Expanding Robson Square – Let’s Make It Happen!
The City is proposing to expand Robson Square and permanently pedestrianize the 800-block of Robson Street. This is a fantastic idea, and one that the VPSN has long championed.
The 800-block space has been the site of a popular temporary plaza for the last five summers. The current proposal would now keep the area car-free year-round.
This makes good sense. The block in question – all 90 metres of it – has more people walking on it than almost any other block in the city. It’s a lively one too: the site of innumerable events – from markets to protests to music festivals. The area is also a well-loved meeting spot, with some of the best people-watching opportunities in the city.
There are other benefits as well. For one, it has a more intimate feel to it than its larger cousin on the north side of the Gallery, benefiting from the mixed-scale of the surrounding architecture and the verdant landscaping that defines the Law Courts. There’s good sun as well – which always serves to animate a space. Consider, as well, the symbiosis that the site has with the surrounding cafes and restaurants that do a good, brisk trade at the hands of plaza users. Grabbing a sandwich or coffee and sitting on the Art Gallery steps is a true pleasure.
However, bisected by car-traffic as it currently is, this important public space has never reached its full potential. The presence of cars creates a barrier to programming, congesting the limited space and constraining its uses.
That’s why this proposal is so important. Permanently closing this space will be one a big step forward. It will open up the possibility of year-round programming – everything from the additional of more seating, tables and public realm features, to a broader array of events and activities.
There have been – and we have always noted this – fair points raised about the impact that pedestrianization will have on transit users and drivers, particularly those living in the West End. The proposed re-routing of the #5 bus goes some way towards resolving these challenges. It’s not a perfect solution, (we would have preferred a Burrard>Georgia diversion), but on balance it attends to many of the concerns that were raised. Similarly car drivers who are used to driving on this street will also need to plan new routes. We feel these are fair trade-offs to make in creating an enhanced plaza area that all residents and visitors can enjoy.
Pedestrianizing the 800-block is a great move – and we offer our complete support for this initiative. We hope you will too.
The proposal will be discussed at City Council next Wednesday, April 20. You can read the related staff report here.
Please consider taking a few moments to share your thoughts on the idea with City Council. You can send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published April 13, 2016.