I first posted on the new park at Nelson and Mainland in April, 2007 – here –  just after it was finished construction.

Yaletown Park

Lots of comments.  Ron Chin even pulled out the City’s staff report with the park’s design program:

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 sunny lunch break, for a cup of coffee, or for meeting up with a group of friends.

Okaaay.  There’s the test: a precious little space on a sunny day. Well, it was a sunny day on this walking tour.  What’s up at the park?

Not, as it happened, much.

Yaletown Park seats

Even in the shade, next to the planters, not a soul:

Yaletown Park seats in shade

It’s true there were some people, clustered on the dock next to Starbucks, or taking advantage of the WiFi:

Yaletown Park Starbucks

And perhaps the park will seem more inviting as the trees mature.  The louvres next to Nelson are already more attractive:

Yaletown Park trellis

But on the whole, not what I would consider a successful public space, not for the cost.


  1. You’re not alone in your disappointment with this “public space”. It’s absolutely horrible in so many ways. The stones are uncomfortable and have seemingly been designed to prevent skateboarders more than encourage interaction amongst the locals. The Starbucks is decent but lacks the interaction one can get from many other coffee shops which face onto a busier walkway in Yaletown (and, really, being able to sit in the sun, sipping a latte, and having an unplanned pleasant interaction with a local stranger or friend is one of the best features of cafe culture).

    There is nothing, not one single thing, that I can see that was designed well with this “park”. Let’s get more green, more water, more life in there! As it is now it is merely a rough concrete pad with some pizazz (well, there is a darker stone line down the middle).

  2. I agree the park isn’t anything to write home about, I am glad that it’s different, it’s kind of like some european town squares but w/o the people. At least we tried something different, who knows maybe it’ll become popular in time, and if not at least we’ve been there tried that and can try something else next time.

  3. I work near this park and I can assure you that on any given (sunny) day the number of people enjoying this park space is about what you see in the pictures. It’s a bust.

    I would suggest that placing moveable chairs throughout the park might entice people to enjoy a “sunny lunch break…” but given the uneven and spaced quality of the stone work that might even be difficult.

    Why sit around a grey stone environment beside a busy street when I can walk 100 feet and sit on a Yaletown bench surrounded by warm terracotta brick, vibrant patios, a quiet street and beautiful people?

    In a town awash in grey 6 months of the year would it have been too much to ask to add another bit of green space or a splash of colour? It will look better once the weeds start clawing there way up from below.

  4. I think the problem is that the underground parkade did not account for tree wells – so the trees were bumped up into those mounds. The mounds create problems fro hosting activities in the plaza since tables will not sit level. The park was supposed to have extensive programming – markets and concerts and the like – but the only event I have ever seen there is a women’s fitness competition called “Femsport” in August I think.

    The lack of foresight is seen best with the screens facing Nelson street. The slats on the louvres are far far too wide for a vine to wrap around and the passion flower vines (somewhat semi-tropical) planted there are not vigorous enough to cover the entire screens even if they could climb them.

    I think the plaza would have been more successful with a more standard approach of raised planters for the trees with perimeter bench seating around each planter (allowing passive use even in the middle of the plaza, rather then just the periphery, as is the case now). A regular grid of planters would have also allowed aisles of vendors to be located between planters for event use.

    Ultimately, reconfiguring the plaza would be relatively simple – but who’s going to pay for it?

  5. I work at the BusinessObjects barn across the street and everyone I’ve talked to about it has been disappointed with this park. As Matt says, the traffic shown here is pretty typical. The Starbucks does a good trade, yes, but when you have a thousand people working next door, this isn’t much of an achievement.

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  7. I think the biggest problem with the park isn’t the design but rather that there’s no reason to hang out there.

    If Starbucks were allowed to have their patio “spill into the park” it would be much more interesting. A road side food vendor would also give people a reason to sit and eat.

    A gravel strip for Bocci would also be interesting though I’m not sure how much it would get used.

  8. Just came from the park (Jan 6, 2012) and in the years since this posting nothing has changed except that wonderful piece of art (Eros Bendato Scrippolato) has been removed. That was the ONLY reason why anyone would want to visit this terrible park. In fact I would rate it as the ugliest, least functional park in Vancouver. All you have to do is to travel a couple of blocks to Davie and Richards to the stunning Emery Barnes Park and see what an urban park should look like. If Yaletown Park had just incorporated a couple of EB Park’s designs it would’ve been measurably better – such as the Rotary Clubs trestled, brick seating area. Just because Yaletown is inhabited by ‘cool’ people doesn’t mean they deserve a cold and depressing park.

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