The new open space at Nelson and Mainland – now in the heart of new Yaletown  – is almost complete.  And already it’s generating hard opinions.
Yaletown Park 1
It’s a stretch to call it a park.  There’s hardly a living plant in the place.  The surface is either concrete or granite block, right up to the slender trunks of a handful of trees. 
And just in case you miss the point, they’ve added blocks of stone that aren’t too far removed from Jersey barriers.
 Yaletown Park 2
The separation between the park and busy Nelson Street consists of angled, louvred black-metal screens, as harsh as a portcullis.
Yaletown Park 3
But, honestly, I haven’t decided whether I like it or not.  No doubt the rationale behind the park justifies all this hard-surface as appropriate to the Yaletown industrial history and aesthetic.
And it might work.  There’s a very good chance it will be one of the more interesting people-watching places in the neighbourhood, and perhaps even a performance space, spontaneously generated.
One thing for sure: everyone will have an opinion.
 Yaletown Park 4


  1. Nelson @ Mainland.
    Apparently it is supposed to be an active space, with concerts, public markets, etc., so a hard surface will wear better than grass (and which would be less likely to be the neighbourhood doggie doo repository). Residents of nearby towers wanted the development’s orientation reversed so the park would be at Smithe & Mainland (so they would over look a park, rather than another tower) – but the City responded that it would be noisier for them with the park below because of the programming. But that also begs the question – if the space is meant to be functional, why the mounds for the trees? Poor planning and no tree wells? Surely a more level surface would be better to set up tables, etc..

  2. Dug up the City Report. Apparently the louvres are to be covered with vines – were there any starter vines planted?
    Park Location
    The proposed park location is at the south end of the development site. The choice of location was informed by three considerations: solar orientation, relationship with the Yaletown public realm and the distribution of other parks in Downtown South.
    The Downtown South Guidelines emphasize the importance of sunlight in parks, requesting that shadows are to be minimized on a prioritized hierarchy of spaces, with parks as the top priority, and public open spaces as the second priority (2.6.1, a). The Guidelines further state that new developments should be designed to preclude shadowing across the property line of parks and public open spaces (2.6.1, b). Shadow analyses provided by the developer demonstrate that the proposed location for the public park is the only location within the development site that meets these requirements in a three-tower development. The proposed location offers the sunniest park.
    The public realm of Yaletown is dominated by the presence, materials and use of the old loading docks. These docks extend across Nelson Street onto Lot 57 bordering the park to the west, thus introducing the vocabulary and potentially the uses of Yaletown’s public spaces. Staff felt that this extension of the Yaletown character offers an interesting array of design and programming choices for the public park, linking it to the focus on arts and culture so prevalent in the neighbourhood.
    The proposed park location is also a good fit when considering the locations of the other parks in Downtown South: the southern park assembly under construction at Davie and Richards Streets and the northern park assembly at Richard Street and Smithe Street. These three will form a triangle that is reasonably spaced apart, thereby maximising the accessibility of each for residents, workers and visitors in the area. Staff acknowledge the traffic environment of Nelson Street but do not have concerns with respect to acoustical impacts for this urban park setting.
    The proposed park is also important for the Historic Yaletown neighbourhood. This park would provide a balance to Bill Curtis Square at the southeast side of the community, and help create a more complete community structure.
    Park Programming and Design
    The program and design for the park are developed in response to the Yaletown context , the immediate built environment and the character of the Downtown South Park that is under construction. The public realm of Yaletown features loading docks that are animated by the uses of adjacent buildings spilling out, heritage facades, materials that include bricks, granite and concrete, activities extending into the night, and a strong presence of art and design.
    The concept of the park builds on these characteristics. It is conceived as a simple rectangular “outdoor room” with green walls: double rows of trees along the streets, and single rows along the buildings. These trees sit in large raised planters with lush seasonal plantings offering colour, scent, movement, variety and exuberance. The impact of Nelson Street is filtered through screens overgrowing with vines. These strong vertical green edges are perforated to allow pedestrian passage, drawing people in from the sidewalks.
    The centre portion of the park is a softly undulating carpet of granite setts, studded with curving pieces of old granite curbs for informal seating under a canopy of ornamental flowering trees. More formal seating is incorporated on all four sides. Artful and subtle lighting will keep the park welcoming and safe after sunset.
    The park is rooted in a tradition of small urban spaces that are designed and constructed with the highest quality of materials; it will be a precious little space that is attractive for a sunnylunch break, for a cup of coffee, or for meeting up with a group of friends. Yaletown activities will reach into this park with programmed events like farmers’ markets, sidewalk sales, outdoor art exhibits and installations, or intimate musical and theatrical performances.
    The character of this park is in marked contrast to the park under construction at Richard Street and Davie Street with its garden-like landscape of water, stone, lawn, big trees and colourful plantings, plus many play opportunities for children. Together, these two parks begin offering a variety of park experiences that are intended to be further expanded with the future park at Richard Street and Smithe Street.
    The 901 Mainland project, including the park design concept, was presented to both the Urban Design Panel (February 19, 2003) and the Development Permit Board (April 14, 2003). The Urban Design Panel supported the project unanimously, and the Development Permit Board approved the preliminary development permit application for the project. Council approval of this proposal does not preempt the normal approval process, which includes the review and approval of the complete application by the Development Permit Board.

  3. Managed to walk past over the weekend – there are clematis vines planted at the base of each screen – so the screens should be well covered towards the end of summer or maybe next year, depending on how fast they grow.
    The trees appear to be chestnut trees and are about to flower. They should provide large crowns when fully grown (subject to root space – don;t recall there being tree wells in the concrete below the park.

  4. i can see the park and the area better used for markets, performing, etc., than for another space for residents to let their pets use it for a toilet. we must remember – not all pet owners are responsible pet owners. i don’t know about you, but i’d much rather sit on a rain-cleaned stone than sit on toilet grass with dogs pooing next to me. yuk.

  5. Nice to think that all grass in Vancouver parks is akin to used toilet paper (even after owners pick-up) !!
    I guess that’s why we need the occassional rainfall.

  6. … and that is why dogs are prohibited from sports fields and playgrounds. It’s not just to inconvenience the dog owners.

  7. didn’t like the park at first…getting used to it. It’s a real conversational piece! Concerned that the trees are not getting enough water….they look wilted at the moment. Also there is garbage &cigarette butts all over the place!

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