Condo owners to pay $500K to save dog urine-contaminated park

Residents at a luxury condo have decided to spend half a million dollars to rescue a small park that had gone to the dogs.

Parkette had become so badly affected that even trees there couldn't survive

Craig Kilander wasn't letting his two dogs do their business in the parkette outside his condo building because they'd gotten sick from all the urine and feces there. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Residents at a luxury condo tower have decided to spend half a million dollars to rescue a small park — after it was all but gone to the dogs.

The square section of grass at the back entrance of The Spire in the downtown core was a destination for hundreds of dog owners whose pets needed to relieve themselves. But with so many using the parkette as a restroom, the soil had become badly contaminated — so much so that 15 trees there couldn't survive.

Craig Kilander and his two Boston terriers live near the top of the 45-storey Spire condo. Kilander takes his dogs out three or four times a day to relieve themselves but hasn't taken them to the Spire parkette since renovations began. 

"One thing I like about it is the fact that the flower beds are separate from the walkways," Kilander said upon seeing the renovations. "If there's a heavy downpour, there's a place for water to go." 

'There won't be anything sitting in there'

Work crews have almost finished transforming the parkette. Some of the final steps include tamping down the walkways, which are made with a mixture of granite bonded with resin — material originally developed for the High Line, a linear, elevated park in New York City.

The walkway is meant to allow not only rainwater, but the dog pee, to run down to the existing drains in the concrete slab below and onward to the city's storm sewers.

Condo board member Susan Watts says that while she's lived in the building for 10 years, she's never taken up the opportunity to relax in the park because it was such a mess. (Mary Wiens/CBC)

Landscape architect for the project, Matthew Sweig, says a new irrigation system will spray the area so it's thoroughly washed.

"It's timed to suit the plants, not the dogs, because we don't want to drown the plants," says Sweig, with Forest and Field Landscape Architecture. "But it's frequent enough there won't be anything sitting in there."

On the pathways, dogs are welcome to do what they do, as many times a day as necessary. But elsewhere, there will be subtle signage suggesting good behaviour and etiquette, Sweig added, along with some tougher ornamental grasses — not the kind of thing that makes for a comfy bed for a dog.

Virtually no opposition to ponying up to pay

"It's more beautiful, it's more functional, so I really think it's a win-win," said Craig Taylor, project manager for the renovation.

The hope, at first, was that the city would share the cost of the renovation, but in the end, owners are the Spire decided they simply couldn't wait to take action.

Taylor says it's unlikely any future condo developer would ever leave room for a green space like the parkette at the foot of Spire. Instead, he says, they'd be more inclined to build a second condo tower.  

That's in part why there was virtually no opposition when, at the annual general meeting, the board recommended investing some $500,000 in the park.

Condo board member Susan Watts says that while she's lived in the building for 10 years, she's never taken up the opportunity to spend time at the parkette because it was such a mess.

But with the re-opening around the corner, next week in fact, she says she's looking forward to head downstairs with a book to enjoy it — along with the dogs.

"It's just a beautiful little oasis in a downtown area of the city," said Watts. "I'm thrilled."

With files from Mary Wiens