Robson Square’s pedestrian plaza: should it stay or should it go?
Vancouver City Council recently announced that the 800 block of Robson Square would remain closed to traffic until 2013, allowing Vancouver’s only central, downtown plaza to remain pedestrian-oriented beyond the summer months.
Since Robson Square was renovated in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the city has had numerous public space projects set up in this area. Food trucks, unusual public seating installations like Pop Rocks and Picnurbia, outdoor urban markets like Portobello West, karaoke kiosks, and live music performances have all been introduced to the space thanks to the closure of the 800 block of Robson Street - successfully drawing pedestrians to create a lively public space in the heart of the downtown core.
Can its success last beyond this unusual stretch of sunshine that Vancouver has experienced for the past 3 months (seriously..I have lived here my whole life and never seen the city go this long without rain)?
I think it can. With the holiday season coming soon, I would love to see a Christmas market around Robson Square (one of my favourite childhood memories is walking around the Square and seeing all the lights). I think there are many creative ways Vancouverites could use the space during the colder, rainy months too.
A successful public square is not weather dependent. Cities with as much rain as Vancouver, like Stockholm, which is typically colder and wetter than Vancouver (173 wet days annually to Vancouver’s 161), and Copenhagen (113 rainy days) have public spaces that manage to sustain a strong pedestrian life, with great benefits to local businesses.
A public square’s ability to draw people depends on its location, its design and the public’s interest (and city’s support) in coming up with interesting and fun ways to use it.
In the case of Robson Square, public support for keeping the space car-free has continued to be strong. In 2011, the Vancouver Public Space Network conducted two surveys – designed to measure public support for keeping Robson Square car-free. Over 1800 signatures were gathered in support of the expansion of Robson Square, while just over 40 indicated opposition to the move.
So what do you think? Should it stay car-free or should it go?
If you can, take a moment to share your thoughts on this issue: consider writing a short email to Mayor Robertson (firstname.lastname@example.org), Penny Ballem (City Manager) (email@example.com) or Peter Judd (City Engineer) (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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