Friends of Granville Island releases video calling for local creative control to meet needs of Vancouver residents

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      In recent years, there's been a growing chorus of concern over the management of Granville Island.

      The federally owned arts, culinary, industrial, and tourism hot spot is overseen by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., which is a federal Crown corporation.

      A new video released today by the Friends of Granville Island suggests it's in danger of losing its soul.

      “We always planned the place for the people of Vancouver," original project architect Norm Hotson says in the video. "And that if tourism occurred, our view was that it was strictly icing on the cake.

      "You can’t start to lose the cake because the icing is not enough.” 

      The Friends of Granville Island is calling for local creative control to breathe new life into the area for residents of Vancouver.

      Video: The Friends of Granville Island say the same type of imagination that created the mixed-use community hub is necessary to reinvigorate it.
      Friends of Granville Island

      The video comes in the wake of the City of Vancouver releasing its Culture|Shift: Blanketing the City in Arts and Culture report in August.

      It proposes exploring partnerships with CMHC and other levels of government to secure the former Emily Carr University of Art + Design's North Building as a mixed-use cultural hub.

      The Friends of Granville Island views this as one of several "underperforming spaces" that could be repurposed to boost the city's cultural sector.

      The transition of Granville Island from an industrial zone to a thriving mixed-use community-oriented destination was driven by a former Vancouver Centre Liberal MP, Ron Basford.

      He persuaded then prime minister Pierre Trudeau to embrace it in the 1970s.

      As the video explains, Basford and others were willing to take risks and dispense with traditional notions of zoning.

      The Friends of Granville Island hopes to revive risk-taking to reinvigorate the area.

      "If you can take a hard look at the structures, the systems, how we make decisions in a community—coupled with new resources to do things differently—then you can unleash all kinds of potential in communities," says Mark Friesen, director of capacity development at the Vantage Point.

      Former Vancouver Centre MP Ron Basford (centre) persuaded Pierre Trudeau (right) to transform Granville Island from an industrial hub to a thriving arts and culinary centre.
      Vancouver Archives

      In 2017, CMHC released a major report, Granville Island 2040: Bridging Past & Future.

      It laid out strategies for improving access, expanding the public market, creating a market district, and embracing arts and innovation.

      One proposal is for a cycling and pedestrian bridge across Alder Bay connecting the island to the city. 

      According to CMHC, this could relieve traffic congestion on Anderson Street.

      The report also called for an arts hub at the former Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus. And it recommended that any future governance body "be accountable" to the federal government through CMHC.

      This year, CMHC eliminated free daytime parking in the summer while retaining this in the evening.

      But the Friends of Granville Island questions whether CMHC is up to the task of serving local residents.

      "Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation is a residential mortgage company," says Granville Island's first project manager, Russell Brink, in the video. "There isn’t a single residential mortgage on Granville Island. There’s a bit of a mismatch between the governance and the nature of what is being governed.” 

      CMHC is considering a pedestrian and cycle bridge across Alder Bay connecting Granville Island to the city.

      After the CMHC report was released, the federal government appointed a Granville Island Council.

      Its members are not elected and do not report directly to elected officials.

      Earlier this year, CMHC president and CEO Evan Siddall insisted that his organization "is devoted to returning as much authority as we can to Granville Island via the council".

      Its members are former Vancouver councillor Heather Deal, former social-housing developer Dale McLanaghan, Arts Umbrella president and CEO Paul Larocque, advertising executive Andeen Pitt, CMHC executive Domenic Caminiti, City of Vancouver staff member Gracen Chungath, and Strathcona Business Improvement Association communication and sustainability manager Johanna Lauyanto.

      According to the Friends of Granville Island, this council is not fully representative of the stakeholders on Granville Island.