On Wednesday, April 3, Downtown Van released its 2024 State of Downtown report.

Introduction & Overview

Downtown Van’s State of Downtown 2024 event and report launch brought together members and stakeholders to explore the economic and social dynamics shaping downtown Vancouver. Supported by leading-edge data, this report is Downtown Van’s signature publication, providing an overview of how various sectors in the downtown core are performing.

The panel discussion at this year’s event featured notable industry experts, including Chuck We, Executive Vice President of Pacific Northwest/Canada Office Operations at Hudson Pacific Properties; Galib Bhayani, Chief Safety and Risk Officer at Simon Fraser University; and Thomas Daley, Lead Planner for Downtown Vancouver representing the City of Vancouver.

The event was moderated by Downtown Van’s President and CEO, Jane Talbot and included a presentation that covered the report’s key findings by Sean Bailey, Downtown Van’s Research Analyst.

In her address, Jane Talbot emphasized the city’s bright future while acknowledging the road ahead: “Vancouver is doing well… But regardless of how we compare to other cities, the challenges are real, and we all feel them.”

Presentation Highlights
More people are coming downtown, and transit connection is a strength.

More individuals are being drawn to downtown Vancouver, with the data indicating a notable surge in daily visits reported. Research Analyst, Sean Bailey, cited the growth as being “aided by the region’s well-recovered transit system, a dense residential population in and around downtown, as well as a diversity of uses that attract a variety of visits to the area.”

Economic pressures are hindering storefront businesses.

E­conomic pressures related to inflation and the rising cost of doing business have posed challenges for storefront businesses in the downtown core. In 2023, many Canadians opted to cut down on their spending. This trend directly impacted many downtown businesses, especially restaurants.

Despite these challenges, downtown Vancouver remained resilient, seeing a record-breaking cruise season and rising demand from tourists. This resilience proves the city’s ability to thrive in other sectors, highlighting the potential for continued growth within downtown Vancouver.

Panel Highlights
Downtowns need to evolve to keep pace with the economic and social shifts that have taken place since 2020. Partnerships and a willingness to test and experiment is key.

Data have shown that being a place to work is insufficient to bring people downtown and revitalize the downtown core. Lessons from the successful strategies implemented during the pandemic must be drawn.

Proposed tactics include the exploration of innovative solutions such as special zones and piloting permits. Chuck We emphasized the importance of maintaining the City of Vancouver’s adventurous and bold approach, suggesting that the rapid changes seen during the pandemic should continue to inspire future endeavours.

Engaging downtown workers and residents is a must for a downtown’s success.

Meeting the needs of downtown Vancouver’s growing population is the key to a more engaged community. One tactic would be to build and program more common amenities that will enhance the wellbeing of those who work, live and visit in the downtown core.

For instance, Hudson Pacific Properties has taken steps to establish their own activation and placemaking team – funded internally rather than by tenants – with the aim to revitalize the area. When asked about where they get ideas, Chuck noted their approach of recruiting young, diverse, and ambitious individuals who can bring fresh perspectives to the table.

Both public and private institutions can lead by example, and downtowns need to partner with them to ensure continued success.

Galib Bhayani presented a series of suggestions related to public wellbeing during this discussion, including the importance of evaluating and adjusting strategic initiatives, promoting safe spaces in Vancouver, and enhancing public awareness of their accessibility.

As an example, SFU’s initiative to open its washrooms to the public alleviates pressure on surrounding small businesses and emphasizes the importance of community well-being.

Furthermore, Thomas Daley expressed that planners are willing to consider new ideas, with the Granville Plan emerging as a prime opportunity to test and implement new approaches

Final Takeaways
  • Downtown Vancouver can evolve through social and economic shifts. Continued testing and experimentation is key to ensuring the vibrancy and relevance of the downtown core.
  • Despite economic pressures, downtown Vancouver has shown resilience and growth. While downtown businesses experienced challenges, the record-breaking cruise season and rising tourist demand indicates potential for growth in other sectors.
  • There is a need for innovative solutions and increased community engagement. Engaged downtown residents and visitors are important for a downtown’s success, emphasizing the importance of providing common amenities that promote well-being.
  • Partnerships between institutions and downtowns are essential. Collaboration between public and private institutions can significantly contribute to the success of downtown Vancouver. Initiatives such as SFU’s public washrooms can contribute to community support.

As with previous years, the 2024 State of Downtown report and event illuminated on the dynamic landscape that is downtown Vancouver, showcasing both its resilience and potential for growth.

The need for innovation, collaboration, and community engagement are of utmost importance as we navigate through economic challenges and social shifts.

Jane Talbot said, “I invite you to stay engaged, to share your ideas and aspirations, and to continue championing the future we all want. With your support and determination, I have no doubt we will realize the full potential of our beloved downtown.”

Thank you to all who attended our event. We eagerly anticipate seeing you at the next one.

In the News:
 Learn more:
  • Download the 2024 State of Downtown report here.
  • For the latest data, refer to our Downtown Vancouver economic dashboard page.
  • For further information, contact Sean Bailey, Research Analyst (seanb@dtvan.ca) and Ingrid Valou, Manager, Economic Development (ingrid@dtvan.ca)
  • To stay up to date with what’s going on in downtown Vancouver, follow us on LinkedIn, X, Instagram and TikTok, @downtownvan or listen to our podcast, “Hey, Downtown Van!”.