Councillors want details on proposed public gardens along Green Line LRT

Some city councillors want more work done on the idea of public gardens that could be developed near some future Green Line LRT stations.

Parks Foundation CEO sees opportunity to create 'great park spaces'

Calgary council is discussing the possibility of adding public gardens near LRT stations when the Green Line is built. (Green Line Public Gardens Scoping Report)

Some city councillors want more work done on the idea of public gardens that could be developed near future Green Line LRT stations.

Council's transportation committee voted Wednesday to call for a report by the end of this year to provide more details on the concept.

The public gardens idea came from Coun. Shane Keating. He said they could be like the railway gardens that used to be found outside passenger rail stations in years gone by.

They could also help tap into the Green Line's $4-million public art budget. 

A report presented to the committee concluded that the idea is feasible and the gardens could help provide important linkages for the stations to the surrounding areas.

Gardens could add to stations, communities

The committee's vice-chair, Coun. Jeff Davison, said it may be a viable idea to help activate the spaces outside stations. But there are unanswered questions, which is why a scoping report is needed.

"Is that a prime example of where we should be looking to place public art and is the garden itself a version of public art?" said Davison. 

"How can you intertwine those two things together to create a better community asset?"

Only Coun. Jeromy Farkas voted against calling for a report. He said he has concerns about these gardens taking up developable space around stations that could help generate revenue for the city.

The potential cost was another factor for the councillor.

"While I like this idea generally, this may also be expensive and compromise our ability to fully build out the Green Line to the north and south where citizens need it most, at this point," said Farkas.

Committee wants more details

The committee voted in favour of a report, which would be back before council later this year. That report would spell out concepts for gardens outside six Green Line stations, potential costs and how to deliver the projects.

City administration is recommending that if council decides to proceed with the gardens, the work should be commissioned through a supplementary contract to the main Green Line work.

Parks Foundation Calgary said if council decides to go ahead, it would be supportive of the project and would be interested in being involved.

CEO Sheila Taylor told the committee her group agrees with the concept. But she'd like to see the city create actual destinations by aiming high and targeting its efforts along the Green Line.

"What I see the good opportunity being is some really high impact, great park spaces rather than spreading funding throughout 25 spaces that are just so-so, that really become just benches and planters. Those aren't going to be active community spaces," said Taylor.

Public gardens such as the Novartis Physic Garden in Basel, Switzerland, above, are being considered by Calgary council to be built near new LRT stations along the Green Line. (Green Line Public Scoping Report)

Different types of gardens

The city administration sees potential for these public gardens to become community hubs, which could feature art or tie into elements of local history. It envisions year-round use for the gardens and that some be flexible spaces where other activities would be allowed.

It also suggests that the public gardens should promote wayfinding along the Green Line by helping to identify the station or nearby community for C-Train users.

City council will debate the scoping report at an upcoming meeting. 

There would be no cost as the work would be done by city officials and not by bringing in an external consultant.

Construction of the $4.65-billion Green Line is expected to start in 2020, with the new C-Train line opening in 2026.


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