The little pocket park on 104 Street was given an official name recently. Located behind the former Sobeys just north of Jasper Avenue adjacent to the Icon towers, the park is now known as Michael Phair Park! I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor than Michael Phair.
It was Michael who convened a group of Edmontonians known as Edmonton on the Edge to “examine, challenge and suggest what it takes to rejuvenate public spaces.” They decided to focus on the alley between Beaver Hills House Park and 103 Street, which came to be known as the Alley of Light. “Inspired by similar alley interventions from other cities around the world, we hope to revitalize the space by making it more engaging, accessible, safe and sustainable.” The group organized pop-up events like IllumiNITE, open houses and workshops to imagine what the space could be, and even painted the roadway in 2011. They showed the forgotten space the love it needed.
The decision to name the park was championed by Ward 6 Councillor Scott McKeen last year. The following motion was carried unanimously at the March 10, 2015 meeting of the Edmonton Naming Committee:
“That the Naming Committee approves the naming of a park, located on 104 Street and north of Jasper Avenue legally described as Lot 130A, Block 4, Plan 7823267 within the Downtown Neighbourhood, as ‘Michael Phair Park’.”
The space was previously known as Devonian Park1, though most just called it the 104 Street pocket or strip park. The new sign was not installed until last month and until May 26 it was covered up with blue tarp. Finally on that beautiful Thursday, with more than 100 friends and fans of Michael Phair present, the name was unveiled.
The park has changed quite a bit since Michael and the EOTE folks took an interest in it. After years of drawing attention to the alley, work began on finding a way to pay for improvements to both the alley and park. Michael’s knowledge of how to navigate the bureaucracy of the City was especially helpful in that effort, and as a result the park was included in the Downtown CRL. I had my doubts about the approach, but Michael was persistent and never gave up and it paid off. Improvements were made to the alley in 2013 and the park renovations were made in late 2014, transforming the dark, neglected space into a usable park.
As a resident of 104 Street I very much appreciate having the park nearby. It has made that park of my ‘hood much more attractive and welcoming and I actually enjoy walking through there now. It will continue to improve when new permanent artwork is installed too, including a new mural by Destiny Swiderski.
Michael Phair Park is also a daily reminder for me that with a little collaboration, persistence, and flair you really can make a difference in your city.
And I think it is actually Lot 192A as I am fairly certain that 130A is Beaver Hills House Park. I understand the space was registered as an easement in 1977. I’ve seen reference to the land having been gifted to the City at some point, but I haven’t been able to find any confirmation of that. The Award of Merit page for Cecil Place also references ‘Devonian Park’. ↩