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Stretch of Vancouver's Granville Street getting pedestrian-friendly makeover

Last Updated Jun 9, 2021 at 11:37 pm PDT

(Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Granville Street will be closed to vehicles and buses between Smithe and Helmcken Streets on weekends

The idea is to make this stretch of a downtowns street a destination, increase foot traffic in an area hard-hit by COVID

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — In a bid to get people back into Vancouver’s downtown core this summer, a stretch of Granville Street will be transformed into a “pedestrian-friendly promenade.”

With the passing of a motion at city council Tuesday, the city has been given the green light to launch a pilot project that will see Granville Street closed to vehicles and buses between Smithe and Helmcken Streets on weekends.

Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung notes support for the motion was “unanimous and enthusiastic,” and the hope is that it will make this stretch of street a destination.

“The vision really is for people-first pedestrian-friendly public space that takes vehicles in transit off the street and provides a large extended pop-up plaza for two blocks so that there’s more space for people to gather and enjoy being outside,” she explains.

“Hopefully we’ll get people enjoying some food outdoors and some local music and potentially getting some buskers out there as well. I’m also incredibly excited about the opportunity to support local musicians. I think we’ve all been missing live music and it would be great to see some local buskers or other musicians having the ability to perform to sort of small groups of people and enjoying that outdoors.”

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The proposal also has the full support of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

“Granville Street has always been a cultural entertainment destination which is exciting but downtown has been the hardest hit during the pandemic in terms of the foot traffic being down and with the highest number of retail and store closures. I think this is a great way to get people going back downtown,” Kirby-Yung says.

When COVID-19 hit, with social distancing and gathering outdoors becoming strategies for prevention, Kirby-Yung says the city had to adapt how it thinks about the use of public space.

“It’s just a move to continue to use of our public space for people, and so we saw that with the amazing success of the temporary patio program. It’s clear now that seasonal patios are going to be here to stay,” she says.

“I think that these pedestrian-friendly spaces and public plazas are the next wave of really using our public space to maximize it for the enjoyment of people.”

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An exact date for the project launch hasn’t been decided yet, but the hope is that it will be up and running by mid-July. While bus detours may be an inconvenience for some riders, Kirby-Yung thinks it’s possible ridership will increase if people become interested in checking out this new space.

“This is a great opportunity to get people back on the bus, and coming back downtown.”