‘Community, business hotspot’: Gastown repairs finished ahead of pedestrian pilot 

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‘Community, business hotspot’: Gastown repairs finished ahead of pedestrian pilot
The months-long repair work in Vancouver's Gastown has been completed a few weeks ahead of the car-free pilot for the area. Alissa Thibault has more – Jun 16, 2024

The months-long repair work in Vancouver’s Gastown has been completed a few weeks ahead of the car-free pilot for the area.

The City of Vancouver said repair work in Maple Tree Square has been finished, fixing damaged brick pavers and roads.

Old brick pavers, which were installed in the 1970s, have been replaced to make the area safer for both drivers and pedestrians.

“As we transition from construction to the pilot, Maple Tree Square is now fully open to pedestrians and cyclists but will remain closed to vehicles to allow visitors a safe and comfortable environment to enjoy the neighbourhood, take in performances, shop, and dine in the heart of Gastown,” city staff said in a release.

The work is part of a $10 million investment for the Gastown area.

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“What’s happening in Gastown is really exciting stuff – now that construction is done, the fencing is down and summer weather is upon us, Maple Tree Square and Water Street are ready to shine as a patio, community and business hotspot,” Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim said.

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Starting officially in July and lasting until the end of August, Water Street will be a pedestrian-only area as a pilot initiative done by the city.

“We are excited to begin transforming Water Street into a vibrant pedestrian zone with expanded patios, merchandise displays, plenty of seating and art and storytelling features courtesy of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and the səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations,” said Lisa Parker, City of Vancouver’s director of public space and street use.

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“The city is working to ensure Gastown is safe and welcoming for everyone throughout the pilot, which includes activating the street as well as enhanced sanitation and cleaning services, community safety and peer support.”

Previously, businesses in the area said they were losing out on millions of dollars in revenue due to the repair work.

The Gastown Business Improvement Society said businesses reported “significant losses” since the construction began back in March. The society represents more than 600 retail stores in Gastown. Many businesses told the society they were reaching a “breaking point.”

With Water Street turning into a car-free area during the summer months, businesses said they understand it will be good for tourism business, but worry the lack of parking will prevent locals from shopping in the neighbourhood.

“More gripes about the parking situation which was not great to begin with,” said Simon Farrell, with Robba Da Matti restaurant. “A lot of people just ask what is going on.”

The society also has questions about the City of Vancouver’s “lack of support” for public sanitation issues in Gastown, as well as perceived risks with the coming street closures in the summer months and how it will affect businesses.

Back in May, Vancouver Coun. Peter Meiszner said the city is doing “what it can” to try and address these concerns.

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“We have signage all around the neighbourhood to encourage people to come visit the neighbourhood but the pilot is really the centrepiece of what is going to be a great summer for Gastown in terms of the programming,” he said. “We are going to have seating (and) patios. There will be a lot happening in July and August.”

The Gastown Business Improvement Society provided a statement late Sunday afternooon.

It’s happy to see the construction is now completed and looks forward to the coming summer months.

We are taking proactive measures to support local businesses during the continued closure with the summer pilot, offering a free parking initiative, distributing free zone one transit passes with Translink and installing additional Mobi bike stations to encourage more visitors to the area,” Walley Wargolet said, Gastown Business Improvement Society’s executive director.

“We are excited about the upcoming summer events on the pedestrianized streets in Gastown.

“The area will become an arts and culture hub and create a vibrant community atmosphere. Pedestrian-only zones offer numerous benefits, including increased foot traffic, enhanced safety, and a more pleasant environment for visitors and residents.”

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