Residents in Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood are voicing concerns the southwestern loop of the Granville Street Bridge, containing a large city-owned green space, could eventually be demolished and replaced by a new building development.
Currently, the space is a looping off-ramp between the Granville Street Bridge’s southbound direction and West 4th Avenue, and an off-bridge route to Fir Street for four of TransLink’s bus routes.
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The semi-circular shaped green space enclosed by the looping roadway has open grassy spaces, landscaping, trees, a bench, the super-sized “100” granite public art text sign from Expo ’86 celebrating Vancouver’s centennial, and paved pathways.
The pathways lead to a pedestrian tunnel that reaches the eastern side of Granville Street, ending at Granville Loop Park. But unlike the southeastern side, the park-like green space within the southwestern loop is not designated as a public park.
Rowen Gilmour, who lives nearby, says residents in the area became aware of the possibility of the site being used for development during the consultation process for the Granville Bridge Connector walking and cycling pathway. They want the green space retained and formally deemed as a public park.
An online petition calling for the green space to be preserved has recorded over 1,000 signatures since it began early this year.
“Retaining existing green space has become even more so vital in 2020 given the ongoing pandemic. This year the park has played host to many small groups who can safely socially distance. It allows cyclists and pedestrians to cut through to Granville Island from the Bridge and from the Corridor,” Gilmour told Daily Hive Urbanized.
“The 60-year-old trees have sheltered many from the rain and snow, including a family of hummingbirds that have set themselves up. This park should continue to be used as a meeting point between the Arbutus Corridor and Granville Street Bridge. Our goal is to secure the future of this green space by ensuring the city zones it as such.”
Sizeable city-owned green spaces that are not officially public parks are not uncommon in Vancouver, such as the large green space at the northwest corner of the intersection of Burrard Street and Cornwall Avenue (south end of Burrard Street Bridge), the Knight Street Bridge’s northern interchange with Southeast Marine Drive, and the looping off-ramp between the Oak Street Bridge and Southwest Marine Drive.
There is also a large green space at the easternmost end of the Dunsmuir and Georgia viaducts. As it is not classified as a public park, the city developed a portion of this green space into a temporary modular housing building for the homeless in early 2019, and there are future Northeast False Creek development plans to turn this site into a new mixed-use affordable housing and commercial complex that acknowledges the site’s past as Hogan’s Alley.
However, as part of a future phase of the Granville Bridge Connector, there are plans to demolish the existing looping roadway, squaring it through a reconstruction and extension of West 5th Avenue through the site. This includes a new traffic signal-controlled intersection at Granville Street and West 5th Avenue, and a new northbound single-lane roadway on the western edge of the site to connect to West 4th Avenue.
Temporary changes to the southwest loop of the Granville Bridge:
Future permanent changes removing the southwest loop of the Granville Bridge:
In an email to Daily Hive Urbanized, the City of Vancouver says no decision has been made on the future of the southwestern loop of the Granville Street Bridge, and any alternate use will be determined only after public consultation as part of the ongoing Broadway Plan process, which considers land use, housing, transportation improvements, parks and open spaces, and community amenities.
“Staff will also be taking direction from Council who have asked that public green space be included as part of future plans for the south-west Granville Loop,” stated the city, adding that COVID-19 has delayed the Broadway Plan process by at least six months, with public consultation on the latest phase of work resuming later this year or early 2021.
“When engagement resumes there will be multiple opportunities for the community to participate in the process, share their priorities and interests, and help shape the plan for that area including the loop.”
The reconstruction of the looping roadway closer to the shape of a city block was originally set to be included in the first phase of the Granville Bridge Connector, but this scope of work was deferred due to COVID-19 cutbacks to the capital budget. Temporary changes will be made to the existing loop to create a direct connection for pedestrians and cyclists between the connector and the northernmost end of the Arbutus Greenway, just to the west at Fir Street.
City council is slated to consider a draft Broadway Plan sometime in the middle of 2021.
The downsized Granville Bridge Connector, approved by city council last week, is expected to commence construction in early 2022 for a completion in the middle of 2023. Following a similar timeline, at the northern end of the bridge, the city has plans to demolish the pair of looping ramps between the bridge and Pacific Street. The demolished loops will make way for a new H-shaped street grid with new development parcels.
Current condition of the northern loops of Granville Bridge:
Possible future concept of the new H-street grid and redevelopment replacing the northern loops of Granville Bridge: