Granville Island: The Ultimate Mixed-Use District

Granville Island: The Ultimate Mixed-Use District

There are no sidewalks in the Granville Island district of Vancouver, only shared streets — even though industrial activities, like a cement factory, have operated here for years. An elevated highway casts its shadow across the whole island.

And yet there is total comfort between pedestrians and vehicles, and pedestrians definitely have the upper hand.

Notice in the video below how people sitting along the street have even oriented themselves to face the passing cars! They find the street activity more interesting than the street musician behind them! Play


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As previously pointed out by Project for Public Spaces, “Granville Island would not likely win any design awards. In fact, the amount spent on architecture, landscape design, materials, and construction seems to be the minimum necessary. Despite this, the island boasts a strong and appealing aesthetic and which amounts to a very bold and successful design concept. Minimalist and metal-sided, each of the island’s buildings is given an understated charm and an unmistakable identity….”

The only place where you will find sidewalks is along the entrance road under the highway.

Granville is the ultimate mixed-use district, a surprising combination of uses that spill over each other in fascinating combinations. These uses include the famed public market, community parks, a working boatyard, a cement factory, shops and restaurants, a marina, a theatre company, many office tenants, a kids adventure zone, many design and craft studios and galleries, boating and fishing charters, Vancouver Fringe Festival, and I could go on and on.

The other day I was honored to meet one of the designers of this amazing urban space, Joost Bakker of DIALOG Design, and his colleagues, in their Vancouver office. #GranvilleIsland was Dialog’s first project and remains a vision for us as designers and planners seeking to create more complex #mixeduse environments.

About Phil Myrick

Phil Myrick is an advisor to planning and development projects around the world and former CEO of Project for Public Spaces. Phil applies research into how people interact with their environments and each other to create vibrant places, destinations, districts, and developments. His strategic advice has helped his clients achieve their goals of attracting people, engaging people in their community, strengthening connections and social fabric, and stimulating economic development. Phil is married with two teenagers and struggles to satisfy his passion for being outdoors or on the water.