Block 10 reborn as Heritage Square

Revitalization effort aimed at eventual redevelopment of downtown Vancouver site

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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Block 10, that once nondescript eyesore in the heart of downtown that not long ago was wrapped in a Cyclone fence, is now officially the much more appealing Heritage Square.

The block's transformation to the newly named Heritage Square became official at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on the property on a bright, sun-drenched Wednesday morning. Mayor Tim Leavitt and former mayors Royce Pollard and Bruce Hagensen were in attendance, along with downtown business boosters and numerous contributors to the block's partial rebirth.

Bounded by Columbia and Washington streets between 8th and 9th streets, the newly christened square was hailed as a place of promise for downtown's future. Leavitt said he hopes the temporary park will someday "return to an active, vibrant piece of downtown, just as it was decades ago."

For now, though, the square exists in a realm somewhere between it's recent past as a litter-catching empty space and the landscaped beauty of popular Esther Short Park, just across the street.

The new raised flowerbeds at the heart of the block add much-welcome color, as do the 10 decorative flags overhead. Likewise, a bicycle-themed sculpture, bicycle racks and a landscaped section of the block all make Heritage Square a clear upgrade over Block 10. Yet much of the block remains covered with rough gravel that makes it uninviting for pedestrians wearing dress shoes.

The improvements were the work of Vancouver's Downtown Association, which invested much as $15,000 in materials and plants, as well as 3,000-plus volunteer hours, in the effort.Hagensen recalled when the city purchased the former Lucky Lager Brewery, which included Block 10, for $2.3 million in 1993. The block had been used mainly for truck and employee parking from 1975 to 1985, when the brewery had closed for good. It had, over its history, been home to numerous small businesses.

A major redevelopment effort revitalized much of the former brewery property with housing and other urban uses. Hagensen said that attracting a new use for the Heritage Square site is "the last piece of the puzzle" in the brewery redevelopment plan created decades ago.