When Vancouver held a design competition seeking ideas for the future of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts and the city’s eastern core, dozens of intriguing proposals flooded in.
Submissions to the 2011 re:CONNECT contest included a gondola from False Creek Flats to Stanley Park, a hanging garden on the viaducts, and a covered pedestrian street connecting Main Street to the downtown core.
As politicians debate the future of Granville Island, a member of the Vancouver City Planning Commission says a similar competition should be considered for the 15-hectare peninsula.
“They did it for the viaducts,” Caitriona Feeney said. “With a design competition, sometimes you get some really interesting things that are a little outside the box that would be really new and cool to see down here.”
Feeney and Sam Cameron, who are directors of the Vancouver Public Space Network, joined the Georgia Straight for a walk on Granville Island, which appears set to be transferred by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to Port Metro Vancouver.
They noted that the planned completion of Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s new campus on Great Northern Way in 2016 makes this an opportune time to “reimagine” Granville Island, since the move will free up two buildings on its east end.
“It’s a good opportunity to make a decision on what should go in there, what can enhance the area, and build upon the already successful market,” said Feeney, who’s also a research associate at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems.
Feeney and Cameron agreed that a June report commissioned by the CMHC contained a number of good ideas. The consultants’ report recommended that Emily Carr’s two buildings be used to “Create a major, all-weather destination”, “Retain and attract a young demographic”, “Reinforce Granville Island’s role as centre for arts and culture in Vancouver”, and “Create evening vitality.”
Cameron pointed out how quiet it was outside Emily Carr’s north building in the early evening, compared to the still-bustling area around the public market to the west. They asserted that microbreweries, urban wineries, and restaurants would liven the area up in the evenings.
“You see a lot of people heading down to places such as the Olympic Village with the new focus on craft breweries and local beer, and that could be an option as well,” Feeney said.
According to Cameron, the east end of the island would benefit from even more cultural events. He’d like to see the Emily Carr buildings be used to provide affordable spaces for artists.
“That’s something that is pretty important that I often hear about from the arts perspective—that there’s not enough spaces for community organizations and individual artists,” Cameron said.
Feeney noted that the closeness of the water is part of what makes Granville Island so attractive to locals and tourists. Cameron observed that Emily Carr’s north building is a “barrier” to the waterfront.
They support the proposal in the consultants’ report that the “first floor will be fully open to the public, much like the Public Market, including access to the waterfront”. For Cameron, it’s important that the front of the north building be “transparent” and welcoming to the public.
Today (July 4), Port Metro Vancouver confirmed it is in “exploratory discussions” with the CMHC regarding a potential takeover of Granville Island.
On Thursday (July 3), Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said the city is “strongly opposed” to the port authority controlling the island.
Cameron said that he’d like to see a “local accountable organization” manage Granville Island. Feeney stressed that the 1970s vision for Granville Island should be respected by maintaining a mix of arts and culture, education, industrial, and retail facilities on the peninsula.
“We’d like to see that whatever gets put in here keeps people here, like it uses the space and keeps it lively and accessible,” Feeney said. “That’s the most important thing—to keep it used in a way that fits with the rest of the island.”