Chris Buyze can’t wait to play frisbee or relax under a tree in downtown Edmonton’s newest park.
Warehouse Park will emerge from where five parking lots now sit between 106 Street and 108 Street, and Jasper Avenue and 102 Avenue. The urban oasis will be the size of more than two football fields (1.47 hectares) and will include a washroom pavilion, an open lawn, public art, seating and gathering spaces when it opens in late 2025.
Buyze has lived downtown for 22 years. He’s also the president of the Downtown Edmonton Community League.
“From a community league perspective, it’s something we’ve been asking for for at least a decade,” he says. “We want to provide a green space and active recreation opportunities for residents. We really see this green space as our living room, as a place to get outdoors and enjoy nature and meet other members of the community.
“I personally would love to see a tennis court, a water feature or some adult exercise equipment. It’ll be a great place to play frisbee or sit under a mature tree.”
More green space and community
Not only will Warehouse Park add more green space, it will also add more people and create a greater sense of community downtown. Thanks to the project, three neighbouring residential projects with a total of approxiately 2,300 units are already in the works.
“We imagine this as creating a gathering space for those that live, work and play downtown,” said Suzanne Young, Director of Open Spaces Planning and Design for the City of Edmonton.
“It will attract people visiting our city, and, hopefully, those coming back to visit family and friends. And as our city continues to grow, we’re hoping that it will continue to attract private investment in our downtown core, and encourage people to choose to live downtown.”
The City of Edmonton is looking at a few different concepts, programming and elements for Warehouse Park. Edmontonians can now fill out the online survey to share their thoughts about the designs until May 22, 2022—including possible elements such as a half-basketball court, children’s play area, dog relief area, a low-sloped sledding mound, some games tables and public art by Toronto artist Sanaz Mazinani. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2024 on the $42 million project.
“The design goals of the park are to develop a green, year-round open space that is sustainable, accessible, integrated and pedestrian focused,” said Young.
“We are focused on designing a community space that will stand the test of time.”
“Open for everyone”
“We’re really excited because it’s really rare to have that kind of opportunity to create a park of this size right in the downtown of a major city,” said Yannick Roberge, a landscape architect with Claude Cormier + Associés in Montreal.
“We’d like to think of the creation of this park as being comparable (at a smaller scale of course) to New York City’s Central Park, which had a big influence on the development of the city around it. It becomes an icon of urban recreation in the city, but also an icon of democracy, open for everyone.”
The seeds for Warehouse Park were planted in 2010 as part of the City of Edmonton’s Capital City Downtown Plan. The City started acquiring the land in 2017. As part of the design, 107 Street will be closed between Jasper Avenue and 102 Avenue to become part of the park.
“We also want this park to be a safe and welcoming place for all the residents, families, downtown workers and students … and also for the businesses around,” said Roberge. “We want the park to be their front yard, not their backyard, so they can benefit from it.”
Design elements, such as well-connected paths and lighting, will contribute to safety in the park. “You don’t create places where people can hide, so you always see through the space,” said Roberge.
Power of a park
Developers and downtown advocates recently discussed the benefits of the future park at an Urban Development Institute event in April.
“The park will be a huge economic driver and bring in tons of people to downtown—2,300 units in buildings are currently planned and more are expected to come,” said Henry Edgar, Partner at EDGAR and President of EDGAR Development Edmonton.
“You’ve got (an LRT) station on 102 Avenue, you’ve got (an LRT) station on Jasper Avenue. It’s such a phenomenal spot in our city for development.”
Edgar’s company is developing The Shift, a luxury rental apartment on 106 Street. Three other developers are behind The Parks, which will feature two high-rise towers with a pedestrian walkway that will link buildings to Warehouse Park. The 108 Street development is being built by Maclab Development Group, John Day Developments and Pangman Development Corporation.
Growing downtown vibrancy
Puneeta McBryan, Executive Director of the Downtown Business Association, is also excited about the potential impact of Warehouse Park. She says downtown’s sustainability can no longer rely solely on office workers, most of whom leave the core after 5 p.m.
“Warehouse Park will not only improve the quality of life for current residents, but also bring a massive increase in resident population downtown, which is essential for sustaining and growing our downtown vibrancy and businesses,” said McBryan.
“As we saw with the Root 107 pilot project, the new park will activate public spaces and create opportunities for arts and culture events that show off the culture of our city.”
Root 107 was a pop-up park featuring live music, movies and food trucks on 107 Street and 101 Avenue last September.
Events are essential
Downtown resident and business owner Kris Harvey believes Warehouse Park needs to be filled with events and activities to ensure its long-term success. He lives two blocks from the future park and also owns The Chvrch of John, a nightclub on 103 Street.
“Building dynamic spaces is the most important thing,” he said on Monday afternoon.
“We can’t just build this beautiful infrastructure or beautiful place and think people are just going to go. It needs to have activation possibilities, power infrastructure, opportunities for residents to book it out, to do birthday parties, and treat it as a functioning and licensed park.”
Steve Budnarchuk, co-owner of Audreys Books, is cautiously optimistic about Warehouse Park. He’s concerned about safety as well as losing parking spaces on 107 Street, but he hopes the park will be positive for the store, which has been a mainstay on Jasper Avenue since 1975.
“It might be great for my staff, who will have someplace to go during the day,” Budnarchuk said. “Maybe we host outdoor literary events in the park or we can partner on events with non-profits that might not fit in our store. I think it will be essential to program the park if you want to build traffic, if you want people to be there. Anything that builds traffic in the area is good for all businesses in the area.”
Or as the Downtown Business Association’s McBryan said when asked what downtown will gain from Warehouse Park:
Editor’s note: The design options envision closing 107 Street, converting it to parkland. 106 Street between Jasper Avenue and 102 Avenue would be renewed, with automobile traffic permitted.