800 Robson Street re-opens as permanent public plaza

THE section of Robson Street that sits between the art gallery and the Law Courts re-opened on Monday as a permanent, public plaza.

The area will be a welcoming space for community events, supporting civic and creative expression, thanks to a partnership with the Provincial government and TransLink.

The completion of the public-plaza project at 800 Robson Street is the culmination of Arthur Erickson’s vision for the area dating back to the 1970s.

“This past year has proven just how important great public spaces are to strengthening our sense of community and giving people a place to connect with each other,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “Located in the heart of our city, 800 Robson is Vancouver’s next great public square and will no doubt become an iconic and vibrant destination where people can come together to celebrate, speak out, perform, connect or just relax. Creating a welcoming space was Arthur Erickson’s vision for the area and we are happy to have brought his vision to completion with the support of our partners.”

The area that includes the Vancouver Art Gallery, 800 Robson Street and the Law Courts has long been the heart of downtown Vancouver and a key gathering place for residents and visitors. As a popular location, the area was transformed into a pop-up plaza during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. In the years that followed the City created a seasonal temporary plaza at this location, enabling the community to test the location as a potential permanent plaza.

After extensive engagement with the public and local business community and following Council direction, the City permanently closed the area to traffic in 2016 and in 2019 work began to construct a year-round public plaza. Today, the section of Robson Street south of the art gallery has been converted into a permanent place for people to gather. Renovations include:

  • An open space for year-round public events with moveable seating and tables, new benches and permanent seating
  • A level, continuous surface that connects to šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square (located on the north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery)
  • Improvements at the intersection of Hornby and Robson streets for people walking, rolling and biking:
    • An “all walk” pedestrian signal
    • New safety features and enhancements for the bike lane
  • Improved power connections for performers and speakers, and improved lighting for events
  • A public art piece called the “Weekend Chime,” by artist Brady Cranfield

The project was funded through a partnership between the City of Vancouver, the Government of BC and TransLink.

The Provincial government supported the project on several levels. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure provided funding through its Bike BC program, while the Ministry of Citizens’ Services led the delivery of the project.

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

TransLink provided funding through its Walking, Cycling, and Roads program.

“TransLink has an important role in helping to build and improve many walkways, cycling paths, and roads throughout Metro Vancouver,” said TransLink’s Acting Vice President of Engineering, Jeff Busby. “As the regional transportation authority, we are committed to connecting people and communities by improving mobility for everyone, no matter how you primarily travel. These improvements make it easier to walk or cycle in the area, and will make Robson Square a great place to relax or gather with friends once it’s safe to do so again.”

The opening of 800 Robson Street as a permanent public plaza aligns with several of the City’s policy objectives regarding community building, active transportation and climate change. It also supports the City’s ongoing efforts to re-allocate road space to support residents and businesses through the pandemic.

The City will continue to collaborate with key area stakeholders including the Province, Downtown Vancouver BIA, the Vancouver Art Gallery, UBC and other key partners on program development as health restrictions lift allowing larger groups to gather outside in public spaces.

Background

  • “Weekend Chime” is a sound installation that will play notes based on the chorus of Loverboy’s iconic song, “Working for the Weekend” every Friday at 5 p.m. The artwork explores themes of class, labour struggles and the versatility of pop music. Artist Brady Cranfield says, “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.”
  • The detailed design includes years of input from the public, key stakeholders (i.e., UBC Robson Square, Vancouver Art Gallery, Downtown Business Improvement Association and the Province), Council, Urban Design Panel and the Arthur Erickson Foundation.
  • The City’s funding portion for this project came from Development Cost Levies.
  • The creation of the plaza supports several of the City’s strategies aimed at creating space for social connections and an increased sense of belonging, creative expression and improved opportunities for people to get around through active modes. 

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