A pocket park on 104 Street opened this week in Edmonton and has been dubbed Michael Phair Park after a long-serving, hard-working city councilor.
Michael Phair was in attendance when the new sign for the little park was revealed by Mayor Don Iveson and Councilor Scott McKeen on May 26. He told Edmonton media on hand that he was very honoured to have been remembered in this way. There is also a public school named for him in Webber Greens, a community on Edmonton’s west side.
Phair was a member of Edmonton city council from 1992 to 2007 and was a highly dedicated councilor. He is also known for being the city’s first openly gay public official, and perhaps in the country. Phair is also a founding member of the Edmonton Arts Council and the Edmonton Pride Festival and was highly vocal in making sure that inner-city schools have hot lunch programs. Phair was adamant in proving that sexual orientation had no bearing on the ability to serve on city council and be an effective advocate for social change.
It was appropriate that the park be named for him as he is credited for turning 104 Street into the downtown destination it is today. He joked that having the pocket park named after him was a bit surreal, and that many people have already passed away before such an honour is bestowed upon them. In his remarks he encouraged the city to give similar to honours to people before they die so they can enjoy the space or building named for them.
Michael Phair park is north of where Sobeys used to be. It will get a lot of use on Saturdays during the public mark on 104 Street.
The development of this small park was made possible in part by a group of community stakeholders that had deemed the parcel of land where the park is now as lost space. The group of activists thought the space could be made more inviting and suggested an art installation called “Alley of Light”. There is some permanent art incorporated into the design of Michael Phair Park and a mural by Destiny Swiderski.
What is a pocket park?
As the name suggestions, a pocket park is a small park or a mini-park, sometimes called a vest-pocket park or a vesty park. It’s a public park on an empty lot or odd-shaped piece of land. It can also be part of the requirement for public buildings as dictated by municipal land-use by-laws.
A pocket park is usually urban and is either public or private. They’re generally not suitable for playground equipment due to their small size but they do serve a purpose in providing green space for pedestrians, places to sit or to display public art, a monument or historic marker.
In very dense urban areas like the downtown core where land values are very high, a pocket park is an excellent option to create a public space without full-scale construction and redevelopment Pocket parks are small enough to be fenced and locked for security reasons and to prevent loitering.A small green space that is attractive and modern in design. can also increase property values of inner-city homes and condos by having a positive influence on the neighbourhood