The city of Yellowknife and Ecology North launched the pop-up park competition roughly six weeks ago, with the aim of transforming a derelict lot on 50th into a park. Five plots in the park were available for community groups and individuals to build on. What makes it into those plots will be determined by the community competition.
Some of the ideas up for the vote include a community bread oven, mini golf and an Indigenous languages mural.
Thevishka Kanishkan, landscape architecture intern at Ecology North says the feedback has been great so far.
“We got 23 submissions for five installation spots in the park, which was a great response from the community and we’re really excited about that,” says Kanishkan.
An impartial jury was responsible for narrowing down those 23 ideas to 10 finalists, Kanishkan explains. The jury was made up of community representatives, including people from city council, the legislative assembly and a homelessness activist.
“The idea was to make sure that all the interests of the people who will be using the park are represented in the jury that would be narrowing down the finalists,” says Kanishkan. “So Ecology North actually did not have any part in choosing the ten finalists.”
From there, the public vote will determine which five ideas will make it into the park.
Putting it to the public to vote also ensures that people in the community get to chose what goes into their park, she says.
“We’ve had over 300 votes so far, and we also had two in-person voting sessions this week, one was at the farmer’s market and one was just outside our office and we got a number of votes from that too,” Kanishkan says.
“It’s been an amazing response from the community and we’re just really excited that everyone else is also excited,” she says.
They’ve been working with a local contractor to grade the site and start preparing it for the new ideas.
“So the next step is to build a pavilion out of pallets and start putting in some of the more semi-permanent aspects of the park, which include trees, a clover lawn, the pallet pavilion and a few other features, and then the installations will all go in before the end of July. I think that this is an amazing project because it’s the first time that a pop-up park has been done in Yellowknife.”
A pop-up park is different from a regular park because it is temporary, which allows it to get through some of the red tape that often surrounds municipal development projects and public parks, she says.
“So because we get to go around the bureaucracy, we really get to open it up to what people want to see and what people want to put into their public spaces,” says Kanishkan. “That’s why this park is so exciting.”
But the site’s proximity to nightclubs, the liquor store and homeless shelters has been criticized by many Yellowknifers on social media, some of whom made their own suggestions for the park.
“There has been some concern expressed about the activities that happen around the site and Ecology North embraces the different uses of the site as it is now between two nightclubs as just part of urban life,” Kanishkan says.
But she says she hopes that redeveloping this abandoned lot will change the way it is used and perceived by the public.
“We’re hoping that this is the first step towards rounding out the uses of the downton core, especially during night hours and really bring a diversity of people and uses to the space,” says Kanishkan.
The winning ideas will be announced later today.
The pop-up park’s grand opening is scheduled for sometime in late July.