A long-term master plan for the revitalization of Granville Island includes the construction of elevator to the Granville Street Bridge, an expansion of the public market, a renewed streetcar connection, and the conversion of several parking lots into new public spaces.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) released its 2040 plan on Tuesday following a year and a half of planning and public consultation.
This is the first time major improvements have been proposed to the Island since it was first converted from industrial uses into a hub for culture and arts in the 1970s by the federal crown corporation.
The 35-acre island is one of Vancouver’s largest tourist attractions and was named as one of the world’s best public spaces by New York-based Project for Public Spaces. The Island is owned and operated by CMHC using a financially self-sufficient model.
But over the past decade, the Island has faced immense competition from the growth of retail centres, farmers’ markets, and night markets across the region to the extent that revenues have been static. And the relocation of Emily Carr University of Art and Design (ECUAD), which has been at the Island for nearly four decades, to the False Creek Flats removes one of its biggest tenants.
In the report, CMHC says the Island requires new revenue from growth and development to maintain its position as an iconic attraction and attract more visitors. As well, solving accessibility and transportation issues are “critical” to the Island’s continued vitality.
“This is a bold, comprehensive, long-term vision for Granville Island that addresses our challenges, initiates exciting new development, and fosters renewed passion for creativity and innovation,” said Evan Siddall, President and CEO of CMHC, in a statement.
“We heard loud and clear that people love Granville Island and do not want to see drastic change. The public says to keep doing what we are doing, but do it a little better and do a lot more of it.”
Elevator to Granville Street Bridge
In a separate plan, the City of Vancouver has proposed to convert at least two centre lanes of the bridge into a pedestrian and cycling route, and such a vertical connection proposal to the Island down below would ‘align’ with the municipality’s vision.
An elevator and a staircase would connect the core of the Island to a new pedestrian-oriented public space in the centre of the Granville Street Bridge – about 90 feet above the Island. From the bridge deck, the elevator and staircase towers will continue to jut out towards a new viewing platform high above the bridge.
A bus stop could also be incorporated into the bridge deck, providing a new and direct connection to the Island and the viewing platform.
Altogether, this could become an internationally-recognized attraction on its own.
Public market expansion
The report identifies the need to revitalize and expand the Granville Island Public Market, which is the most-visited destination on the Island. Overall sales at the public market over the last 10 years have been flat when adjusted for inflation, largely due to the growth of similar retail and consumer options elsewhere.
An expansion of the public market could increase its floor space by 20% to provide additional vendor and amenity spaces. This could be done by adding a second floor and expanding the building into the existing courtyard facing False Creek.
The areas immediately adjacent to the public market will also be designated as the ‘Market District’ to foster a greater variety of food and entertainment experience, attract new niche retail, and develop the space to host food festivals.
A fisherman’s wharf on a floating structure could be created to the north of the public market as a new hub for fresh and prepared seafood.
Repurposing Emily Carr University buildings
When ECUAD announced in 2013 that it would be moving out of the Island, there were some concerns that its vacancy would leave a significant void. But the report addresses those concerns.
ECUAD’s South Building’s will be reserved for institutional uses, and there is no shortage of interested parties, including Langara College and Arts Umbrella.
Meanwhile, the North Building will be converted into an arts and innovation hub with spaces for artists, makers, and inventors as well as amenity spaces such as a state-of-the-art auditorium gallery, and cafe and restaurant facilities.
Both ECUAD buildings combined account for 200,000 square feet of floor area.
Conversion of parking lots into public spaces
Large parking lots in three areas of the the Island could be converted into a variety of new public spaces.
A large central plaza at the heart of the island is envisioned to connect the public market with the future Market District and elevator attraction to the bridge deck.
Parking spaces to the west of the public market and on the eastern end of the island – east of the ECUAD buildings – could be turned into a flexible public space with improved landscaping and seating for a pop-up outdoor market and food stalls.
New multipurpose performance theatre
Parking lot 73 on the Alder Bay side is envisioned as the site of a new 700-seat indoor multipurpose performance space that opens up to a roof-covered outdoor atrium area. Such a space would ideal for festivals and special events, film screenings, and musical and dance performances.
Streetcar and a new pedestrian bridge
In addition to the elevator connection to the Granville Street Bridge, CMHC has identified the City of Vancouver’s future streetcar network as a “transformational improvement” to Granville Island’s accessibility, reducing the need for parking spaces.
The streetcar system would run along the Arbutus Corridor, on the existing right-of-way that was used for the demonstration streetcar service during the Olympics, and potentially to Yaletown and Stanley Park. The streetcar station entrance is located near the entrance into the island next to Anderson Street.
To improve pedestrian and cyclist connections from the False Creek seawall on the east side of the Island, a new curved bridge spanning Alder Bay is proposed as it would reduce foot and cyclist traffic congestion at Anderson Street.