A car-free Gastown? Vancouver announces bold vision to boost business

May 2 2023, 7:02 pm

Could you imagine walking down Water Street in Vancouver’s Gastown? That could be the future if a vision announced on Tuesday is approved by City Council.

Mayor Ken Sim, alongside Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung, announced the bold new vision to improve pedestrian access in the area in an effort to revitalize the neighbourhood.

Among the biggest changes, creating car-free spots like Water Street or making Cordova a two-way street. Both options could have impacts on transit, which would be addressed, they said.

The motion, entitled “A People-Focused Gastown: A bold, forward-looking vision for a vibrant and prosperous neighbourhood” would also repair roads and initiate a public realm planning process. It will be introduced at the May 9 council meeting.

Admitting that this is still in the early stages, Kirby-Yung says the goal would be to harness the history but unlock the potential of making Gastown a signature in the city.

“This has the potential to truly transform Gastown for the better, allowing it to become a people-focused neighbourhood that showcases the best of what Vancouver has to offer,” she said.

The ideas come with the support from the Gastown Business Improvement Society, which says it could be the next layer to the legacy of Gastown and the opportunity to change course from an economic downturn in recent years.

“The planning for this vision has been in the works for a long time and it’s truly exciting to see this come to light,” said Walley Wargolet with the society.

“Gastown has been in need of both immediate repairs and a long-term vision for quite some time. We’re excited to be working collaboratively with City Hall on this initiative and we’re looking forward to seeing the positive impacts of this motion in the coming years,” he added.

During the pandemic, the area suffered as a result of the loss of the massive tourism industry, as cruise ship passengers typically flock to the area by the hundreds of thousands throughout the summer months.

However, critics have also suggested the area has been impacted by crime rates, vandalism, and public safety concerns.

When asked about efforts to address the several high-profile violent incidents in the neighbourhood in recent months, Sim reiterated his election promise of more officers coming to Vancouver’s police force.

Amir AliAmir Ali
Claire FentonClaire Fenton

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