May 21, 2021

Small Changes – One Block of Helmcken Street

Another pandemic-created space in one block of Helmcken between Mainland and Hamilton, in the heart of Yaletown:

A block has been taken out of the traffic grid – rather in the tradition of the first miniparks in the West End in the early 1970s (the first example of its kind in North America, as far as I know).

This will last for the summer, I presume – and then what?  It will depend, of course, on the reaction of the BIA and users, on the impacts on traffic flows, on the economic benefit that can be measured, and just the pleasure of the space in summer during the (hopefully) end of the pandemic.  But it wouldn’t have happened at all if not for the imperative of responding to Covid requirements, the ability of engineering staff to react quickly, the designers coming up with something cheap, fast and effective, and the willingness of the Yaletown community to try our something different.

But then, right across the street, there’s this:

It’s a parking lot at the end of Helmcken Street, privately owned, that cannot be used as a through route for pedestrians and cyclists to the city-owned park on the other side of the lane, save for the constrained sidewalk that is neither disabled-accessible nor bike friendly.  The barrier seems to get periodically reinforced, especially the ropes – in intent and design, everything that the space across Mainland is not.

One other change: the new highrise, one of the densest residential blocks in downtown, sits on the top of the rise at Richards and Helmcken.  It seems to fit reasonably well into the cityscape from this view, as the foreground blocks in similar proportion climb the little hill.





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  1. Thanks for pointing out the contrast between the newly activated block of Helmcken west of Mainland, and the chained-off parking lot east of Mainland. We live a block from the parking lot, regularly have to climb over the chains, avoid shopping at any of the stores in the building that adjoins the parking lot, and are happy to tell any of the 1,000 people living in our complex who also must deal with this company’s attitude why we make that choice.

    1. That would be the landlord controlling the space, not the retail tenant. That’s like blaming the kids for the sins of the parents…

  2. The Yaletown BIA blocked off the street for what they call the Helmeckn Plaza.
    Many of the business owners in the area (including myself) have asked for it to be removed so we can have full street access again for our customers. The association says no (quite rudely if I’m being honest)

    It’s actually went up before the pandemic. The only thing added after was cement barricades and the weird paint job on the pavement. It’s was originally designed for the restaurants to have additional patio space but was rarely used.

    It’s quite annoying and prevents fire trucks and ambulances from getting to emergencies quicker.

    They (BIA) claim it creates a safe passage (as oppose to the the large sidewalks)

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