Posted by: VPSN | April 6, 2010

Robson Street Olympic-style closures?

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Councillor David Cadman (COPE) is introducing a motion at this morning’s Council meeting.  The text of the motion is rather brief, but the essence of it is that Cadman is requesting that City staff look at the possibility of Olympic-style closures on Robson Street on weekends this summer.  Part of the impetus, as we understand it, comes from additional renovation work taking place at Robson Square.

We wrote a letter to Council supporting the motion — and also raising a few points for their consideration.  Here’s an excerpt of that letter:

…The Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) offers our support, in principle, for the motion being put forward today by Councillor Cadman.  The motion in question, item B.2., calls for the closure of Robson Street, “as per the Olympics, on Saturdays and Sundays, during the summer months.”

Since it’s beginning in 2006, the VPSN has championed the importance of gathering spaces in Vancouver.  In particular, our Network recognizes the key role fulfilled by Robson Square and Robson Street – most recently demonstrated by the pivotal role played by the area during the Olympic and Paralympic celebrations.

Our Where’s the Square? Design competition (recently referenced in the Greenest City Action Team’s Bright Green Future report) also helped to identiy the many possibilities for gathering and celebration found in the area bounded by Robson, Hornby, Granville and Georgia.

As well, our correspondence to Council on Thursday, February 4, 2010 (re: Summer Spaces Monitoring and Evaluation) indicated our desire to utilize Robson Street and Robson Square between Burrard and Howe as a downtown Summer Spaces venue.  We felt – and continue to feel – that the site holds tremendous potential for a well-programmed gathering area.

For all these reasons, we are supportive of City staff reviewing this site with a view to creating community-oriented street-closures during the summer weekends.  However, we do also offer the following comments for your consideration:

  • The motion is imprecise as to which areas of Robson are to be considered.  Given that the pedestrian areas created along Robson were in some state of flux during the Games (in terms of number of blocks closed and degree of closure), some clarity is needed here.  We suggest that the space on Robson that is closed be restricted to an area east of Burrard and West of Granville – and ideally less than this.
  • One of the key factors in the success of the Robson Street Olympic closure was the larger communications effort associated with the Olympic Transportation Plan.  In order to accommodate any successful closure of Robson Street in the summer time, some effort and resources will be needed to support similar communications work.
  • In order for the space to be well-utilized for an “Olympic-style” street closure it will be important to allocate resources to ensure that the site is programmed and animated in such a way that it will draw people as a place to visit.  Simply closing the street will likely be insufficient to create a convivial gathering space.  Staff consideration of the findings from the Summer Spaces evaluation will be useful here.
  • If Council chooses to proceed with this motion, the VPSN would like some clarity about how any initiative on Robson Street would dovetail with the Summer Spaces initiative. We would also like to know if there will be opportunities for the VPSN to be involved, per our Summer Spaces plan, in assisting with the animation of this space.
  • Finally, it is our understanding that the motion being considered today has been proposed, in part, because of renovation work being undertaken at Robson Square.  We are concerned about the lack of information presently available about the extent of the renovation work, its phasing, and other key details.  Additionally, there are a number of Robson Square user-groups that have used on-line forums to note their frustration at a lack of opportunities to provide input into this process.  At present, there is far more information on this initiative available on a citizen’s Facebook group than anywhere else – a disservice to the many people who enjoy this site.
  • Recognizing that the site in question is under the jurisdiction of the Province, we would like to request that the City take this opportunity to (a) confirm the full extent of the planning and design work currently being contemplated and/or undertaken with regard to Robson Square; (b) encourage the Province to provide this information to residents via its Robson Square web-pages; and, (c) through it’s Planning Department web-pages, provide the same information to residents.  While the site may be outside of the City’s jurisdiction, there is an informational role that can be played by the City if the Province is unwilling to take this on.

Thank you for allowing us this opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed motion…

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