The North Plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery is just weeks away from opening after being closed for nearly a year for the construction of a new event-friendly space.
A spokesperson with the City of Vancouver told Daily Hive the redesigned plaza space will open at the end of June, just in time for its first major scheduled event as a venue for the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival from June 23 to 25.
Between now and the festival, workers will be finishing the new layer of pavers, installing lighting, and completing the pavilion structure on the Howe Street side of the plaza. Benches and planters also need to be installed.
However, some minor construction will continue after the festival to complete a few finishing touches, which means the plaza will not be fully complete until the end of July.
The redesigned plaza was originally scheduled for a February opening, but this past winter’s harsh winter conditions delayed construction progress as paver installation requires dry, non-freezing conditions.
As well, plaza construction had to be temporarily suspended to allow for major repairs on steam lines at the plaza’s northwest corner at the intersection of West Georgia and Howe Street.
With the delays, the cost of the project has increased from the successful contractor bid budget of $5.7 million to the original construction budget of $6.4 million. The difference comes out of the project’s contingency for unforeseen issues and a change in scope.
The redesigned 52,000-square-foot plaza creates a new major public space that provides the Central Business District with a new vibrant and active hub.
The embarrassing bark mulch surface – meant to be a temporary fixture of the plaza – and the broken fountain are long gone, and the space has been flattened to create a more attractive and flexible event-friendly space.
A unique pattern of custom precast pavers, including granite, will provide the plaza with the appearance of a web of trapezoids.
Additionally, a pavilion on the eastern end of the plaza facing Howe Street will double as both a covered bus stop and a location for food and beverage services to set-up during events.
To support the plaza’s role as a venue for events, there will be power connections at several locations, tall light poles on either side of the plaza, and moveable seating within the core space.
This type of space is a much-needed addition to the city, akin to Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto. There are plenty of open grass spaces at Vancouver parks, but other than Jack Poole Plaza and Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza there are few large, paved event-friendly plaza spaces available for events and festivals to use.