Peter Judd, the city's general manager of engineering services, said the city has run out of replacement cobblestones and workers have to use asphalt, despite the patchwork surface it creates.
"What we’re doing is filling some potholes and in fact, whenever we find a pothole in the street, no matter what the surface is, that’s what we do to make it safe immediately," Judd said.
Judd said the asphalt is just temporary, and that the city is investigating long-term options.
"Do we come back and try and take that up and patch the existing pavers, or do we look at a bigger solution?" he said.
"Because fundamentally, the treatment that is there is reaching the end of its life and we need to look at options for replacing it, which will run the gamut, but clearly it needs to be a treatment that fits with that historic area."
Judd said those options include traditional cobbles seen in European cities, replacing the existing pavers, or looking for better ones.
But he said the city isn't leaning towards paving the entire surface with asphalt.
"It’s highly unlikely," he said. "Gastown is a fundamental part of our tourist attraction in this city, and the street has to match the historic character of that area."
Judd said the city will work with the Gastown Business Improvement Association to come up with several options over the next 12 to 18 months and then report back to city council. He said fixing Water Street will be included in the city's next capital plan.
Gastown was Vancouver's first downtown area. It was named after 'Gassy' Jack Deighton who opened the first saloon in the area in 1867 near the Hastings Mill.
However, according to Don Luxton, the president of the Heritage Vancouver Society, the cobblestones only date back to the 1970's and prior to that the street was paved with asphalt.