the view from downtown

The rise of the Whitehorse downtown condominium complexes is changing both the view from downtown and the view of downtown.

The rise of the Whitehorse downtown condominium complexes is changing both the view from downtown and the view of downtown.

When a condominium beyond one storey in height goes up adjacent residences, typically detached single-story houses, have their views interrupted.

Previously they might have been able to see the forested mountains that ring the Yukon’s capital.

No more.

Now they are often faced with the current preferred building-cladding material, corrugated metal.

Those within the condominium, at least those on the second storey or higher, have magnificent views by virtue of being able to peer over the existing downtown housing stock.

Or at least they used to.

In the ultimate of ironies, even these residents are finding their views are being interrupted by the building of even newer condominiums than the one they inhabit. 

If the current rate of construction continues, only those living right at the river’s edge will be able to see the mountains from their homes.

One of the attractions of living in Whitehorse is the visual awareness that raw nature is all around.

It is not like living in a southern city.

That is where the views have been taken over by tall buildings and billboards.

In Whitehorse not only is there an expectation that one must be able to walk from one’s home into the forested mountains, but one should also be able to see them from one’s home.

Therein lies a problem.

If every residence in Whitehorse was to have a view of the mountains it would require a continuous sprawl of single-storey houses spreading beyond the outskirts of the existing city limits.

Cynics among us would state that is what already exists, but compared with the suburbs of Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver this condition does not yet exist in Whitehorse.

The downtown condominium developments that are currently occurring do help alleviate some of the need for urban sprawl.

This takes some of the pressure off developing the forested areas within walking distance of existing Whitehorse residences.

The tradeoff is that a lot of downtown residents are going to lose their views.

Of course it is an easy walk up to the clay cliffs or along the river to see one.

But it is not the same as having a view from the living room window.

The other viewscape that is changing is the appearance of downtown.

The condominium complexes are having the effect of making downtown more urban and even, dare it be said, cosmopolitan.

This has resulted in a wide variety of restaurant choices, trendy coffee shops, well-planned river- and cliff-walking trails and designated bicycle lanes on busy roads.

It has also indirectly resulted in the removal of drunken individuals from public areas and the demolition of crack houses.

The is indicative of what is to come.

Individuals who have paid a lot of money for a high-end condo are not going to be very tolerant of anti-social behaviour that could potentially lower property values.

Issues such as stopping public drinking in downtown public spaces and on enforcing the closure of known downtown drug houses are going to become frequent public requests to law-enforcement officials.

Downtown Whitehorse has constantly changed to meet the whims of its inhabitants.

For the foreseeable future, the view from downtown is going to be restricted.

The view of downtown is going to be more upscale.

The view within downtown might be overwhelmingly confined to those who identify with and can afford the condominium lifestyle.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist who lives in a downtown condominium complex.