Edmonton

Edmonton turning downtown parking lots into Central Park

The City of Edmonton plans to do the opposite of paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. It's going to turn four existing parking lots downtown into a park. 

Green space the size of two football fields planned for north of Jasper Avenue

This parking lot and several others will be transformed into a central park for downtown Edmonton. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The City of Edmonton plans to do the opposite of paving paradise and putting up a parking lot.

It's going to transform four existing downtown parking lots into a 1.25-hectare park. 

The envisioned green space, about the size of two football fields, will span nearly two blocks from Jasper Avenue to 102nd Avenue and between 106th and 108th streets. 

Tuesday, the city held a drop-in session at NorQuest College to display its vision for the park — a large open green space with landscaping, a variety of seating, play areas for children and art installations. 

David Holdsworth, a senior planner with the city's urban renewal department, said the park should be a welcoming place where neighbouring businesses like coffee shops and restaurants are free to open up and integrate into the green space.

"It's a legacy," Holdsworth said. "It's not often you get to build a major park in a major city." 

It's dubbed the Warehouse Campus Neighborhood Central Park until a new name is chosen, Holdsworth said. 
The city acquired four plots between Jasper Avenue and 102nd Avenue west of 106th Street. (City of Edmonton)

Coun. Scott McKeen, who represents the downtown ward, said he wants the park to be spectacular.

"I think there has to be a lot of grass because that is one of the things that is in short supply in the downtown area," McKeen said Tuesday at city hall. 

He said the park should encourage activity and possibly include a facility where people can rent sports and leisure gear. 

"Everything from chess boards to frisbees to soccer balls," he said. "Do we need a sand volleyball court in there?" 

'A lively, busy city'

The central park has been in the works since 2010 when council identified the need for a major park in the warehouse district. 

The city began expropriating four parcels of land in February 2017, then in January this year, the city acquired the final parking lot west of 107th Street and south of 102nd Avenue. 

The city failed to convince one business to sell: Doan's Vietnamese Restaurant, just south of that parking lot.

The family-run business has been there since 2000.

Jackson Nguyen, manager and part owner of Doan's, told CBC News Tuesday that several people have approached him to sell, but the family intends to stay and grow with the surrounding landscape. 

He welcomes a park next to the business and wants to make sure it will be a vibrant spot. 
Jackson Nguyen's parents opened Doan's Vietnamese Restaurant on 107th Street just north of Jasper Avenue in 2000. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

"Something where people are actually excited to come to — not just a park that sits empty 90 per cent of the time," Nguyen said. 

He suggested some events, like the Heritage Festival, could move to the central park and offer music and performances. 

"We just want to see more of a lively, busy city." 

The park will include public washrooms and be inclusive, Holdsworth noted. 

"It will and should be open to everybody." 

Holdsworth said if the city is successful at making the park an inviting space for many people, the safer it will be.

Parking 

Even though the plan is to transform four parking lots, Holdsworth said there's still plenty of parking downtown with several new towers like Stantec and J.W. Marriott opening underground parkades.

Nguyen said people may complain if parking is removed but he's confident people will find a way to access the park and other amenities.

"I'd rather have too many things to do with not enough parking then plenty of parking but nothing to do," Nguyen said. "We've tried that already."

He noted people can use alternatives like carpooling, LRT, buses and bike lanes. 
The city expropriated the lot on 107th Street, south of 102nd Avenue for the future Central Park. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Later this year, the city will hold an international design competition, inviting proposals for a future park.

Holdsworth said various landscape architects have expressed interest to bid. 

The city has set aside between $20 million and $28 million for the park. 

Construction may begin as early as 2021. 

@natashariebe

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