Construction detour ended: Robson Square's new street-level plaza now finally open

Mar 29 2021, 11:02 pm

After a prolonged 18-month construction closure, the roadway on the 800 Robson Street block over Robson Square reopened today with its completed permanent redesign.

The new pedestrian-only thoroughfare doubles as an event-friendly space, complete with both permanent and moveable seating, new lighting, a continuous open level of pavers, and infrastructure to support activations and programming including power connections.

This single block section was previously a two-lane roadway, and its permanent closure fulfills another major component of the vision for Robson Square and the Law Courts by the late architect Arthur Erickson. The design is also fully integrated with the rest of the Robson Square precinct and the recently rebuilt West Georgia Street plaza north of the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG).

The roadway was closed in 2016 for a temporary plaza design made of asphalt, and in September 2019 the plaza was closed for the construction of the permanent design. The plaza was originally scheduled to reopen in Summer 2020, but the municipal government previously told Daily Hive Urbanized this timeline was affected by COVID-19 and challenging weather conditions, including snow, freezing temperatures, and record-breaking rainfall over the previous winter.

800 robson square plaza completion march 29 2021

Opening of the new 800 Robson Plaza on March 29, 2021. (Karm Sumal/Daily Hive)

800 robson square plaza completion march 29 2021

Opening of the new 800 Robson Plaza on March 29, 2021. (Karm Sumal/Daily Hive)

This segment of Robson Street had some of the highest foot-traffic volumes in BC prior to its closure, which forced pedestrians to detour through the Law Courts or around the VAG to get across from one side of the retail strip to the other.

Other accessibility improvements for pedestrians include the previously installed “All Walk” pedestrian signal at the intersection of Hornby and Robson streets at the west end of the plaza. Similar upgrades are planned for the intersection of Howe and Robson streets at the east end of the plaza at some point in the future.

Additionally, the new plaza features a public art piece called “Weekend Chime” by artist Brady Cranfield. Speakers installed at the site play the notes based on the chorus of Loverboy’s 1981 song “Working for the Weekend” every Friday at 5 pm — marking the traditional end of the work week.

The speakers are bright red in colour and mounted high atop a pole.

“I see a parallel between the way everyday people use, reuse, remake and occupy that space and the way that we use, reuse, remake and occupy pop songs. Weekend Chime will hopefully act as a reminder that we’re all workers, the true producers of value in the world,” said Cranfield, explaining his public art installation.

800 robson square plaza completion march 29 2021

Opening of the new 800 Robson Plaza on March 29, 2021. (Karm Sumal/Daily Hive)

As the provincial government owns Robson Square, it oversaw 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.

“We’re proud to partner with the City of Vancouver to deliver such an important public project,” said Lisa Beare, BC Minister of Citizens’ Services, in a statement.

“When we can socialize and come together again, this beautiful outdoor plaza will provide a safe and accessible space for people to reconnect and enjoy community events for years to come.”

Previous conditions of Robson Street:

800 Robson Plaza Robson Square

800 Robson Plaza at Robson Square with a layer of temporary asphalt over the roadway to create a single-level public space between 2016 and 2019. (Steve Chou/Flickr)

800 robson street robson square

Robson Square at 800 Robson Street, with a two-lane roadway before 2016. (Google Maps)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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