Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces


March 12, 2018 at 9:09 AM

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Keep the 800-block / Robson Square free from motorized vehicles

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Urban Reef - Seating in Robson Square

Urban Reef - Seating in Robson Square

A motion being considered at City Council this week calls for motorized vehicles to be introduced to 800-block of Robson – the expansion area for Robson Square. This would be a major step back for an area that many consider to be the “heart” of downtown Vancouver.

Some background: City Council approved the creation of a permanent public plaza here in 2016 after several years of successful seasonal closures. The space is slated for a range of upgrades over the next year.

In fact, the 800-block / Robson Square is in the middle of a design process. A general concept has been shared with the public and discussed at City Council. The overall design will properly tie together the three blocks of the Robson Square (including the recently completed North Plaza complex) – as was Arthur Erickson’s original intent for the space.

In the meantime, pedestrians on the 800-Robson block are far better supported than they were when vehicles were allowed through. Allowing motorized vehicles through the space will render 800-Robson functionally useless as a plaza. It is also, fundamentally at odds with the idea of supporting active transportation – which, oddly, is a supposed goal of the Council motion.

But how could this opportunity be used to improve the Council motion?

Here’s one idea: Council could direct staff to come up with an interim programming strategy for the space in advance of the full stewardship strategy that is currently in development. Regular programming would help to ensure that the space is enlivened with activities for all community members. This could include cultural activities, art markets, and other plaza-friendly fun.

But whether or not a programming strategy is considered this week, it’s critical that the important work that’s been done to advance the 800-block/Robson Square project not be thrown out. Let’s keep moving the project forward, not backward, so that the plaza can flourish as a public space for everyone.

Show your support for the 800-block/Robson Square

  • Send a note to City Council to let them know that you support keeping the 800-block free from motorized vehicles. The motion is going to be introduced at Council on Tuesday, but will likely be referred to Wednesday’s Committee meeting for further discussion. You can use this City of Vancouver website to send a message to Mayor and Council.
  • Speak to Council. You can sign up to share your thoughts in person. To find out how to get your name on the speaker’s list, visit this webpage.

UPDATE (Tuesday, March 13) – We are pleased to report that the motion to introduce motorized vehicles to the 800-block / Robson Square was ruled “out of order” by City Council at their meeting earlier today. This is an important affirmation of Robson Square and its role as the heart of downtown Vancouver. Thank you to everyone that helped to spead the word!

Although things turned out for the better today, we remain concerned that the motion was introduced in the first place, and will be reaching out to all political parties to ensure that they understand the critical role that this public space plays in the life of the city.

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