Robson Square to permanently close for traffic

Closure comes after city staff appeased opponents, such as the Downtown Vancouver BIA

DVBIA CEO Charles Gauthier surveyed nearby business owners and was surprised that they supported closing the block to traffic | Jen St. Denis

Vancouver City Council voted April 20 to permanently close Robson Street between Howe Street and Hornby Street to motor vehicles, including buses, to create a public square in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

City staff will now seek public feedback on how to design the 800 block of Robson Street and determine what kinds of programming should be in the area.

No date has yet been set for the closure but the concept has won support from longtime opponents such as the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA).

“We have come around,” DVBIA CEO Charles Gauthier told Business in Vancouver after the vote. He was opposed to the closure because of transportation disruptions and inconveniences, when BIV spoke to Gauthier last April .

“We didn’t like the fact that there were closures in the summer and the programming wasn’t to the standard that we wanted to see,” he said after the vote.

“We said to the city that if it’s a year-round closure, there has to be funding available and programming available to make that happen.”

Gauthier said that he believes city staff were accommodating and integrated those concerns into a report that will go before council later this year.

That vote, Gauthier believes, will come with funding attached to ensure that the block does not become a dead zone.

His organization’s change of position also came after they surveyed area businesses and spoke with Pacific Centre owners Cadillac Fairview, Gauthier said.

“There’s a lot more confidence that people are getting around through other means and they are walking to destinations,” he said.

Robson Square’s original design almost 40 years ago was that it be closed to vehicles.

“Transforming Robson Square into a traffic-free, permanent public plaza will bring vibrancy to an underutilized space in the city year round,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

“Robson Square is a natural gathering hub at the centre of downtown where residents gravitate to socialize, engage and creatively express themselves. A permanent plaza at Robson Square will be a mainstay to enhance Vancouver’s walkability, vibrant culture and liveability.”

The Robson Square complex will be the largest public space downtown, aside from the Seawall and Stanley Park, providing approximately 121,000 square meters for public use.