There’s been more progress made towards turning a downtown parking lot into a new city park, and Wednesday night, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation revealed their preferred concept and design elements for the project.
Situated at Smithe and Richards at the edge of Yaletown, the park has been a long time in the works, and would be the first new park in the downtown area in several years. The site, which is surrounded by condo towers and street-level retail units, boasts a dozen mature trees and a north-south slope on Smithe Street.
The Parks Board has been working in consultation with both the design firm Dialog and the area residents to determine the best use and design for the space, and how to meet the neighbourhood’s needs. In an open house presentation to the community on April 20, Dialog and the Parks Board shared their findings, and how the preferred design blends elements of the top-most favoured concepts for the space previously generated.
Top priorities for those providing input on the new downtown park are green space, play space for children, inviting spaces for lingering, food service, and organized public activities.
To address those needs, as well as characteristics of the site such as the slope and the noise level, the plan is to create terraced levels to introduce flat space, the addition of lush greenery so that plantings make up more than half the site, and a path from top to bottom essentially connecting Richards to Smithe through the park.
Other design considerations include strategic locations for plantings away from foot traffic to promote durability (i.e. no pet waste or trampling feet), a “barrier-free” open design with universally accessible pathways, and elements that encourage “eyes on the park” safety. The park will include an area that can be used for a farmers’ market, a food and coffee kiosk, a water feature, and a pair of high-impact visual features that come with strategic design elements.
First, the “Skyframes,” which are “tall slender structures that create a more intimate and comfortable human scale against tall neighbouring buildings,” per the Dialog/City presentation, can boast rotating art or lighting displays. They will be placed on “earlier residential lines,” to nod to the site’s past, and help keep the park space current and contemporary.
Secondly, a striking elevated walkway will no doubt be the visual calling card of the park. It will offer “a unique and barrier-free journey across the entire park,” and can hold swings, hammocks and slides beneath. Since people can look down from it, the walkway increases a sense of safety. Lastly, the walkway will come to an end with a cantilevered lookout over Smithe, which designers say “creates a strong visual impression for people traveling along that street, announcing the park and creating a gateway experience.”
Planned use for the plaza area could include small arts and theatre gatherings, table tennis, or markets/vendor fairs.
Following Wednesday’s open house, the next step is to seek and obtain approval from theVancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, then move into the technical development and construction phase. The plan is to have the park ready for summer 2017.
Here are more images from the presentation:
View the full Open House presentation online here