Expansion of Emery Barnes Park is welcome by residents

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

$5.5-million upgrade rejuvenates Yaletown space named for former B.C. Lion, MLA

Todd Coyne

The second phase of expansion has doubled the size of Emery Barnes Park at Davie and Seymour in downtown Vancouver. Photograph by: Steve Bosch, PNG, Vancouver Sun

The new Emery Barnes Park includes an off-leash dog park and futuristic children’s play structure. Photograph by: Steve Bosch, PNG, Vancouver Sun

The City of Vancouver will have a new jewel in its green crown this summer as workers put the finishing touches on the massively expanded Emery Barnes Park in the city’s downtown core.

The newest addition to the city’s growing stock of community gardens and urban oases that have been sprouting up from Dunbar to the Downtown Eastside is a huge redevelopment of the land adjacent to Emery Barnes Park at Seymour and Davie streets in Yaletown.

The $5.5-million park expansion began late last year with the demolition and removal of half a block of old, asbestos-laden buildings to make way for a new off-leash dog park, a futuristic-looking children’s play structure and a sprawling central lawn surrounded by benches and a grand entranceway.

This, the second phase of a three-phase project to transform the block into public green space, has already nearly doubled the scale of the original park, which was built in 2003 and named after a longtime community activist and former NDP MLA.

Though Phase 2 of the development was supposed to be completed last fall, work crews were delayed when it was discovered that one of the five buildings to be demolished — a formal-wear store — was structurally secured to the Brookland Court building on Helmcken, which is staying put for the time being.

Barb Floden, a park board spokeswoman, said that since 2000, the city has added 11 new city parks and expanded nine others for a total of 22 hectares of new park space in just 10 years. And although it might appear that new green space projects like the Emery Barnes expansion are cropping up almost overnight, all three phases of the plan were drawn up and decided in 1997.

Scheduled to begin late this summer, Phase 3 will see the removal of the last building on the north side of Davie Street between Seymour and Richards streets, where the park’s entrance plaza will be constructed.

“The park board has a policy to add to our park inventory whenever possible and there’s no new land in Vancouver, obviously, so many of our more recent parks are through the redevelopment of sites, the demolition of buildings,” Floden said.

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