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“The planning principles articulated in these early reports envisaged an opportunity to transcend the conventional bias of private real estate markets and explore new possibilities in urban development. This ambition was framed in terms of respect for historical character and authenticity, but also commitment to continuing innovation and experimentation; the priority of the public realm, with attractive public spaces, waterfront access and a pedestrian-friendly environment; and the development of an exciting mix of land-use bridging the city’s past and future and reflecting the diverse interests of the whole community.”

– Granville Island 2040

In the early 1970s, with public input, Granville Island was designated by the Government of Canada as a cultural multi-use “people’s place” or “urban park”, new terms that were coined specifically for the use of this 42-acre piece of land.
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For most of its history, Granville Island  was a sandbar used by the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Tsleil-Waututh, and the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) peoples as a ‘gathering place’. It ended the 1970s as a rusted and mostly-abandoned industrial centre in desperate need of repair.  

Given Granville Island’s location in the heart of Vancouver, in the mid-1970s, the federal Minister of Housing, Ron Basford, led an effort to ensure that it would become a national treasure, not another commercial district or outdoor shopping mall. He declared it a ‘People’s Place’. Granville Island was to be a place where a diverse mix of creatives, food sellers, innovators, educators and manufacturers could visibly co-exist in a uniquely accessible atmosphere. 

As the Island reaches middle age, it has become increasingly derelict, with little investment in building maintenance or infrastructure over the last 20 years. Many of the buildings on the Island have fallen into disrepair and sit empty. Most notably, Emily Carr University of Art + Design has moved off of the island, leaving their north building empty and creating uncertainty around the future of Granville Island, a once-treasured cultural asset.



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