When we began planning the retail component of the River District Vancouver we wanted to create a multi-faceted commercial district that would invite people to shop, wander, socialize, observe, dine, think and feel. We wanted to create a distinct neighbourhood.
For inspiration, we toured of some of North America’s most popular retail precincts. Places like North Carolina’s Birkdale Village, Portland’s Pearl District, Washington DC’s Georgetown and Vancouver’s own Yaletown, Granville Island and Kitsilano neighbourhoods. We found that while each of these places has forged quite different identities, many of their retail elements are the same.
Restaurants and cafés are both diverse and plentiful, often with spacious outdoor patios, or large street side doors and windows opened to encourage interaction between patrons and passersby.
Expert street design is key, with easy access from major arteries, clearly defined parking areas, and pedestrian-friendly laneways winding past stores and cafés for added intimacy and a heightened sense of discovery.
We noticed that close attention to storefront design paid big dividends, with features such as double-height windows, high-quality construction materials and unique fixtures helping to establish the vendor’s distinctive identity, while creating a lasting impression.
Retail districts become neighbourhoods when their inhabitants are given the chance to connect – with each other, with their surroundings, and with the unique history of the place. River District Vancouvrer will be just such a neighbourhood.