It’s a mark of success for an urban area when its boundaries expand in the popular definition. White Rock, for example, has strict municipal borders, but you can’t see them on the street, and many residents of nearby South Surrey claim to live in White Rock. “White Rock” sounds nicer.
Vancouver’s south downtown saw a residential construction boom after 2000, and many construction-site billboards invited buyers to invest in “Yaletown.” So where is Yaletown? The City’s website is coy on the subject, affirming that the neighbourhood is popular without showing its location.
About.com sees Yaletown’s borders as “Homer St. to the west, Beatty St. to the east, Smithe St. to the north and Drake St. to the south,” leaving a five-block gap on the southeast side. Wikipedia’s Yaletown is bigger, going one block further north (to Robson) and further east and south (to False Creek).
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver issued its ruling in July 2011. The map below shows Yaletown stretching along False Creek, from vacant lands east of the Cambie Street Bridge where the casino was supposed to go (!) almost to the Burrard Street Bridge, through a precinct of fine townhouses and waterside cafes.
But townhouses are in the minority; most residents live in towers. The Vancouver Guide, a site that offers interesting trivia on Vancouver neighbourhoods, shows about 90 per cent of residents of “Yaletown and area” in high-rise housing.
The Roundhouse (now a community centre) on Pacific Boulevard testifies to Yaletown’s origins as a railyard in the late 1800s. Bruce Macdonald’s Vancouver: a Visual History states that rail workers moved into the north False Creek area from Yale, then a thriving town in the Fraser Canyon. With the recent building boom, the area has attracted young office workers and professionals who party into the wee hours. Vancouver Guide confirms that people between the ages of 20 and 39 make up by far the largest demographic group.
I currently work in Yaletown three or four days a week. My colleagues urged me to mention Yaletown’s innumerable dogs for this post, chihuahuas and Yorkies, a fashion plus for many Yaletownettes. More particularly, they said I should mention the boyfriends and husbands who walk the dogs — slinking through the darkness in the early morning or late at night, hoping to avoid buddies and iPhone cameras.
[The services and sense of geographic orientation are evolving in Yaletown, and I haven’t entered this area in my list of Lower Mainland urban villages. However, it’s an interesting place for visitors to go; outdoor cafes on Marinaside, a walk from there along False Creek, or a trip on the bobble boats across False Creek to Granville Island.]