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This article was published originally on The Georgia Straight on August 26, 2015.

Arts supported in downtown Vancouver’s future

By The Geogia Straight, August 26, 2015, straight.com

How do you want downtown Vancouver to look, taste, and feel in 25 years? That’s a question that the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association is asking people who fill in its online Re-imagine Downtown survey.

According to DVBIA president and CEO Charles Gauthier, two-thirds of the first 425 respondents said that they would prefer the downtown to be more of an “arts, culture, and entertainment hub” than an “engaged and active business community”.

“This is going to help us as an organization as we plan ahead and develop our five-year strategic plans,” Gauthier said in an interview at the Georgia Straight office. “But we’re also going to share this with other decision-makers and those who are involved in doing programming.”

He revealed that the majority of respondents were between 17 and 25 years old. Gauthier said that he was encouraged by this because these are people who will be making use of the downtown in 2040.

Another question asked if respondents would like the downtown to be a community to live in or a place to come to for work and entertainment.

“More of a community to live in won over, but not by much—by 56 percent to 44 percent,” Gauthier said.

When asked if the downtown should be for people of all ages and families or more for students and young adults, 77 percent preferred the former. Gauthier said he was surprised by the level of support for keeping the downtown core family-friendly.

Gauthier said that the survey has also revealed a strong appetite for a “real, formal public square” in the downtown. When asked if the redesigned north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery would suffice, he responded that it would serve certain purposes, but wouldn’t be large enough for others.

In addition, the survey indicated a keen interest in more greenways for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as in permanent pedestrian plazas. Another desire is for activated back alleys with smaller shops and galleries. Gauthier said that newer buildings have “internalized” the servicing of garbage cans, which could free up more back-alley space in the future.

Many respondents also expressed a desire to ensure that building levels not be so high that they prevent sunlight from reaching street level. Moreover, many also support the retention of view corridors in the downtown.

“Some of what we’re hearing is a reaffirmation of what the city is doing well,” Gauthier said.

It’s the DVBIA’s 25th anniversary and it worked with SFU Public Square to reach out to the broader community. There’s also an Instagram contest that encourages people to say what their vision is for downtown Vancouver.

The public process will be completed on September 30 and the results will be compiled for an SFU Community Summit, which will take place later this year.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @csmithstraight.

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