Accessing Vancouver's Privately Owned Public Spaces

George Rahi, Andrew Martynkiw, Emily Hein


Our research project investigates privately owned public spaces in the city of Vancouver. With the emergence of public-private partnerships as a widespread form of urban development, the provision of public space has increasingly relied upon private owners and managers. Taking inspiration from Jerold Kayden’s work on New York, we document various privately owned public spaces, in the form of the urban plaza, across the downtown core of Vancouver. Our study makes multiple inquiries into the social life of these public spaces, as influenced by their design and management. A historical analysis of the policy context in which these spaces were negotiated by city officials and developers is followed by an assessment of the public spaces themselves using observational research techniques. The assessment is comprised of two parts: (1) a survey of the physical attributes of these spaces, categorized as either encouraging or discouraging accessibility and use, and (2) observations on the social life of the spaces we visited.

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