Rebecca points to some minor redesigns of one of Vancouver’s major downtown streets, and she got me thinking about how it’s changed.
For some reason, my Dad and I have been paying attention to Granville Street for at least twenty years. I grew up across the inlet in West Vancouver. Before I could drive, my mental model of ‘downtown’ was essentially a three block strip of Granville Street featuring two movie theaters, access to Pacific Center, Burger King and Golden Age Collectibles.
In those days, Granville Street was a veritable den of iniquity. There were adult cinemas, lots more sex shops and plenty of prostitutes patrolling the streets at night. It was, in the eyes of most Vancouverites, kind of a Bad Place.
The street has experienced a slow transformation over the past twenty years. The ladies of the night have moved on, the adult theatres have closed, and the sex shops have thinned out (and become, I think, more brightly lit). At the same time, the number of night clubs has really expanded. This has resulted in more people on the streets at night, which is a good thing.
Complete Ordinary Elements
More conventional forms of commerce are slowly extending south, pushing out many of the dodgier pawn shops and massage parlors. In an an otherwise successful revival, this has been my only disappointment. The new stores are characterless franchises–Sleep Country, FutureShop, Cafe Crepe, Pita Pocket (or some such pita-slinging joint), Starbucks and so forth. It’s a pity that the alternative to undesirable elements is completely ordinary ones.
Why can’t Granville become more like Toronto’s Queen Street West (at least the bits I walked around)? They seemed to have a happy mix of independently-owned stores and a smattering of chains, plus a bunch of cool restaurants and diners.
Main Street better watch out. Once the commodification of Granville Street is complete, you can guess which thoroughfare is next.