Conflicting Priorities on the Granville Street Mall

Date created: 
Anthony Perl
Arts & Social Sciences:
Granville Street
Downtown Vancouver
Transit planning
Pedestrian mall
Transit mall
Entertainment district
Public space
Canada Line

Granville Street, on the downtown peninsula of Vancouver, was originally built in the 1880s by the Canadian Pacific Railway and was established as the heart of the city and its primary commercial thoroughfare. Over a century later, Granville Street has served many roles and undergone several alterations, including streetscape redesign, the addition of underground rapid transit lines beginning in the late 80s and increased bus service, and an evolution of entertainment and retail, presenting a unique street where conflicts sometimes arise between its diverse functions. This project examines the motivations and decision-making process behind the Granville’s most recent redesign in 2008, focusing on the complexity of managing the various uses and the demands of the stakeholders involved. Lessons learned from this research can contribute to the development and management practices of similar streets across North America. A conceptual framework applies theory that supports the role of streets in city life as transit or pedestrian malls, as well as securitized and consumption spaces, to reveal the complex scenario that has played out on Granville Street. The analysis includes factors such as transit planning and the introduction of the Canada Line, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, an increased demand for activated public space, issues associated with public drunkenness in the entertainment district, and downtown business interests. The research employs document analysis, direct on-street observations, and in-depth interviews with key informants to gain a clear picture of decisions that were made in the redesign process and how these decisions might have been affected by conflicts and compromises between stakeholders. Findings suggest that Granville Street provides an innovative model of street management by separating its variety of uses on a temporal, rather than physical scale. Though conflicts will still remain and should be considered in future planning, this approach is worthy of recognition and emulation.

Thesis type: 
(Research Project) M.Urb.
Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
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