“This is not a park…”
#9 in Riley Park
192 East 18th Avenue
What does $590,000, modern urban design principles and copious references to a city’s diverse background get you?
Sometimes, just a weirdly unsatisfying modernist park.
Sun Hop Park, named for a company that operated a block away in the 1920s, and paying homage to the Chinese green grocers of the era, is less than a decade old. It was converted from a traffic triangle next to a parking lot in 2013, at the same time the same parking lot was being converted — in the best traditions of early 21st Century Vancouver — to a mixed-use market condo.
According to Park Board Minutes at the time, open houses revealed that people wanted a place that prioritized “social gathering, seating, respite from the traffic on Main Street, green space, public art, incorporating historical context (especially the Palm dairy), a gateway to mid-Main, interactive elements, memorable experience, and expression of the community.”
That’s a lot of stuff to jam into a small triangle of land beside a busy street. Which might explain why Sun Hop is such a jumbled mess.
The dominant feature of the park is a curved red pergola, in theory looking like giant bendy straws you could have seen at the Ice Cream shop that operated on the site for 37 years.
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t look like bendy straws! In theory, greenery was going to sprout on top of the pipes, but in reality there’s one sad vine on one sad curve, giving the impression of an unfinished art project.
The “seating” is a few small and rickety tables, with small metallic chairs chained to the table in a completely uninviting manner. In the middle, there’s a mound of grass that’s too steep for people to actually picnic on. The rest of the park is a strip of concrete, with the somewhat infamous Main Street Poodle statue standing guard over everything.
The shame is that architects Hapa Collaborative created the much loved Terra Nova Playground in Richmond, and the area surrounding 18th and Main is filled with plenty of small restaurants that could make a small parklet a great place for small-scale community engagement.
That didn’t happen for Sun Hop. The area sits mostly empty, despite being new and in a high-traffic area.
If it’s a disappointing reminder that pedigree, money and consultation doesn’t automatically mean a good park, the good news is a much better example lies just a few blocks away.