British Columbia

Granville Street a tech hub? Downtown Vancouver BIA discussing idea

Is Downtown Granville Street a suitable location for a new tech hub in Vancouver? A historian says it would be just one more chapter in the street's ever-changing history.

Goodbye bars and clubs, hello incubators and data centres?

Granville Street is known for its hot night life today, but could it soon be the place where hot apps are developed instead? (Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association/YouTube)

The Downtown Vancouver Business Association is discussing its latest vision for parts of Granville Street, and the arrival of new companies in the area could serve as a catalyst for another tech hub in Vancouver.

"There's no doubt there's a transformation underway," said the association's CEO Charles Gauthier. 

He said Sony Pictures Imageworks and Microsoft have brought about 1,500 tech workers into the area, with an additional 2,000 employees in the Telus building a short walk away. 

"They like the independent coffee shops, independent restaurants, they're looking for lifestyle-type businesses," he said.

Historian Michael Kluckner says if that comes to pass, it would just be another chapter in the street's constant evolution, but one that doesn't immediately make a lot of sense to him.

"We've got Gastown, and that's been very successfully re-invented as a high-tech hub, and then Mount Pleasant, recently dubbed 'Mount Pixel,'  he told On The Coast guest host Michelle Eliot.

"Unless people are really looking at this and seeing possibilities in the older buildings that have potentially flexible floor plates, I'm not sure whether it's got legs."

Kluckner says one advantage that he thinks Granville Street has is access to relatively affordable apartments south of the Granville Street Bridge.

"People would effectively have zero transit costs, and so you could get a real kind of a neighbourhood thing going there," he said.

From nightlife, to furniture, to back again

Granville Street has changed considerably over the decades, as many long-time residents know.

It was first associated with entertainment in the 1920s, and then was something as a destination to buy furniture in the 40s, 50s and 60s, Kluckner says.

But since it was heavily zoned for night spots in the late 80s and early 90s, Kluckner said, Granville Street has earned itself a bit of an unsavory reputation, so maybe a heavy presence for the tech sector could change that.

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Downtown BIA discussing Granville Street as new tech hub