A genuine Park Board Park at the New Oakridge

Another in our series of posts on Vancouver’s really big transformation of a 1950’s-vintage, 28-acre car-oriented urban shopping mall into a transit-oriented mixed use community.

And now, something that surprised me.

Nine acres of the new Oakridge Centre will be a park owned and operated by Vancouver’s Park Board as a “. . .destination park for the rest of the City.”  HERE is a staff report (77-page PDF) approved July 9, 2018 by the Vancouver Park Board on a remarkable, first of it’s kind relationship between a developer and the Park Board. (Thanks to Jeff Leigh, regular PT commenter).

The redevelopment of Oakridge Centre will include a new Vancouver Park Board owned and operated park. The new nine (9) acre public park will be the first of its kind of this scale in Vancouver, located partially on the roof top of the mall and partially at ground level. Although not the first Park Board Park built on structure, it will be the largest to date. This innovation in park design will offer a unique experience for existing and new residents in the area and will act as a destination park for the rest of the city. It will be designed and operated to look, feel and function as a part of the Park Board’s system with equal access for all. . . .


The new nine (9) acre public park at Oakridge Centre will offer a unique experience for existing and new residents in the area and will act as a destination park for the rest of the city. Featuring six (6) distinct park areas with a balance of lively and tranquil spaces in order to provide a wide range of activities, from social, active and fitness focused to calm, peaceful and restorative. Applying a rich layer of ecological and horticultural design, the park will create unexpected nature on a rooftop, redefining what is possible on a landscape on top of a building. Featuring a series of unique but interconnected spaces, the park will be woven together with a rich Pacific Northwest landscape and an 800m jogging and walking track.

The park will be constructed and programmed to both function and be perceived as a fully public, inviting and accessible Park Board park for all, meeting the new park’s vision to “provide a diverse and welcoming collection of park spaces balancing tranquil and active uses strongly connected by an unexpected rooftop Pacific Northwest landscape”, and “ensure vibrant interaction between the adjacent civic centre and the shopping mall uses to create a lively citywide destination while also serving the daily park and recreation needs of nearby residents”.


  1. What about the private park on top of VGH. It has been in disrepair for decades and no one is allowed to use it. Is that what is going to happen in the new Oakridge.

  2. It cannot be seen from the illustration that you provided, but the bulk of the park is at an elevation 2-3 storeys higher than those portions of the park adjacent to 41st Ave and 45th Ave. In other words, one has to hike up a path, or stairs, or take an escalator from inside the mall, to reach the rooftop park.

    1. From the staff report linked above:

      “Access to the different areas and levels of the park will be provided through a minimum of six points of entry, including a combination of stairs, escalators, and elevators. This includes publicly accessible access points which are open during non-mall hours, with at least two accessible elevator access points open 24 hours.”

      So no need to rely on escalators in the mall to reach the upper levels, and no restriction related to mall hours of operation.

      1. The map also shows what appears to be a slope and ramp at the NW corner… so on the odd chance there’s a disabled person wanting to watch an outdoor movie on the hill, they’re covered too.

  3. I’ll be honest. I’m very skeptical of the development as a whole, but I might change my tune about the park when it’s finished. We’ll see. Either way, I’m very glad to see that it will be publically owned and operated.

  4. The design for this version is far better detailed than before and is a big improvement. There is a good activity program and some design elements (e.g. a bridge) are quite exciting. Obviously they worked on the access issue too and provided several options to meet the requirements of all ages and abilities. The developer has obviously agreed to address the legal aspects of public vs private space as well, probably through outright ownership transfers or at least easements and covenants.

    One concern I have after decades in urban design is with the performance of roof gardens during our very rainy winter months. I have seen failures big and small, some that have resulted in extensive damage to residential spaces below that rendered them uninhabitable for years (mould is a huge issue …) while the insurance companies and the courts fight over the responsibility for repairs. This will be one of the most extensive roof gardens / parks anywhere, and occupied interior spaces are prevalent below. A leak can originate tens of metres away from where it appears on the ceilings below, and tracing then repairing them could see large swaths of the park ripped up for months.

    The best roof top gardens from a maintenance aspect are those that are containerized (semi-moveable) and suspended on a floating deck above the roof membrane. I am at a loss to explain how a large park with many different weight distribution and drainage challenges will perform over the years in a temperate rain forest climate if a suspended deck system was used. I suggest placing the entire support profile (drain layers, filter cloth, growing medium, etc.) directly on top of a beefed up structural slab could work against the effort to find and repair a significant leak. Even the filter cloth near the bottom of the profile can plug up with fines from the soil, and the use of this material is questionable from the beginning. Some real challenges will present themselves where they propose contouring the earth into berms and mounds, or increasing the depth of growing medium to two or three metres to support a forest of mature trees where the soil profile will impose a weight in excess of two tonnes per cubic metre when saturated by winter rain. Styrofoam blocking is often used to build up earthen contours when weight is a concern, but mature tree roots need more than foam plastics to tap into.

    Very challenging indeed. The developer’s engineering fee budgets better be generous on this one.

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