In Our View: Take a Bow, Vancouver

The city, downtown's Esther Short Park earn impressive rankings on national lists



The accolades just keep rolling in.

This week, Vancouver was ranked among the 100 best places to live in the United States, according to the good people at And a couple weeks ago, Esther Short Park in downtown was cited as one of this year’s 10 Great Public Spaces by the brilliant minds at the American Planning Association.

What’s next? Honors for our historic interstate bridge? Sorry, we won’t go there; why risk stirring up debate at a time of celebration for the city? For now, we will be content to bask in the glow of having other people recognize what the locals long have suspected — this is a special place to live.

According to the geniuses at, Vancouver ranked 96th among some 1,700 cities that have populations between 20,000 and 350,000. The rankings were based upon scores in categories such as amenities, health care and education. Vancouver finished between Helena, Mont., and Murray, Utah.

“It’s not surprising to me that Vancouver is again being recognized by outside experts as being such a quality place to live,” Mayor Tim Leavitt said. “It points to community leadership that recognizes that a quality community has many different values.”

And, we should mention, — a division of a Tennessee-based communications company — appears to be smitten with us. It also has ranked Vancouver among its Top 10 Staycation Cities.

For the best-places-to-live rankings, Vancouver scored 80 out of 100 points for “amenities” — defined as “access to parks, farmers markets, golf courses and natural amenities, as well as the weather and the role of arts in the community.” Weather? OK, so they must have seen pictures of the city on a rare sunny day. But we won’t quibble. Among the other categories, Vancouver scored 69 for health care, 62 for social and civic capital, and another 62 for demographics. Its lowest score was a 37 for education.

Overall, Vancouver’s ranking among small and midsized cities serves as the epitome of a quote from American entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad: “I have always believed that every great city in history needs a vibrant center.” For us, that center can be found at Esther Short Park, which brings us to another recent accolade.

In honoring the community’s living room, the perceptive people at the American Planning Association gave credit “for a design that honors the city’s history and culture, amenities that allow for participation and contemplation, and the park’s catalytic role in the city’s long-range, $800 million downtown mixed-use plan that has attracted some $250 million in reinvestment since 2002.”

And we thought it was simply another pretty face.

In 1853, homesteader Esther Short bequeathed the land for the 5.4-acre park to the city. Now, after undergoing a vast renovation some 15 years ago, the park ranks with landmarks such as New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and Los Angeles’ Grand Park as one of the nation’s great public spaces. In previous years, Seattle’s Pike Place Market and Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park and Pioneer Courthouse Square have been so honored. That’s fine company for Vancouver’s favorite gathering place.

The concern, of course, is that Vancouverites might get a big head. How much praise can one city take without becoming overly arrogant? But at the risk of heaping praise on top of more praise, we’ll close with a quote from 19th century American poet Walt Whitman: “A great city is that which has the greatest men and women.”

Oh, so true.