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October 12, 2023 at 9:16 PM

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City launches engagement for Gastown Public Space Plan

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After approving a Council motion to improve Gastown public spaces in May of this year, the City has now launched an engagement process to support the creation of a public space plan for the neighbourhood. This is a great step – with a number of important opportunities tied to the process. Two of the most prominent include the renewal and enhancement of Maple Tree Square – a central public space in the neighbourhood, and the potential pedestrianization of Water Street.

There are other ways to strengthen the network of public spaces in the area that also need to be included in the discussion – including a consideration of street-end plazas, attention to alleys, and re-opening the currently privatized CPR right-of-way. In fact, integrating the many different considerations around gathering and mobility (and doing so in a inclusive fashion) make this a more complicated process than one might think. (For more on these and other Gastown possibilities, check out this article from earlier in 2023). For that reason alone, it’s great to see this process move forward. This is an chance for bold improvements to the area, not half measures.

To that end, we encourage you to take part in the process and share your perspective on how the public spaces in the area can be improved. As part of the present engagement process, a survey has been created. There are also several pop-up engagement events scheduled. Details on these opportunities can be found in the City’s October 12 media release, reproduced below.

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Share your thoughts on the future of public space in Gastown

The City is taking steps to make Gastown’s unique streets, laneways and public spaces more people-friendly. In response to Council direction, staff are launching a public engagement process on the Gastown Public Spaces Plan to establish a shared vision for a vibrant destination with more seating, patios, live music, events, festivals and active transportation options. The plan will also explore transforming Water Street into a pedestrian zone, either seasonally or year-round.

Residents, local businesses and local organizations are invited to get involved through a city-wide survey and in-person pop-up events later this month.

“I’m really excited that we are starting this very important conversation with Vancouver on the future of public space in Gastown, including restoring its streets and sidewalks and making Water Street a pedestrian zone,” says Mayor Ken Sim. “We want to hear from area residents, businesses and all of Vancouver to ensure that the changes Gastown needs work for everyone. I want to thank the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and the səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations for their partnership on this project as we work together to ensure their visibility is part of Gastown’s future public spaces.”

The new Gastown Public Spaces Plan will serve as a guide to:

  • Establish a vibrant, people-focused Gastown with enhanced gathering places, streets and laneways to support a range of activities.
  • Explore how to pedestrianize Water Street, seasonally or year-round, starting with a pilot in summer 2024.
  • Improve the street network, including walking, cycling, transit and vehicle connections and consideration of Cordova as a two-way street.
  • Advance Reconciliation with the local Nations and support their visibility on their lands.
  • Evolve and deepen the unique heritage feel of the area, including improved street materials and amenities.
  • Identify phased project timing and funding.

Some of the streets and sidewalks in Gastown are in poor condition and repairs and maintenance will continue alongside the development of the Gastown Public Spaces Plan.

Gastown is situated on the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and the səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) Nations, however, its streets and public spaces do not currently reflect the histories, culture and visibility of the local Nations. The Gastown Public Spaces Plan is an opportunity to advance the City’s Reconciliation efforts and work with the Nations to support their visibility on their lands.

“This initiative by the City of Vancouver is an important step forward in sharing our deep history and connection with the area now known as Vancouver,” says Sxwixwtn, Wilson Williams, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw Spokesperson and Council Member. “We look forward to seeing our history and our culture reflected in these shared public spaces, for all to enjoy.”

“I am pleased to see the progress of this important work of increasing visibility of səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) alongside our relatives xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band) and the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish Nation) in Gastown,” says Chief Jen Thomas, səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation). “This good work led by the City of Vancouver helps put the face of səlilwətaɬ back on our shared traditional territory, and I am looking forward to seeing this vibrant space reflect our Indigenous cultures and communities.”

Share your thoughts

There are many ways to get involved:

  • Complete an online survey (translations in Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese available by request).
  • Visit us at an upcoming pop-up information event:
    • 131 Water Street
      • October 19, 11 am to 6 pm
      • October 20, 11:30 am to 7 pm
      • October 21, 2 pm to 6 pm
      • November 16, 11 am to 6 pm
      • November 17, 11:30 am to 7 pm
      • November 18, 2 pm to 6 pm
    • ​333 Abbott Street
      • November 9, 2 pm to 6:30 pm
      • November 10, 8:30 am to 1 pm

Public feedback will be shared in an engagement summary and presented to Council in early 2024. Input from businesses, including their loading and access needs, will play an integral role in shaping the Water Street pilot in summer 2024.

More information on the Gastown Public Spaces Plan is available at vancouver.ca/gastown

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