New park in Vancouver with elevated walkways, washrooms opens

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After over two years of construction, the new Smithe-Richards urban public park in downtown Vancouver will finally open to the public tomorrow afternoon.

“This park marks an important chapter in the transformation of downtown Vancouver. Setting a standard for innovative, high-capacity, three-dimension community spaces, this park demonstrates how to deliver access to nature, leisure, health, and community connection in a dense urban setting – and is like nothing Vancouver has seen before,” said Dave Hutch, director of planning and park development of the Vancouver Park Board, in a statement.

“This is a place where people can live, work, socialize and play in their neighborhood. It’s about building community, creating complete neighborhoods, and we cannot wait for people to enjoy a whole new take on what a downtown park can be.”

The park is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Smithe Street and Richards Street, on an 0.8-acre lot previously used as a surface parking lot.

Unlike most public parks in the city, Smithe-Richards urban park is not the typical cookie-cutter green lawn park space.

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

smithe richards park april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

Designed by local architectural firm Dialog, a meandering elevated pedestrian pathway spans the park from end to end, leading people to a lookout that hovers high above Smithe Street. A hammock has been installed onto the floor of the lookout, above the street’s sidewalk.

The elevated pathway runs through sky frames that further establish a sense of place, and provide the structural supports for nighttime string lighting and public art installations.

The park includes a children’s playground with a custom-built, three-storey climbing structure and slide, and the various areas throughout the park are accessible with paved pathways. Ample seating is also found throughout the park.

A central plaza with amphitheater-like seating can be used for gatherings and small events.

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

Kafka cafe and public washrooms in the park

Immediately adjacent to the plaza and framing the park’s south end is a pavilion building, which will contain a Kafka’s cafe location, which will open in May. The local chain has three other locations, with the park location slated to offer locally-roasted coffee, fresh pastries and sandwiches, and house-baked sourdough bread, along with soft-serve ice cream — available only at the park.

The cafe’s exterior is clad with Douglas fir carpentry and shimmering artist-crafted mobiles that cast rainbow colors across the space. During warmer weather, a large window wall can be folded to open up the plaza into the cafe’s interior space.

The inclusion of the retail unit within the park will help activate the public space.

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

A feature of the park that was not previously publicly known until today is its inclusion of public washrooms. There will be universal washrooms within the pavilion building, adjacent to Kafka.

Stormwater captured within the park will be captured and reused for non-potable water uses in the park’s facilities. As well, the water used for the in-ground water feature in the plaza will be reused for both the flushing of the washroom toilets, and the irrigation for the park’s 6,000 plants and over 40 new trees. Additionally, the pavilion building was also topped off with a green roof.

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

New name for the park

Smithe-Richards park will be given a new name, which will be announced during an official naming ceremony with the participation of local First Nations in June.

This is the Park Board’s first new major park within the downtown Vancouver peninsula in over a decade.

Construction first began in January 2020 with and original targeted completion in early 2021, but the pandemic delayed progress on the project.

In late 2019, the project was budgeted at $14.5 million, including $8 million provided by a community amenity contribution through the 2011 rezoning of the nearby TELUS Garden towers. Smith Bros. and Wilson Ltd. are the construction contractors.

Over the past year, as separate projects, the City of Vancouver also reached completion on segments of the Smithe Street bike lane and Richards Street bike lane on the edges of the park site.

According to the Park Board, over 10,000 residents and 17,000 employees are within a five-minute walk of the park.

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

smithe richards park vancouver april 2022

Smithe-Richards urban park, April 2022. (Vancouver Park Board)

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