HomeUrban PlanningGastown 2030: Fewer cars, wider sidewalks

Gastown 2030: Fewer cars, wider sidewalks

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The Gastown Business Improvement Society has launched “Gastown Tomorrow” — an urban design study to understand how changes to the public realm — including making the area more pedestrian friendly and relocating the steam clock — will affect businesses, residents and visitors.

Gastown Tomorrow
Initiative branding. Credit: Gastown BIA

Video: Gastown Tomorrow launch video

Gastown Tomorrow branding. "Old soul, new spirit."
“Old soul, new spirit.” Credit: Gastown BIA

The BIA has engaged ph5 Architecture Inc. for the study, in the hopes of helping to shape their advocacy position to the city for the Gastown Complete Streets Plan.

“While Gastown remains a thriving business community, there is a sense of urgency to restore this National Historic Site to the jewel of the city that it needs to be. This initiative aims to engage the whole community in conversation, and to spur the city to action,” says Walley Wargolet, the new executive director of the Gastown Business Improvement Society.

Specific proposals for Gastown include Pedestrian Priority Streets; increased sidewalk widths to support walking, street activities, and accessibility; and increasing opportunities for cycling, bicycle parking and for people to gather.

Gastown steam clock
Steam clock. Credit: Gastown Business Improvement Society

There are four guiding principles:

  • Redistribute street space to increase quantity and quality of pedestrian and gathering spaces.
  • Increase equity and inclusion in public realm for all residents, workers, and visitors.
  • Preserve and enhance the fine grain heterogeneity of places, activities and pedestrian networks in Gastown.
  • Recognize the layered legacy of Gastown including First Nations and other communities connected to this place. Build upon the material, social and cultural palimpsest to enhance the heritage assets and character of the Gastown Historic District.
West Cordova looking east
West Cordova looking east. Credit: Gastown Business Improvement Society
Gaoler's Mews Gastown
Gaoler’s Mews. Credit: Gastown Business Improvement Society

Five interventions are proposed:

Traffic calm Gastown

Changes to calm traffic and improve the pedestrian environment without prohibiting vehicles on streets are proposed, including:

  • reducing traffic flow by diverting westbound traffic south, before it enters Gastown, by using Main and Columbia streets
  • Closing Carrall to traffic between Trounce Alley and Maple Tree Square (already being trialed during pandemic)
  • Covert Cordova into a two-way street, until the Powell Street overpass, to help take some of the traffic load from Water Street, 
  • Convert Columbia into a two-way street
1. Traffic Calm Gastown
1. Traffic Calm Gastown. Credit: ph5 Architecture Inc.

Improve the Quality of the Public Realm

  • add more street trees, especially on Cordova
  • Widen sidewalks on north side of Water Street to take advantage of sun exposure
  • Expand the plaza at Cordova and Water street as the “gateway to Gastown”
  • Remove significant portion of on-street parking on Water Street
2. Improve the quality of the public realm
2. Improve the quality of the public realm. Credit: ph5 Architecture Inc.

Redistribute street-sidewalk ratio

  • The north sidewalk is widened to take advantage of sunlight. 
  • Sidewalks include a flex zone for businesses to provide seating and merchandise display, clearance for pedestrians, and a utility strip for mailboxes, bike racks, and other necessary street furniture. 
  • New trees are planted on Cordova St, where they are currently lacking. 
  • A transit priority lane on Cordova Street allows for more efficient public transit
  • Water Street is reduced to one lane
3. Redistribute street-sidewalk ratio
3. Redistribute street-sidewalk ratio. Credit: ph5 Architecture Inc.
3. Redistribute Street-Sidewalk Ratio
3. Redistribute street-sidewalk ratio. Credit: ph5 Architecture Inc.

Provide Areas for Public Gathering

Recommendations for public gathering areas at the west and east edges of Gastown are described.

  • Create “Gateway to Gastown” at Water and Cordova, and consider relocating Steam Clock to this location
  • Use of higher quality materials such as granite and red brick pavers
  • Enhance Maple Tree Square and Blood Alley Square
4. Provide areas for public gathering
4. Provide areas for public gathering. Credit: ph5 Architecture Inc.

Develop Pedestrian Networks

Plans illustrate how public gathering areas at the west and east edges of the neighbourhood tie into enhanced pedestrian network including sidewalk, lanes, and privately owned plazas.

  • With two-way traffic on Cordova and Cambie, it would be possible to temporarily close the 300-block of Water for events by diverting traffic south on Cambie
  • Garbage bins should be reduced and eventually eliminated in all lanes. This would create a cleaner environment and make more public space available for other uses.
  • The recommendations of Trounce Alley/Blood Alley Square Solid Waste Management Study support a “mini transfer station” as a centralized storage facility and a single hauler to reduce the number of bins and large garbage trucks in the lane.
5. Develop pedestrian networks
5. Develop pedestrian networks. Credit: ph5 Architecture Inc.
5. Develop pedestrian networks east
5. Develop pedestrian networks east. Credit: ph5 Architecture Inc.

Artists envision Gastown of tomorrow

As part of the visioning process for an enhanced public realm in the neighbourhood, several designers and artists are participating in an outdoor gallery exhibition on the exterior of the Vancouver Film School on Water Street.

Shoe designer John Fluevog—Water Street

Sketch by John Fluevog
Sketch by John Fluevog, with a concept of moving sculptures and a “Steamtown” theme. Credit: Supplied via GBIS

Pour L’Air designer Jocelyn Fortier—Blood Alley

Multimedia sketch by Jocelyn of Blood Alley
Multimedia sketch by Jocelyn of Blood Alley. Credit: Supplied via GBIS

PlaidFox Studio interior designer Ben Leavitt—Gateway to Gastown 

Ben Leavitt sketch
Sketch by Ben Leavitt of the plaza at Water and Cordova Streets. Credit: Supplied via GBIS

Mighty Canvas art director Charles Guan—Trounce Alley

Charles Guan Gastown art
Art by Charles Guan of the alley between Water and Cordova, between the Gastown and Woodwards parkades. Credit: Supplied via GBIS

Fashion designer Anna Kosturova—Maple Tree Square

Sketch by Anna Kosturova
Sketch by Anna Kosturova of a pedestrian-friendly and vehicle-free Water Street. Credit: Supplied via GBIS

Survey now open

A survey on the public realm improvements is open to the public at: gastown.org/tomorrow

Gastown neighbourhood coverage on urbanYVR

Peter Meiszner
Peter Meisznerhttps://www.peterforvancouver.com/
📢 I am running for Vancouver City Council with A Better City (ABC) and Ken Sim! Visit peterforvancouver.com for more information.
Hayer Town Centre Langley
Hayer Town Centre Langley


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