Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for December 1st, 2008

Granville Street’s future begins today

with 3 comments

Ultan Kampff in the Vancouver Sun

Ultan Kampff is vice-president of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and general manager of Cadillac Fairview/Pacific Centre.

And things have certainly changed at Pacific Centre. The debates and arguments over the future of Granville Street have been going on for many years. I used to go to meetings at the DVBIA of a working group – or some such – as the solitary representative of the transit agency. So of course all I could talk about was transit, and how important is was that any street redesign paid attention to its role as a transit exchange. I also noted that it was the only place in the region (let alone the City) where transit had any priority.

Of course it was Pacific Centre that pretty much killed off the retail activity of the street. It provided a parallel, enclosed street where the retailers moved to. Not that its representative on that group ever acknowledged their role. And it was John Fluevog who, by sticking to his street location in defiance of that trend, eventually led the street’s revival. And Blaine Culling, who brought the over development of “entertainment” to the southern end of the street, which remained open to traffic, who was the most vociferous opponent of what he called “a bowling alley for buses”. It pleases me greatly that this strip of booze cans is now closed to cars, just to cope with the crowds at weekends.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that you can build a street — great or otherwise — but if you don’t nurture it, program it, plan it, clean it and engage people in it, all the shiny furniture, clean sidewalks and bright lights won’t sustain it.

Great streets, by design, lend themselves to people gathering, socializing and engaging with each other. But great streets are also purposefully programmed and well used to encourage visitors to linger and enjoy the space.

The adage “build it and they will come” may be true, but program it, and they will stay.

This is one of the most intelligent things I have ever seen written about this street and is a very hopeful sign for the future. Long may Ultan Kampff remain in charge down there.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 1, 2008 at 12:06 pm