Today, Vancouver City Council voted to permanently close the 800 block of Robson Street to traffic in order to create a vibrant public square in the heart of downtown Vancouver.
“Transforming Robson Square into a traffic-free, permanent public plaza will bring vibrancy to an underutilized space in the city year round,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in a release. “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 become the largest public space in downtown Vancouver, aside from the Seawall and Stanley Park, providing approximately 121,000 square meters for public use.
Of course this isn’t the first time the square has closed to traffic. Over recent years the section between Howe and Hornby has been regularly closed over the summer for VIVA Vancouver – Vancouver’s internationally recognized public space program. The program, which sees installations take over the 800-block to encourage pedestrians to stop, relax, and soak up the city; has helped to prove the feasibility of the City Council’s decision with the number of people walking through the square increasing by 50% during the summer.
The City Council’s decision to close Robson Square to motor vehicle traffic sees a return to the original designs for the space, which world-renowned Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson intended as a to provide “An introspective view of the city”.
No timeline for the closure has been set as of yet, but as part of the City Council’s approval, staff will be looking to the public for “feedback on the design in addition to developing a process to implement a stewardship program that would oversee funding and programming of the area.” The release issued by City Hall also states that closing the section of Robson will also lead to improvements at nearby intersections at Robson and Hornby, and Robson and Howe.