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City staff backs permanent Bute St plaza named for Jim Deva

Vancouver city council to vote on staff recommendations in July

The intersection at Davie and Bute Streets, with its already iconic rainbow sidewalks, could be getting even brighter if recommendations to create a community plaza in the area are accepted by Vancouver city council later this month.

City planning staff have released the results of their final phase of community consultations on a plan to turn one block of Bute Street, just south of Davie, into a permanent car-free plaza, one that celebrates the province’s LGBT history and commemorates community leader Jim Deva, who died unexpectedly in 2014.

“Over 70 percent of the respondents either liked or really like what was being proposed,” says Kevin McNaney, the city’s assistant director of planning and development downtown.

The idea to permanently close the block stems from a 2013-2014 pilot project in which the city set up vehicle barricades and picnic tables in the street. “We heard a lot of support for [the pilot project],” McNaney says. “People really liked the idea for this block as a center of the village.”

The proposed plaza would function as a gathering place in the neighbourhood with chairs and tables where individuals could come to relax, play games, or meet with friends. These furnishings would be movable, so the location could also host larger events and activities organized by community groups.

“It doesn’t have to be a fully professionally programmed event to make the plaza animated,” McNaney says. “It can be people doing yoga. It can be youth groups. It can be a whole number of things. We want to make every type of event possible.”

To accommodate such activities, the latest consultative survey proposed adding power outlets and water connections to the block. To address safety concerns at night, suspended cable lighting would be installed to create what the survey describes as “a ceiling of lights for a comfortable ambient glow.”

Barb Snelgrove, a member of the city’s LGBTQ2+ advisory committee, says she is really excited about the plan, especially the idea of naming the plaza in memory of Deva.

“There are a lot of people in the village who can say that Jim was a constant presence, both on the street and in Little Sister’s, and in working to make the Davie Village look better and more hospitable as a living space,” she says. “It just seemed like the obvious choice.”

Janine Fuller, manager of Little Sister’s and a longtime friend of Deva, says she is happy to hear his contributions will be memorialized in this way but adds that it’s important the plaza “isn’t just solely about Jim.”

One proposal is to include an LGBT museum component to the plaza that would share the city and the province’s queer history.

“I think it’s important for that history to be there. I think it’s important to mark the amount of time and space we as queer people have had here in the West End,” Fuller says.

If the report on the proposed plaza is passed by city council this July, a management plan will then be developed, outlining the project’s final details, including cost.

McNaney estimates implementing the plan will cost $1–2 million, but he will not know for sure until December when the management plan is finalized and presented to council.

If that plan is approved, construction on the plaza will begin in early 2016.