By Charles Gauthier | Published by The Province
Charles Gauthier: Vancouver is far from a 'No Fun City'
Scanning through social media last week, it seems as though Vancouver’s “No Fun City” nickname has once again made a resurgence as a result of an impending motion going forward to city council. The motion is aimed at enhancing our nighttime economy, and seeks to improve Vancouver’s social connectedness and sense of community by incorporating family friendly, substance-free events. But because it speaks specifically to the always-contentious subject of Vancouver’s nightlife, it has ignited a dialogue among some Vancouverites who believe that their city simply doesn’t allow for fun.
To all those who hold this belief, I respectfully beg to differ.
The motion before council is an important step toward fulfilling the vision for a more vibrant and activated Vancouver. But in order to move forward, we must recognize not just what we’re doing wrong, but what we’re doing well. It’s not hard to see vibrancy, colour and fun in downtown Vancouver if you take the time to look. From Public Disco’s free and inclusive pop-up parties, to interactive and innovative programming in alleyways, to amazing pieces of art by Salvador Dali publicly displayed throughout the downtown core, Vancouver has no shortage of fun, culture, and life. Aside from our obvious natural assets — and there are many — Vancouver has an unmistakable sense of arrival and place, and that distinct feeling that you could stumble into something wonderful and unexpected around every corner.
But cultivating this sense of arrival didn’t happen overnight. In 2015, the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association completed a visioning process called ReImagine Downtown Vancouver. With input from over 11,000 downtown residents, workers and visitors, we created a 25-year vision for our downtown, including everything from public programming to community safety to arts and culture. It opened our eyes to the possibilities that the future holds, and also gave us a glimpse into what really matters to Vancouverites. We heard across the board that Vancouverites wanted to see more public art, more revitalized laneways, and more life and vibrancy downtown. It was clear to us that we had to carefully steward Vancouver’s public spaces, bringing fun to the city while simultaneously creating a sense of connectedness and community.
We recently engaged SFU Public Square — with whom we originally collaborated in 2015 for ReImagine Downtown Vancouver — to take a pulse check on how far we have come in fulfilling the goals of our 25-year vision. Their report showed us the significant improvements that we’ve made to downtown Vancouver’s public space since 2015, including the addition of activated alleyways, public perch spaces that offer seating and entertainment, and free, inclusive activities such as crafting and yoga. We have made a tangible impact in bringing downtown Vancouver much closer to the vibrant picture painted by our ReImagine participants.
That said, of course, there are areas that still need attention. Activating downtown Vancouver’s waterfront, advocating for 24-hour transit, and celebrating Indigenous culture all emerged as projects that will require a deeper focus in the years ahead. In order to reach the 25-year vision, we need true community involvement. We need engaged partners, both in the public and private sector, to help us realize the city’s full potential.
It is our hope that we can continue to enhance the sense of fun and excitement in downtown core with the help of passionate partners. We’ve come a long way in the last few years, and with the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s 10-year mandate up for renewal in 2020, we can’t wait to bring even more fun to the downtown core.
To learn more about the progress that the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association has made toward the Re-Imagine Downtown Vancouver vision, visit www.dtvan.ca/research.
Charles Gauthier is president and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.
This article was originally published by The Province on June 4, 2019.