#15 in Downtown
625 Burrard Street
There’s a nice symmetry with the small park surrounding the Burrard SkyTrain station being named for Art Phillips.
For those under 40 (raises hand) or who didn’t grow up in Vancouver (raises hand), and wants a little history lesson (wait where are you all going?) Art Phillips is generally seen as the first “modern” mayor of Vancouver.
The word “modern” and what it means historically is inherently always shifting and up for debate, but there was an important “before” and “after” line in his four year tenure in the 1970s. Part of it was Phillips was a relatively young man when he became mayor, defeating a long-established political party with different views, and bringing with him a host of councillors that would have long and influential careers in the city, creating a generational change that provides an easy civic demarcation.
But the other part is the things he championed while mayor — stopping a freeway through Downtown, leading the transition of the city’s waterfront from industrial to residential, championing green space and local participation — came to be seen as defining features of the city’s ethos, the things that set it apart as it began its multi-decade run into a world-class something or other.
(yes, this is a smoothed over and politically expedient explanation, but then again so is most of popular history)
Anyway, shortly before he died in 2013, the city renamed Discovery Square into Art Phillips Park.
It’s a quiet area surrounding a SkyTrain station, which of course is a form of rapid transit fairly unique to Vancouver. The land itself was saved through a partnership with developers, another Vancouver trademark. There are two sculptures designed for the city’s centennial. And the design, a quirky series of green terraces and tables, with cherry blossoms that explode in the spring, is the sort of effortlessly beautiful look that the city sold to the world.
Today, it could be better maintained and given a bit more polish, but then again, metaphors are often a little too on the nose.
It’s a nice honour for an important person, and a good place to have lunch and consider how the city has changed.