Sweet, self-centred, visionary, stubborn. Art Cowie was all of those things and much, much more. Art was dead serious when he said to me that city authorities should name a park after him. The Cowie hubris was amazing, but no one was as dogged a defender of innovative planning and bold politics like Art.
With the loss of Cowie, Arthur Erickson and Abraham Rogatnick in the span of one year, Vancouver has lost some of its most original souls in too short a time.
Art was a park commissioner, city councillor, and MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena before famously stepping down for then new leader of the BC Liberal party Gordon Campbell. Art was never far from public life at any time. If there was a political campaign going on, or a gathering of political junkies, you could ALWAYS count on Art being in the room.
Art Cowie's great legacy may not be a city park – although friends may find a small corner of the city erect a bench and plant a few flowers and call it Cowie Park – it may be his insistence that Vancouver allow him to build fee-simple rowhouses.
Art was a fantastic writer, and published many fine and passionate articles on his website. One of his favourite topics was the fee-simple rowhouse. For this kind of housing to exist in the Province of BC legislation is required to allow for a so-called "party wall" or common wall owned by both property owners on each side.
Cowie lobbied for this change, and the first step was to get the City of Vancouver to approve a demonstration project at the corner of 33rd Avenue and Cambie Street. Because of sudden health issues, the project Cowie managed at 33rd & Cambie has stalled. One hopes that Cowie's legacy is honoured with that project being brought to completion.
There are rumours that the Province will be tabling legislation to allow for the common wall needed for fee-simple rowhouses, and that it will be referred to in name as "Art Cowie's act". There is a hint that this might come true, as Premier Campbell sent out this statement on Sunday evening in memory of Art:
Premier Gordon Campbell issued the following statement today on the death of noted B.C. planner and former Member of the Legislative Assembly Art Cowie.
“Today we say goodbye to a great British Columbian who dedicated himself tirelessly to the betterment of Vancouver and the entire province of British Columbia.
“Art Cowie’s passion for making Vancouver one of the most liveable cities in the world cannot be overstated. From his roles and responsibilities with the Vancouver Park Board to his position as director of the Pacific National Exhibition, Art was resolute in his belief about the importance of making Vancouver and British Columbia a better place for all citizens.
“Art was a successful community and regional planner, landscape architect, former Vancouver Park Board member, Vancouver City Counsellor and MLA who was generous with his time and passionate about his community.
“As MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena from 1991 to 1993, Art was committed to the future and well-being his constituents. His decision to step aside as MLA to give me the opportunity to serve British Columbians in the Legislature is something for which I shall be forever grateful.
“Art Cowie will be truly missed throughout British Columbia. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Art leaves behind his wife Cathy, daughters Lisa and Sharon, step-daughter Corrie and their families.