Families eagerly await new playground in downtown Edmonton

An Edmonton police officer noticed a lack of places for kids to play in the downtown core. Sgt. Nicole Davie got the project off the ground and a new playground is expected to open in the coming weeks.

McKay Avenue has one of the largest concentrations of families in the city's core

Construction continues on the first playground in downtown Edmonton. The McKay Avenue School Playground is located at 104th Street and 99th Avenue. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

A new park in downtown Edmonton will be ready for families to use just in time for summer.

The park is located on 99th Avenue and 104th Street next to McKay Avenue School, which now functions as an archive and museum for Edmonton Public Schools.

Edmonton police officer Sgt. Nicole Davie came up with the idea for the project after her time working as a community liaison officer with downtown division. On her beat, Davie got to know the staff at the archives and she asked them why there wasn't a playground next to the old school.

"So we had a discussion about the potential of maybe having a playground," Davie said Saturday. "I noticed there wasn't any other playground within [the] downtown community and I thought we need one. There's children, there's families, there's definitely people that would appreciate a place to bring their children."

Edmonton police Sgt. Nicole Davie got the idea for the project during her time as a community liaison officer with downtown division. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

A committee was launched in February 2017. Members immediately realized fundraising was going to take a lot of work.

"It's not easy to come up with $150,000 necessarily," Davie said. "But once we got the word out there that this is what we were looking to do, we got a lot of great support and contributions."

The city got on board with the idea, as did the Edmonton Police Foundation, Edmonton Public Schools, the Downtown Edmonton community league, Maclab Properties Group and architecture firm Manasc Isaac, which helped with the park design.

The Kiwanis Club of Edmonton also funded the project with money raised from the giant slide at K-Days. Davie said they had to have a yellow slide at the park to pay tribute to the tradition.

The Downtown Business Association was also a supporter of the project. Executive director Ian O'Donnell said the park is the first of its type in the city's core.

Downtown Business Association executive director Ian O'Donnell welcomes the new addition to the core. He said making the core more family friendly is beneficial to businesses as well. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

"There used to be one here many, many years ago but we wanted to bring it back," O'Donnell said. "We're working with the city on another park that will have a larger playground and then the new Milner Library off Churchill Square will also have a playground. So, we're going to go from zero to three in the next few years."

O'Donnell said parks help attract more people to the core of the city. 

"When they have more inclusivity, when they're more vibrant and interesting they tend to have more people using them," he said. "So having a playground downtown, having more families come downtown, having them linger, having them live — it's going to increase the amount of business in the area."

O'Donnell said McKay Avenue has one of the largest concentrations of families in the core.

Mona Abdolrazaghi lives in the downtown area with her husband and daughter. She said before the McKay Avenue park existed they would use parks in Rossdale but would have to drive there. She hopes the park will be a great way to bring the community together.

"The playground makes more families come here with their kids," Abdolrazaghi said. "They come together and they play and parent ... mothers can meet and make new friends. Also, it makes the area much safer."

Abdolrazaghi loves how walkable the neighbourhood is and thinks adding parks will make core living an option for more families who otherwise would move to the suburbs.

"It gives us pleasure," Abdolrazaghi said. "You can take your kids out to all those facilities that are around ... the museum, art gallery and the programs that they have at the library as well as the playground. So you don't have to live in a house to take your child out to play."

The city's 2017 Growth Monitoring Report showed a steady increase in residential developments in the core area from 2010 to 2016. The city is also aiming to have 25 per cent of new residential developments in the core and mature areas.

Davie expects the park will be completed in the next couple of weeks and said a grand-opening event will be held when construction is finished.

With files from Claudette Germain