Downtown Vancouver is home to 70,000 people and provides employment to 140,000 people at more than 8,000 businesses. While Vancouverites are living and working closer together, many are feeling further apart than ever before. People are connected digitally, but isolated from their neighbours. They have access to more amenities, but their public spaces are becoming more crowded.

Happy City is working with the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) on a strategic plan that could turn a vast network of underused spaces into social amenities.

Vancouver’s laneways extend 680 kilometers across the city. We can use these spaces to help address some of the city’s challenges, including social isolation, limited access to economic opportunity and a complex waste management system where numerous trucks visit the same laneway in any given week. They can serve as places for residents to connect, attract visitors to support local businesses and generate additional employment opportunities for marginalized residents.

To that end, Happy City and the DVBIA are mapping out potential routes for a cohesive network of activated, joy-sparking laneways in the 200 blocks of Downtown Vancouver. This network will enable people to experience inviting, unique and safe laneway routes that support moving, lingering and local business. The program will build on the DVBIA’s success and completion of Alley Oop, Ackery’s Alley, Canvas Corridor, and snéḵwem lane to create a new Downtown destination that boosts wellbeing and inspires the imaginations of people across the region, and even around the world.

Our five-phase project includes deep research into best practices and knowledge gaps, as well as focused outreach with DVBIA members and other stakeholders. At the same time, we will explore innovative waste management solutions that support laneway activations. Through this work, we will map out sites for potential laneway activations that support community and local business.