Construction activity on the new 800 Robson Plaza is now nearing the finish line, with an opening of the Robson Street corridor within sight.
This is a permanent street-to-plaza project — a conversion of the roadway at the 800 block of Robson Street, which is just outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, and sits just above the Robson Square ice rink plaza and the UBC Robson Square campus.
The project at this point has reached substantial completion, but not without significant delays.
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The previous temporary plaza at the location was closed in September 2019 to allow for construction to begin, and the newly designed, purpose-built space was originally scheduled to be ready for an opening in Summer 2020.
In an email to Daily Hive Urbanized, the City of Vancouver states the delays are due to the complexity of the work, as the plaza is being built over underground floor area. There were also impacts from COVID-19 and challenging weather conditions, including snow, freezing temperatures, and record-breaking rainfall last winter.
The municipal government says the finishing touches to the plaza involve applying a specialized material to the plaza pavers that form a walkable surface. This installation is temperature dependent and requires dry weather, and when this work is complete the plaza will be ready to reopen to the public.
As the provincial government owns Robson Square, it has been overseeing construction on the municipal government’s behalf. The project’s budget is $5.8 million, with $4.25 million from the city’s development cost levies revenues from developers, $1.13 million from TransLink, and about $150,000 from the provincial government.
Previously a temporary layer of asphalt that covered the roadway, the new 800 Robson Plaza is a continuous level surface of concrete and pavers, consistent with the design of the rest of the Robson Square precinct.
It will be a flexible open space for year-round events, complete with fixed event infrastructure such as improved lighting and power connections, drainage, public art, landscaping, and street furniture, including moveable seating, tables, and benches.
There will also be fixed curved wooden benches around the Robson Square glass domes, and vehicle intrusion prevention bollards at both ends of the plaza. To further frame the space and provide an added visual and physical barrier, trees will be planted on the western end of the plaza facing Hornby Street.
Improvements have already been made to the Hornby Street intersection with the installation of an “All Walk” crosswalk signal pattern. There are also plans to improve the pedestrian crossing at the Howe Street intersection at the eastern end at some point in the future.
This section of roadway was also completely rebuilt over a decade ago, ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics.