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Granville Street reborn as the No. 1 party spot

February 22nd, 2010 · 30 Comments

One of the many interesting phenomena that have emerged during the Games (which is actually turning into a giant social experiment in our city) is the way the massive crowds are redefining public space in Vancouver.

They’re congregating in places no one quite expected and voting with their feet on what space they think is the most amenable.

So far, the winner in that competition is the new fixed-up Granville Street. Somehow it just feels much more like a pedestrian party space that even Robson. While there are lots of pedestrians on Robson, it still feels mostly like a street temporarily closed to traffic.

But Granville feels like the urban place. That’s partly because of the remake, with the cool vertical light poles that give the street a special feel. It’s partly because of the Lunar festival artwork that got set up near Georgia and Granville. And it’s partly because the street doesn’t feel like just a regular street, with its wide sidewalks and not-quite-a-road road.

So when I went walking down there yesterday, it had all the most interesting activity. The pin-sellers were there up and down the street. The buskers were setting up their music spots (the business association organized for 120 of them to be down there for the Games). Kids were stamping happily on the wooden stands for the lantern trees, part of the Lunar Festival art.

The homelessness activists, showing some creative savvy, had three people “sleeping” on the street with sleeping bags thrown over them and crudely lettered cardboard signs at their feet giving some of the details about homelessness, lack of a federal housing strategy, and more. (And people were snapping pictures and gathering around like crazy.)

This is the street where impromptu hockey games have been staged. It’s also the street that has a rise in it at Georgia, so that you can get a sense of the river of people on it by looking down the slope.

All of that is making everyone along the street — and beyond — rethink how it might be used.

Charles Gauthier is the director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, a group that fought for well over a decade to try to get cars back on the street. Now, seeing how successful it is, they have not just stopped talking about cars. They’re even interested in getting the buses off from time to time.

“People are asking us, ‘How often can we close Granville down?'” he said. Not every day, but maybe Saturdays and Sundays, if the crowds continue to appear. No one wants a dead street. But if it can be like this, where people are using it as kind of their back yard, the businesses there would love to see more of that.

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