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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

City of Vancouver launches strategy to encourage public spaces

The City of Vancouver has launched a new strategy to encourage more public spaces like plazas and activated laneways in the downtown core.

The Places for People Downtown program will establish guidelines and a framework to encourage the development of new public spaces.

The city says due to limited available land and “competing priorities”, demands on public spaces have never been stronger.

The program will focus on:

  • Streets
  • Plazas
  • Laneways
  • Public open areas
  • Privately owned public spaces that are part of retail or office buildings

Two high-profile public spaces in the downtown core have recently been lost to development or are about to be. The former cherry tree plaza on Alberni Street was demolished to make way for a new, freestanding luxury retail unit; and the popular plaza outside the Pacific Centre rotunda at Howe and West Georgia, will soon be replaced by a new, three-storey retail building.

This will be the first time the city has officially studied how people use public spaces throughout the downtown core. Twenty locations will be assessed beginning in August 2017, and people will also have the opportunity to share their views through surveys and workshops. A draft strategy will be presented to city council in 2018.

The new strategy will include spaces in:

  • Central Business District
  • Coal Harbour 
  • West End
  • Downtown South
  • Yaletown
  • False Creek North
  • Northeast False Creek

Mayor Gregor Robertson says downtown Vancouver has tremendous potential for creating new public spaces. 

“From plazas to parklets, and laneway art to public squares, downtown Vancouver has tremendous potential to deliver vibrant, inclusive and memorable public spaces,” said Robertson. “I’ve heard clearly that Vancouverites want more and better public spaces across the city.”

General Manager of Planning, Gil Kelley, says the strategy will ensure public spaces are connected to multiple modes of transportation, including bike lanes and transit.

“The Downtown is growing and changing along with the lifestyles of the population that lives, works and plays there. We want to look at the types of spaces people want and need, and develop a more coordinated approach that is centred on people to deliver public space and connect it to walking, cycling and transit.”

Plaza with Nordstrom in background
New plaza outside art gallery showing pavers, with Nordstrom in the background.

An existing public space is downtown Vancouver is about to re-open: the north plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The new plaza is nearly complete, with paving tiles in shades of grey, which replaces the former bark mulch landscaping. The derelict fountain was also removed from the plaza. New seating areas have been added throughout the plaza, as well as a covered bus shelter. The new plaza will officially reopen later this summer.

Art installation laneway
Artist’s impression of Ackery’s Alley with FIELD installed. The installation will clad the walls with red velvet and gold panels and introduce interactive sound and light effects. Credit: More Awesome Now

The Downtown Vancouver BIA is spearheading a campaign to activate an alley east of Granville Street between Robson and Smithe streets with an interactive light and sound display called FIELD.

To share your ideas on public spaces in Vancouver, visit vancouver.ca

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Peter Meiszner
Peter Meiszner
Peter Meiszner is an experienced journalist and media relations professional, based in Vancouver. As founder of urbanYVR.com, he has been reporting on urban development across the Lower Mainland since 2016, and has also served as vice-chair of the Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee. In October 2022, he was elected to Vancouver city council and is no longer actively reporting for urbanYVR.

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