British Columbia

Vancouver approves $14M downtown park, hours before considering budget cuts

In the middle of downtown, Vancouver will be unpaving a parking lot and putting up paradise — but it won't come cheap. 

Richards and Smithe park will include a small café space, walking bridge and overhead skyframes 

A rendering of the new park that will be built at Richards and Smithe streets in downtown Vancouver. (City of Vancouver )

In the middle of downtown, Vancouver will be unpaving a parking lot and putting up paradise — but it won't come cheap. 

Council approved a $14 million contract for a new park Wednesday at the site of a parking lot at Smithe and Richards streets, following an eight year process that saw the park's budget more than double. 

"I'm certainly conflicted on this one," said Coun. Lisa Dominato, one of seven councillors to vote in favour. 

"I know the community really wants to see this go forward, [and] the challenge for me is sending it back to the drawing board will add more costs."  

It came on the same day council was to consider cuts to the $111 million in additional spending proposed for next year's budget.

Voting against the park were councillors Colleen Hardwick, Melissa De Genova and Rebecca Bligh, with Pete Fry abstaining.

"I'm not crazy about the design. I think it does seem like a bit of an overspend on a park," said Fry, who pointed out that the public indicated it preferred a less costly and more natural design on consultations sessions.

Council also approved an annual $500,000 maintenance fee for the park, which is scheduled to open in early 2021. 

World-class design

Around $8 million of the funding comes from community amenity contributions from the nearby Telus Garden development, which was completed in 2015.  

A majority of councillors said they were comfortable with the proposal — which includes a small café space, walking bridge and overhead skyframes "that will support lighting and ephemeral installations."

"It's pushing the envelope," said Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung.

"I think that sometimes whenever you push the boundaries of design you're going to have different opinions on them. It's the same as public art ... but I do think it's going to provide a great asset for the city."

Jurisdiction over park design falls to the city's independent park board, which voted in favour of the project earlier in the week.

Staff said a new park was needed given the growing numbers of young families in the Yaletown area, and that having a world-class design was made a priority — though some councillors disagreed.

"Maybe we need to get a little bit more basic in what we use our money for," said Jean Swanson, who ultimately voted in favour, because she feared it would cost more if the process had to start over.

"I don't need a chandelier-type park."

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