There’s new management in town for that place that attracts lots of passionate reaction, Granville Island. Owned and governed by the Federal government the island was originally in industrial use, with Ocean Concrete still continuing operations at their plant on the east side of the island.
Since the 1970’s the federally controlled island has morphed into a mix of market based businesses, artists and restaurants that employ over 3,000 people. This area was governed by the Granville Island Trust which will be dissolved in favour of the Granville Island Council. You can read Glen Korstrom’s article about the Council in this Business in Vancouver link.
The island has several challenges, the biggest being that vehicle movement and parking are the largest land use, taking over a quarter of the land area.
Since the island is under federal jurisdiction there’s not been a way to easily resolve the free range car situation, where vehicles hunt for parking spaces in the same area that pedestrians try to walk and shop. It’s something we’ve been talking about at Price Tags for many years.
As reported in the Granville Island 2040 Plan public opinion was equally divided between decreasing automobile access or increasing parking access. But in any place that is serious about climate change and moving towards a more 21st century way of addressing sustainability, other modes of transport other than free range cars needs to be taken seriously.
Besides bus service that must deal with the cars clogging every street on the island, there was the Downtown Historic Railway incepted in 1998 that ran from Science World and Canada Line’s Olympic Station to Granville Island. It was run mainly on the weekends and by volunteers using old streetcars. During the Olympics in 2010 there were modifications made for a modern street car demonstration service. The City of Vancouver Vision dominated Council kiboshed the Downtown Historic Railway afterwards, citing financial costs. Making sure that the line would never be revived sections of the track have been removed east of the Canada Line’s Olympic Village Station.
While the Granville Island 2040 plan has innovative ideas such as elevator access for pedestrians and cyclists from Granville Bridge and strengthening ferry and greenway connections, the idea of some kind of centralized streetcar or bus service with a place off island to plunk automobiles needs to be talked about.
With demographic change, a shift to a more creative economy, and with the importance of addressing climate change it just makes sense to seriously focus efforts on reclaiming the island from the cars. Ocean Cement will continue their concrete operation until their contract expires and will need trucking access. But the opportunities to reboot Granville Island’s road and parking space to more creative uses would be inline with a true 21st century rethink.