Spring is here in Victoria Park!
The Victoria Park Pop Up Park Project emerged as a way to further promote public realm vitality in our area. Victoria Park has a number of surface parking lots, vacant lots, halted construction sites, and vacant leasable space. Turning these sites into assets that will enhance the area and potentiality incent future development is a key concern for us. Small scale, temporary improvements have been used by major cities in North America and Europe to address similar issues, commonly referred to as ‘Pop Ups’. Community groups are using this strategy as a way to test innovative and creative concepts with minimal risk. Temporary activation of small spaces has shown to foster positive change in communities by bringing in people, investment and development.
The global purpose of enabling Pop Up Projects in Victoria Park is to reclaim vacant space and turn it into an asset, enhance public safety, increase the vitality of street life, promote creativity and innovation, and encourage future occupancy and development.
Site: 208 14th Avenue SW
Victoria Park’s first project, the Victoria Park Pop Up Park is located on the active retail and restaurant strip of 1 Street SW. The location for the urban pocket park was chosen to link the dynamic street to the adjacent Haultain Park. The privately owned site was originally intended to be used for the development of a high rise condominium tower (Union Square Tower II), but has sat vacant since the completion of the Union Square Tower I in 2008.
Fencing was erected around the site which enclosed high voltage electrical panels and electrical cables left over from the construction. The fencing proved to be problematic; being regularly blown over by wind storms and reducing visibility into the site incenting illegal behaviors. The site’s enhancement was becoming an increasing a priority for Victoria Park BRZ due to the amounts of graffiti, safety and social issues that afflicted the site. Permissions were given by the property owner to Victoria Park BRZ to address these problems and to be used for Calgary’s first Pop Up Park (2-5 years) on privately owned land in the Centre City.
The conceptual design of the project identified two urban pocket park spaces and a back lot with vehicular access. The two pocket park spaces open up the vacant site towards 1 Street SW, providing many opportunities to animate the site. The initial conceptual design for Pocket Park A (north open space) was to link 1 Street SW to Haultain Park, with two plaza spaces fronting both of those edges, and a path to connecting the two. The initial conceptual design for Pocket Park B (south open space) was to provide a path linking 14th Avenue SW to 1 Street SW diagonally through the site, forming a seating space and plaza in facing the street. A planter- fence design was conceptualized early as a way to integrate the beautification of the site with the delineation the two pocket parks from the private back lot.
An opportunity for the funding of the Victoria Park Pop Up Park was offered through Molson Canadian’s Red leaf Projects. The Molson Red Leaf Projects are one day events based on volunteer’s contributions, often planting trees, to improve a community. Victoria Park BRZ reinterpreted the Red Leaf Project concept to integrate into an urban setting. Native grasses, plants and reclaimed materials were chosen to be used instead of planting trees and sod, which are not suitable or cost effective for a temporary urban park. The materials and the design of the park were chosen based upon cost challenges and the technical skills available for a one day volunteer park build. The design went from using technically challenging pavers on the plaza space to using a simple wood deck design; the material choices for groundcover became decorative limestone for the pathways and rough aggregate for remainder areas. The design for the planters and fences were standardized in order to maximize volunteer capacity.
Volunteers rejuvenated the vacant lot in the Victoria Park area of Calgary on July 2, 2012, and transforming it into the two urban open spaces. The Victoria Park Pop Up Park is an example of how the Victoria Park business community and property owners can start experimenting with activating their vacant lots and retail spaces. This Victoria Park Pop Up Project represents the more complex end of the scale in terms of technical challenge and difficulty. Victoria Park BRZ will continue to document and acquire information on the impacts and results of the Victoria Park Pop Up Park. Going forward, The BRZ will implement other small scale, temporary activations of vacant space based on these results and community interest.
For more information about the Victoria Park Pop Up Projects, refer to the pdf in the left column, or email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.