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Block 51: The 800-block of Robson Street and Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza projects

Map of block 51

Block 51, the 800-block of Robson Street (between Hornby and Howe) and the Vancouver Art Gallery’s North Plaza, have long been the centre for Vancouverites to socialize, and display civil democracy and creative expression.

Two timely initiatives are now driving the City’s interest in finding out how the public uses these spaces.  

While the projects are separate, the City is combining its investigation of their uses into one public dialogue.

Status of the projects

City staff are investigating:

  • Transportation impacts and adjustments related to the potential permanent public plaza
  • Design possibilities and programming options for a year-round public square
  • The public's current and desired use of the 800-block of Robson Street

The City is redeveloping the Vancouver Art Gallery's North Plaza.

Public consultation on the North Plaza plans

Read the consultation summary

January 17, 2014 - In September and October, we invited you to share your thoughts on redesigns for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s North Plaza in downtown Vancouver. We heard from over 900 people, most of whom were very supportive of the open plaza concept reoccurring throughout each design. Find the summary of what we heard under the 'documents' tab.

Feedback questionnaire on concept plans now closed

October 23, 2013 - Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts on the concept plans for North Plaza. Stay tuned to find out what we heard and next steps in the process.

Take our online questionnaire

October 1, 2013 - If you are unable to attend one of our two October open houses to view the concept plans for North Plaza, you can still tell us what you think about the plan. The questionnaire is available until October 22, 2013.

Concept plan open houses

September 24, 2013 - Drop by an open house to see the preliminary concept plan options for the Art Gallery North Plaza. It's your chance to review the proposals and let us know what you think. City staff and consultants will be on hand to answer questions and receive your feedback. Help us create a plaza that’s an inviting, dynamic space for the city that works effectively with the Art Gallery, Robson Square, and the surrounding areas.

  • Event date: Tuesday, October 1, 2013, 5:30pm - 8:30pm
    Location: UBC Robson Square, Plaza Lounge (inside the main entrance opposite the skating rink)
  • Event date: Saturday, October 5, 12:30-3:30pm
    Location: UBC Robson Square, Plaza Lounge (inside the main entrance opposite the skating rink)

Primary consultants selected

September 11, 2013 - The City has selected Nick Milkovich Architects (NMA) as the primary consultants for the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza. Expressions of interest were received from 14 design teams. From the 14 teams, three were selected to submit proposals.

The NMA team includes Hapa Collaborative, Matthew Soules Architecture, and Urban Forum Associates (UFA). NMA designed the Roundhouse Turntable Plaza in 2012. Hapa Collaborative designed the new Mid Main Park at 18th & Main; Matthew Soules' most recent work in the area was the 2012 Pop Rocks installation on Robson Street; and Lance Berelowitz of UFA is the author of Dream City, Vancouver and the Global Imagination.

800-block Robson open to traffic

September 3, 2013 - The VIVA Summertime Plaza has been removed from 800-block Robson. The street is open to traffic.

Downtown bus service review in progress

June 22, 2013 - The City, in collaboration with TransLink, held its first public consultations as part of the Downtown Vancouver Local Bus Service Review. The review includes the #5 Robson bus.

VIVA Summertime Plaza open

June 14, 2013 - Check out the 2013 VIVA Summertime Plaza at 800-block Robson from June 22 to September 2. During this time, 800-block Robson will be temporarily closed to traffic. City staff will be monitoring the impact to traffic and pedestrians.

Designs wanted for Summertime Plaza

January 25, 2013 - VIVA Vancouver is seeking designs from Vancouver’s creative community! As per Council’s direction, staff prepare for a summertime public plaza on 800 Robson Street, launching in late June 2013.

NOTE: Public concerns regarding the #5 Robson bus re-route are under review with TransLink.

800-block Robson re-opened until summer

November 28, 2012 - City Council approves staff recommendations to temporarily re-open 800-block Robson Street to vehicle traffic on 1 December 2012 until the summer seasonal closure. City staff will continue to work on addressing issues raised by the public on challenges and opportunities for creating a permanent public square at this location.

  • Read the full staff report in the Documents tab.
  • Read the summary of the public consultation in the Details tab.

Public consultations

November 2, 2012 - Consultation summaries
Our public consultation events, held at the Vancouver Art Gallery, are now complete. Read the Details tab to get summaries of these two events.

November 1, 2012- Public survey now available (closes November 12)
We want to hear from you. Help shape the future of Block 51.Your feedback will be included in the report to City Council on 800-block Robson and will be given to the designers of the Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza.

(Note: The future of the Vancouver Art Gallery is not part of the discussion.)

October 17, 2012 - A Look Forward
Vancouver Art Gallery, 7:00-10:00 p.m.
750 Hornby Street

Short and inspirational presentations will look at how this block has been used over the last few years and draw on inspiration from other cities.

October 15, 2012 - A Look Back
Vancouver Art Gallery, 7:00-10:00 p.m.
750 Hornby Street

The 1973 National Film Board film “Chairs for Lovers” and a panel with members of the original team for Robson Square will set the context of how this block came to be.

  • Read the final summary of this event in the Details tab

Stakeholder consultations

October 4, 2012 - City staff are currently consulting with key stakeholders, including the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and TransLink.

Public engagement

This report summarizes the input from the two open houses, an online questionnaire, and stakeholder meetings.

North Plaza: Public open houses (October 1 and 5, 2013)

Display panels:

Reports and documents

Staff report to Council "800 Robson Street: Strategy for Moving Towards a Public Plaza"

Staff are continuing to work with key stakeholders on the issues identified in the following report to Council.

Report date November 20, 2012; Meeting date November 28, 2012

City Council motion: Creation of a public square, 800 Robson Street

2040 Transportation Plan

The City’s transportation plan, Transportation 2040, includes policies and actions to enable: an active and healthy city, a reduction in traffic collisions to support a safe city, an accessible city for people of all ages and abilities, a range of options to help create a more affordable city, a vibrant public realm to foster a lively city, and a resilient city prepared to deal with global issues and unexpected events.

During the Transportation 2040 Phase 2 consultation program in the summer of 2012, over 10,000 people participated . The most common suggestions to support walking were to provide wider sidewalks and more public spaces.

Request For Expressions of Interest

Project details

Project goals

Click "Show more" next to the project that you want to learn more about, below, for project details.

800-block Robson

The City is investigating creating a permanent pedestrian plaza.

Robson Street - VIVA Vancouver 2012For the last three summers, 800-block Robson has been transformed into a pedestrian plaza for the VIVA Vancouver Program.

Recognizing the success of the summer closures, in September 2012, Council decided to close the block to vehicle traffic until  the end of 2012, and asked City staff  to investigate the public's interest in using the space as a permanent pedestrian plaza.

The road re-opened to vehicle traffic in January 2013, while the investigation continued and VIVA Vancouver created another temporary plaza for summer 2013.

The investigation into the feasibility of creating a permanent square will continue until the end of the year and includes the Downtown Bus Service Review, which is scheduled to conclude in late 2013.

Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza

The City is redeveloping the Vancouver Art Gallery's North Plaza. 

Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza at nightThe goal of the City is to create a plaza that reflects the needs and desires of the public, respects its location at the historical entry to the Vancouver Art Gallery building and its relationship to Robson Square.

Currently the existing membrane underneath the North Plaza is degraded and water is leaking into the underground spaces of the Art Gallery. Because the plaza needs to undergo critical maintenance, the City is investigating how the space can be used before construction begins. The information collected
will be used to help redesign the site.

Prior to construction of the North Plaza, which is expected in 2014, a Development Permit will be required and the public will be consulted on the design.

The North Plaza is owned by the Province of BC and leased to the City for use. Activities on the North Plaza are currently coordinated by the City.

The Province of BC must approve any changes the City proposes to make to the North Plaza and is responsible for the maintenance of the fountain and the area immediately around it.

Consultation summary

28 November 2012 - In summary of the Block 51 consultation, the City hosted two public events at the Vancouver Art Gallery seeking ideas on how both sides of Block 51 could be used in the future. The events were attended by 165 people and participants worked with architect Stanley King’s Co-design team. Illustrated ideas around use of space were then incorporated into an online and intercept survey, which was open to the public from November 1-12th, 2012. This resulted in over 2100 completed surveys. One of the key findings from the survey was that 64% of respondents had a preference for 800-block Robson to function as a permanent public space, while 17% preferred a summertime public space and 19% preferred only occasional closures of the street to traffic for special events.

The City hosted a stakeholder workshop on October 4, 2012, which was attended by 22 people representing a broad range of stakeholders, including TransLink, business associations, public space and active transportation advocates, the adjacent Robson Square facilities, seniors living in the West End, Tourism Vancouver, the local design community, the Province, and the Court Services Branch. Based on the key issues raised, staff conducted four smaller, more focused stakeholder meetings throughout the Fall with youth, the downtown and west end business communities, the adjacent Robson Square facilities, and seniors living in the West End. The key issues identified by stakeholders on the creation of a year-round public square relate to: 1) the downtown transportation network, 2) the overall ‘look and feel’ or design of the space and 3) programming for the space. The resolution of these issues is critical to the long term success of a permanent public square, thus demanding a flexible and incremental approach to planning.

15 October 2012 - Public event - “A Look Back”: Hosted by CBC Radio 1’s Shiral Tobin, included a screening of the 1973 National Film Board of Canada film Chairs for Lovers.

This was followed by a panel conversation with Stanley King, local architect who led a similar Co-Design process in the 1970s to gather input on the Robson Square development, as well as members of Arthur Erickson’s design team for Robson Square, Bing Thom, Alan Bell, and Nick Milkovich.

17 October 2012 - Public event - “A Look Forward”: Hosted by local inter/multi-disciplinary artist Vanessa Richards, included short and inspirational presentations that explored how this block has been used over the years, while drawing on experience from other cities.

Speakers included:

  • Civic historian John Atkin
  • Lon LaClaire, the Manager of Strategic Transportation at the City of Vancouver
  • Jenniffer Sheel and Krisztina Kassay from the City's VIVA Vancouver program
  • Heather Forbes from the Vancouver Public Space Network
  • Matthew Blackett from Spacing Magazine
  • Pop Rocks designers Matthew Soules and Joe Dahmen

Both events ended in a Co-Design process, led by Stanley King, where artists illustrated participant’s thoughts on what future uses the 800-block of Robson and the Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza could accommodate.

These events were presented in partnership with Spacing Magazine, the Vancouver Public Space Network and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

In four follow-up stakeholder sessions, City staff consulted with:

  • The business community, including the Robson Street Business Improvement Association, Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and West End Business Improvement Association.
  • Robson Square facilities, including the Vancouver Art Gallery, UBC Robson Square, the Law Courts and the Province.
  • Youth
  • West End Seniors

View illustrations and event photos

Work leading up to this project

Click "Show more" next to the project that you want to learn more about, below, for project background.

800-block Robson

The block was first closed to vehicles during the 2010 Winter Games.

  • Staff continue to investigate the feasibility of a permanent public plaza through monitoring and data collection.
  • During the summer of 2011, 2012 and 2013, 800-block Robson was closed to vehicle traffic and became a pedestrian plaza hosting unique seating and events under the VIVA Vancouver Program.
  • In 2010 December, Council directed staff to examine the creation of a public square in the 800-block of Robson.
  • During the 2010 Winter Games, 800-block Robson was closed to vehicle traffic and became a pedestrian plaza for Games events.

Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza

The North Plaza opened in 1911 as a courthouse.

  • In 2011, funds were requested from the 2012-2014 City budget for the redevelopment of the plaza and the re-waterproofing of the underground spaces of the Art Gallery.
  • In 1966-1967, it was redeveloped with a different style of landscaping and to accommodate the fountain. Since then. changes have been small and incremental.
  • In 1911, the courthouse, now the Vancouver Art Gallery, was completed and the plaza was used for large ceremonies.

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Last modified: Tue, 01 Oct 2013 12:35:05