North Park Village (or the other Cook Street Village)

One of the most relaxing places within a short walk of the city centre, has to be the bench swing in Franklin Green. Sitting on the swing looking east, you are looking at south end of North Park Village. This urban space, is in my opinion, one of the most interesting places in the city. 

I think we may still be about ten years away from a time when people can say they are in North Park Village and be certain that most people will know what they are talking about. For those that don't know, North Park Village runs from Royal Athletic Park to Harris Green along Cook Street. While its name would suggest that this is the village centre for the North Park neighbourhood, the commercial strip actually straddles the border between North Park and Fernwood (Crazy city neighbourhood borders may well be the topic of another post).
Franklin Green, the play space for North Park Village and
the home of the amazing bench swing.

As most people that have lived in Victoria for a while know, apart from downtown, there are several other smaller urban nodes, with perhaps one exception, we have decided give the 'Village' appendage to them. I am not really certain why this is so and it would be nice to see a little more diversity. Name aside, I think that North Park Village is an amazing urban centre. It has quite a few of the key aspects that you need in any urban space to make it a one stop place for those that live nearby, as well as a destination for many others from other parts of the city.

North Park Village, despite having the keys to success for making it a great place, still does not get the recognition that other centres in the city do, such as Cook Street Village or James Bay Village. 

Any successful urban village needs to have everything that someone needs to be self sufficient and not have to walk elsewhere. For the 4 thousand people that live in North Park, this village can be that one place. 
Wellburn's Grocery Store, here since 1914
At the south end of the village is Wellburn's Market, a basic but complete grocery store that has been in this location since 1914. To supplement Wellburn's, there are a decent selection of other stores. Great baked goods can be found at Patisserie Daniel, one of the first artisan bakeries in the city. Next door is a polish deli that has an excellent selection of sandwich meats, that is addition to the great food and polish specialties that they also sell. Just around the corner from the deli is the Mount Royal Bagel Factory. Just north of the bakery is a small liquor store as well. The village could still use a decent butcher but apart from that everything else is already here. 

North Park Village also has a further selection of retail stores that will satisfy any immediate need. The largest store in the village is the Castle Hardware store, perhaps the best hardware store in the city proper. It has everything from lumber to home-wares and anything else in between. Across the street is Aaronson's Pharmacy, one of the few compounding pharmacies in Victoria. The village also boasts a shoe repair shop, a music shop, a barber and a thrift store.

If you are hungry, thirsty or need a coffee, North Park Village has a surprising variety of options. If you are craving chinese food, the south end of the village has Sun Wah Chinese Restaurant. Next door is a wood fired pizza shop. A little farther north is the Arriba Coffee Shop. In the centre of the village is the Parsonage Cafe, which is run by the Fernwood Coffee Company. Right next door is the only ice cream sandwich store I have ever seen, Cold Comfort. The northern end of the village has Logan's Pub, Pizza Zone and the Little Thai Place Restaurant. For the size of the village that is a pretty amazing spread and with popularization of food trucks we are beginning to see some of them pop-up here too. 

With all of these great places you would think that there would be some acknowledgment by the broader community of its existence. It wasn't until the early 2000's, when I was on the North Park Community Association that there was even a name for this collection of businesses. Even Quadra Village has a solid presence in the consciousness of Victorians and yet North Park Village is pretty much invisible to most people, except perhaps as that place where Castle or Larsen Music is. 

Part of the reason is likely due to the perception that North Park is a run down neighbourhood or that places like Logan's cater to a more working class portion of the population than the Beagle in Cook Street Village does. Yet, in my opinion, it is because this place is more real, necessary and functional in nature that makes it such an amazing urban centre. The people of North Park at least seem to be younger, a little more cutting edge, while Cook Street Village seems like a place that people go to be seen, with a collection of stores that are ostentatious. North Park Village came together because people living nearby needed the services that you find there and the services are defined by the neighbourhood.

For me, there is hope that there will be further evolution and growth to North Park Village due to some upcoming developments nearby. There will be new, likely young and well off residents and they will want to identify with where they live and certainly, as it has always done North Park Village will adapt to serve their needs. Maybe that growth will include adding a butcher, another deli and hopefully a second night spot. The more people living nearby and needing North Park will mean a greater variety of stores and restaurants. 

In the mean time, next time you are nearby, stop and do a stroll along the sidewalks of North Park Village and check out some of the unique places that make it so interesting. 
Dispensary and the Taco Justice food truck near the south end
of North Park Village


The north end of the village

Comments

  1. Just to let you know, Raven Herbal is not an art gallery but a medical cannabis dispensary though we do have art from local artists on our walls

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for letting me know. I will update the picture. I guess I hadn't noticed it change from the art gallery.

    ReplyDelete

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