The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) works hard to create engaging and accessible public spaces. With a limited amount of public or park space in downtown Vancouver, the DVBIA created the Perch Program, which provides increased opportunities for the public to socialize, engage, or relax and enjoy their lunch. The Perch Program also provides support and resources for property managers to enhance their own privately-owned public spaces (POPS). In its 6th year of operation, the DVBIA has 13 dedicated Perch spaces in the downtown core. Of those 13, the DVBIA manages and programs three Perches, including Lot 19, Cathedral Square, and 855 Granville Street.
• Increase the amount of publicly accessible space downtown
• Provide additional opportunities for social interaction and engagement
• Activate underutilized spaces
• Make public space destinations
• Counteract feelings of social isolation and disconnectedness
Our Perch program capitalizes on transforming privately owned spaces into welcoming, accessible, public spaces. The Perch program is based on the ‘Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper’ placemaking approach, and each Perch works with the design and features of its location to maximize public engagement potential. Each Perch is identified by a branded sign that welcomes the public to enjoy the space and outlines the hours of availability and programming. In addition to the sign or sandwich board, every Perch’s core component is seating, typically movable chairs and tables that provide flexibility and an infinite number of configurations. With a foundation of seating and a welcome sign, Perches can be further enhanced with one or more layers of programming and activations. With more layers involved, spaces become more animated, and people are more engaged in them.
Some of our Perches are more passive spaces that provide a quiet spot to enjoy a coffee or bite to eat. Others are more interactive and are programmed with themed days and activities, such as “Art Monday” to “Fitness Friday.” We have found that having specific activities on dedicated days of the week works best for Perches. It creates an association with the space and specific days of the week.
Our Perch program creates welcoming public spaces that generate an atmosphere and level of engagement that improves the emotional wellbeing of those that live, work and commute through the area. To ensure our Perches continue to be vibrant, inclusive downtown public spaces, every year, we conduct a public engagement survey and collect measurements to better understand how people use Perches and their feelings towards them. The feedback and data we collect help the DVBIA evaluate the efficacy of existing activations and placemaking efforts and shed light on improving these public spaces further.
Outcomes and Feedback
Over the years, we have seen increasing interest from downtown employees and the general public for spaces that provide social interaction and engagement opportunities. Commercial property owners and businesses are also recognizing the value of having high-quality public spaces at or around their buildings. Animated public spaces are becoming just as valuable as good transit accessibility and having various food options nearby.
The following is a snapshot of some of the data and feedback we collect from our Perches:
Across all three of our Perches, over 95% of survey respondents agreed that it’s important to have public spaces like this (Perches) in our city.