The City of Vancouver has released a preliminary conceptual design to permanently transform the 800 block of Robson Street, the road surface of Robson Square between Howe and Hornby streets, into a major pedestrian-only plaza space for the Central Business District.
It is anticipated that the project will cost $6.5 million, which primarily consists of removing the two-lane roadway and replacing it with a single level surface of granite and concrete pavers that are consistent with the rest of the Robson Square precinct.
Artistic renderings indicate there will be bollards on the street-fronting ends of the plaza, with the Hornby Street end supplemented by the planting of trees, to establish “defined block ends”. There will also be movable and permanent seating, other street furniture, special lighting, bike parking and a bike share station, power and water connections so that the space can host special events and other programming, and wayfinding signage to promote major attractions.
Project proponents with the City have budgeted $3.5 million for the design and construction of the plaza itself and another $3 million for changes in the surrounding road network, electrical upgrades, and temporary overhead trolley work by TransLink. The permanent closure of the roadway will necessitate the permanent rerouting of the No. 5 trolley bus route that serves the West End neighbourhood.
The one-block stretch of roadway has been closed since early-summer following Vancouver City Council’s decision in April to turn the space into a pedestrian-only plaza; every year since 2011, after each peak summer period, the roadway reopened after Labour Day following the wave of summer festivities.
Throughout December, the roadway will be the temporary home of Vancouver’s official Christmas Tree, which was relocated from its previous home at Jack Poole Plaza.
The design for the new plaza was established after the City completed a public consultation phase throughout the fall.
“800 Robson is a special space in the city,” reads a City staff report that will be submitted to Vancouver City Council. “There is an exceptional opportunity to build on the positive aspects of the plaza in the creation of an integrated and connected space that can continue to serve as the central gathering space at the city’s heart.”
The closure of the roadway to convert it into a public plaza fulfills a part of the late Arthur Erickson’s original vision for the Robson Square precinct.
If the design is approved by City Council, construction could begin sometime next year. The same space was rebuilt seven years ago by the provincial government in time for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games as part of the project to retrofit Robson Square and replace the protective lining underneath the pavers that prevents water leakage into the facilities below.
This past summer, City Council unanimously approved the $5.7-million redesign of the North Plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery – on the opposite side of the city block, facing West Georgia Street. It is anticipated that the newly-remodelled North Plaza will reopen in early-2017.