“Full of trash and horrid odor from water fountain area.”
#18 in Downtown
566 Richards Street
The best that can be said about Cathedral Square, as it exists in 2023, is that it has good bones.
Home to the first underground substation in North America, this park in the heart of Vancouver’s downtown, across the street from the Holy Rosary Cathedral, displays the Expo-style architecture from its 1986 opening, with a light blue colour scheme for the stage and the stark brutalist pillars that were a hallmark of the city’s building style for decades.
There’s some grassy areas, and a small pool area. Squint deeply enough, and you can imagine it as a performing arts space and a vibrant area where office workers get lunch, food trucks come and go, and people of all walks of life enjoy at all hours.
But right now, the grounds are often littered with garbage. The canopy over the stage that once allowed for all-seasons performances or refuge from the rain is long gone. After two years where the park board didn’t fill the water in a pool where the pool is the dominant feature, it returned, making the park a fair bit more hospitable, but it’s still a place with so much missed opportunity.
Some Downtown parks (or areas of parks) get used regularly by homeless people, as a place where they have public space, and while you can have an argument about the social implications (as people in this city often do!), it at least provides for a well-used plot of land. But Cathedral Square isn’t really in that area, and so it just sits mostly vacant.
A 2018 study commissioned by the City of Vancouver said it “is in deteriorating condition” but was “one of the few public plazas with a more intimate scale” and had “the potential” to improve.