Highrise proposed on Peace Garden Park site in Oliver

A developer hopes to build a new 16-storey tower at the site of a beloved community garden in the Oliver neighbourhood, but it won’t mean the end of the Peace Garden Park.

The developer has offered to build a new park just south of the current location

The Peace Garden Park in Oliver opened in 2009 at 10259 120 Street. (Laura Osman/ CBC News)

A developer hopes to build a 16-storey tower at the site of a beloved community garden in the Oliver neighbourhood, but even if approved the project won't mean the end of the Peace Garden Park.

The park has provided a place for Oliver urbanites to flex their green thumbs since it was built in 2009.

The developer owns the St. John's school site, directly south of the garden. To avoid shading the park and killing the plants, the developer has proposed a land swap.

The developer's proposal includes building a new community garden directly south of the current location.

"We thought protecting the park from any kind of shadowing was very important, because the park matters to people," said Simon O'Byrne, vice-president of planning for Stantec, the engineering company on the project.

The developer, Limak Investments, hopes to build a 16-storey building on the garden's current site, with family townhouses at street level.

The garden land is owned by the City of Edmonton and leased to the Oliver Community League. The city needs to approve the land swap and city council would have to approve rezoning of the land before the development could go ahead.

'It's been a resounding concern'

Stantec sent a letter to nearby residents, outlining the developer's plans for the tower and the garden.

The letter sparked fears from some in the community who say their space could be lost, even temporarily, if the development goes ahead.

"I would say this is an excellent example of putting the cart before the horse," said Justin Keats, garden director for the community league.

He said the public consultation was premature, and put residents on edge. He said the garden is extremely popular, with 150 names on the wait list.

"It's been a resounding concern from everyone I've spoken to," he said.

Residents and gardeners have expressed worries about the park being out of commission. Some also worry about moving the garden further away from the large seniors' residence across the road.

The Oliver Community League says the Peace Garden Park has a wait list of up to 150 people who hope to get a plot. (Laura Osman/ CBC News)

Keats said the community league doesn't have an official position on the development yet, but he would want to be sure the garden is preserved, even if the development falls through.

O'Byrne said the developer plans to build the new park site before starting construction on the tower, so the space is never out of commission.

He said the developer also plans to cover the cost of the new garden, which would be larger than the current one.

The new building would provide utilities such as water and electricity to the new garden.

Keats said the community league will look at all options on the table, especially if it means protecting the community garden long term.