Change is afoot at the northeast corner of the intersection of Richards Street and Smithe Street in downtown Vancouver, as construction has officially begun on a new unique urban public park.
The new green space will replace a vacant 0.8-acre gravel lot that was previously used as a parking lot, particularly for car share vehicles.
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But this is no ordinary green space, going far beyond Vancouver’s standard open grass lawn — designed in mind for nearby office workers at lunchtime and area residents.
Designed by local architectural firm DIALOG, it will feature an event-friendly community plaza with seating and a decorative fountain, a children’s playground, a small cafe, overhead sky-frames to support lighting and art installations, and an elevated pedestrian bridge with multiple vantage points.
The pedestrian bridge stretches the north-south axis of the park with a lookout high above the Smithe Street sidewalk. Other specific features of this bridge include seating and two large suspended hammocks.
“Our diverse population expects more from our parks,” said Vancouver Park Board chair Camil Dumont in a statement.
“They must offer respite, recreation, and social interaction, as well as unique experiences. The design of this new park reflects residents’ requests for a park that is bolder and forward-thinking.”
Construction on the new park is expected to reach completion in early 2021 at a cost of $14.5 million, with about $8 million provided by a community amenity contribution through the 2011 rezoning allowing the nearby TELUS Garden redevelopment.
The park board approved the concept design in 2016, but the start of construction was delayed due to the need to perform value engineering on the design to bring the costs down.
In December 2019, both the park board and city council approved staff’s recommendation to contract Smith Bros. and Wilson Ltd. as the project’s construction contractor.
“Having vibrant green spaces in busy urban centres is essential for the health of its residents and employees,” said Charles Gauthier, president and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.
“This new park space brings a truly innovative and elevated design that will certainly make a positive impact on our downtown core. We can’t wait to see it used by the public as a central hub for people to gather and share a sense of community.”