014

The science propelling London's future


Bringing jobs to London is one of the topics that comes up most frequently – at debates, in calls and e-mails from residents, and at the door. I've already told you about my plan to boost entrepreneurship in London, and to make it easier for start-ups to get off the ground. Now I'd like to discuss some of London’s economic strengths: knowing what we’re good at will show us where we can expand and intensify.

On of the areas where we are thriving is biotechnology. Many of us are aware that London's hospitals and university, including a medical school, make us a regional centre for healthcare and health research, but there's more to it than that. Aside from healing people and training people to heal, London professionals develop and manufacture medical equipment and treatment devices, practice high-quality sports and exercise medicine, produce medical imaging technology, and provide support and services to biotech start-up companies.


According to the LEDC, the sector employs more than 21 000 in private sector industry, hospitals and research facilities including more than 2 000 researchers. 

We can build on this strength. Let's continue to highlight our city's biotechnology expertise to the world. It will mean more top-tier medical research and products for Canadians, and more career opportunities for Londoners.

The Stiller Centre for Technology Commercialization is a fantastic start. This facility is designed to help start-ups find markets for their biotechnology ventures. It provides lab space, flexible lease arrangements, and shared services for new enterprises in biotech areas like drug development, medical devices and imaging, cellular therapy, and alternative energy.

TechAlliance, the regional innovation centre for London and surrounding areas, offers programs for start-ups in the life sciences (plus digital media, clean technology, and advanced manufacturing) as well.

Large and small, public and private, London is full of biotechnology success stories. Famous examples include Trudell Medical International, developer of innovative aerosol drug delivery devices, the internationally recognized Fowler Kennedy Sports Medicine Centre, and the Canadian Surgical Technologies and Advanced Robotics Centre (CSTAR), which trains surgeons on minimally-invasive procedures.

As we promote this robust sector of our city to the rest of Canada and the world, London will continue to attract top researchers and entrepreneurs. It’s important that we begin seeing ourselves this way as well – as a place where good, exciting, and innovative things happen.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The many virtues of arts and culture


Arts and culture are integral to what makes a city worth living in. A thriving cultural scene helps to attract and retain residents, and contributes to our sense of community. The arts provide entertainment for weekends and evenings. They give us something to share with our families and friends and encourage us to look at the world in new ways.

What many people don't realize is that arts and culture also contribute greatly to our economy. The arts strengthen and support local merchants, and drive tourism. They also spark creativity and innovation across all sectors.

London's Cultural Profile Report, published in 2013, estimates that the cultural sector contributes $540M per year to London’s economy. In 2011, the city spent $60 per capita on arts and culture, while the cultural sector contributed $1 475 per capita to the city's economy. Obviously this is not an area the city can ignore, not even those who claim to focus exclusively on jobs and economic growth.

At Grosvenor Lodge during Doors Open London & Culture Days

It's clear to me as someone born and raised in London, and who continues to enjoy living here, that we have incredible offerings in this area. The Palace Theatre’s recent production of Death of a Salesman, as well as Doors Open London have reminded me of that fact recently (and I'm sure the Lost Soul Stroll will do the same later this month).

How do we strengthen and promote London's talent, and keep it well connected with other sectors in the city? London's Cultural Prosperity Plan, published together with the profile report mentioned above, gives a few strategic directions on that front:
  • Strengthen the economic growth of culture
  • Support cultural programming
  • Leverage London’s cultural assets
  • Celebrate and promote culture

We also need the right facilities for arts and culture in London. New facilities should accommodate many different artistic offerings, whether they are choirs or theatre, comedy or ballets. There should be room for all sizes of art shows, whether a small collection of visual art pieces or a visiting international act. When the John Labatt Centre opened in 2002, it was built with the multiple purposes of hosting hockey and other sporting events, as well as musical acts and a multitude of other events that have been held there. Why not do the same with any new arts venues?

The Cultural Prosperity Plan is a vision of London as “a culturally rich city that uses creativity of its citizens to make a place that will prosper in a new economic age”. As your councillor, I will work to implement this plan with a focus on leveraging London's existing assets. If this is done well, the other strategies will fall into place more easily.

In the meantime, I'll look forward to seeing you at our performances, museums, and galleries!