Emily Carr University decamping Granville Island Opens Door for New Vision


Granville Island is regarded internationally as a model of vibrant urban placemaking. Under the management of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and because of its deliberate decision to value and subsidize arts and culture, the island has gradually evolved from a former industrial landscape into a bustling landscape of culture and commerce with a one-of-a-kind mixture of industrial and commercial operations, retail shops, artist spaces, restaurants, and a central farmer and artisan market. Its diverse mix of uses and its multi-modal street concept where “people walk, bike, drive and deliver goods in a common space” (2017) are envied and emulated worldwide.


Much has changed in the City of Vancouver and beyond since Granville Island’s development in the 1970s due to factors such as population growth, immigration, increasing cultural diversity, and economic disruptions of global trade, new technology and climate change. The Island itself has changed over the years as well, with the most recent being the loss of a stable 37-year tenant—Emily Carr University of Art and Design—in 2017 when it decamped to the Great Northern Way Campus in East Vancouver. To tackle these challenges and opportunities, CMHC initiated a phase of redevelopment and growth with the Granville Island 2040 re-visioning process. The process aimed to capitalize on the ingenuity of the past, address present challenges, and capture the imagination and bold ideas of Vancouverites and Canadians at large in creating a vision for Granville Island in the next quarter century.

Granville Island 2040 was led by Dr. Michael Stevenson, President Emeritus and Vice-Chancellor of Simon Fraser University, and was informed by the guidance of a 20 members Advisory Board with representatives from the Government of Canada, City of Vancouver, and local institutions, organizations and stakeholder groups. The process was comprised of four separate concurrent planning studies focused on land use, arts and culture, transportation, and economic analysis and governance.

Alike to the hallmark of the initial redevelopment of Industrial Island into the Granville Island known and loved today, the backbone of Granville Island 2040 was a public engagement process. Approximately 10,000 individual members of the public and stakeholder groups contributed their time, energy and ideas towards imagining how to renew Granville Island’s passion for creativity and innovation.

Results of the studies and robust public engagement were synthesized into four key strategies to lead growth and development:

  • Improve Access
  • Expand the Public Market & create a market district
  • Embrace Arts & Innovation
  • Restore & Sustain the Public Realm

Each strategy proposes a number of projects to improve the sustainability of the island, such as increasing cycling, walking and iconic placemaking at Alder Bay Bridge, expanding the public market, focusing on festivals to create new public attractions, and forging partnerships with local First Nations and introducing culturally relevant infrastructure.

Granville 2040 provides the basis of an exiting future for the Island, which will sustain Vancouver and Canada’s international reputation for creating an international model of placemaking and urban design, and enrich Granville Island’s creative and innovative landscape for decades to come.


Prepared by: Amy Calder, Vancouver City Planning Commission Chronology Committee
Revised: Monday, December 4, 2017