From intervention to rejuvenation: Michael Phair Park

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.

Michael Phair Park Unveiling

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.

Michael Phair Park Unveiling

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.

Michael Phair Park Unveiling

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.

Michael Phair Park Unveiling

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.


  1. 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’. 

Alley of Light pocket park takes shape in downtown Edmonton

It was four years ago that Edmonton on the Edge started focusing on the Alley of Light. Led by former councillor Michael Phair, the project aimed to reclaim a lost urban space, in this case the alley behind the former Sobeys between Beaver Hills Park and 103 Street. Since that time the group has organized a number of popular events in the alley and they’ve worked with the City to reimagine what it could look like. Any physical changes in the alley have been temporary (such as the year they painted the pavement with bright colors and designs), until now.

Alley of Light Pocket Park

One component of the Alley of Light is the pocket park immediately adjacent to the Icon residential tower. Funding to reconstruct the park became available as part of the Downtown CRL, and work began on the project over the summer. An update from Michael Phair outlined what would be happening:

“The work to be undertaken includes removal of existing paving stone, concrete curbing and paving, granular surfacing and amenities and will be replaced with new lock stone, concrete verge with standard and LED light up bollards, retaining walls, power distribution box, security lighting to match 104 Street, bistro chairs and tables (seating for 64), garbage receptacles, shrub and tree planting with bark mulch and irrigation.”

The work isn’t completely finished yet, but on December 18, 2014, Customer Appreciation Day on 104 Street, the newly renovated park officially opened!

104 Street Pocket Park

Michael Phair, Councillor Scott McKeen, DECL’s Ian O’Donnell, Jon Hall and Ed Fong of the 104 Street Steering Committee, Duncan Fraser from the City of Edmonton, and even Santa, were on hand to deliver remarks to mark the occasion.

104 Street Pocket Park

All of them spoke about the need for green spaces in the downtown area, and about the positive impact this pocket park will have on the quality of life for nearby residents.

Here’s what the pocket park looked like four years ago:

Alley of Light
Looking west

Alley of Light
Looking west from across the street

Alley of Light
Looking east

And here’s what it looks like today:

Alley of Light Pocket Park
Looking west

Alley of Light Pocket Park
Looking west from across the street

Alley of Light Pocket Park
Looking east

It’s a little hard to tell with all the snow, but much more of the park is actually usable now. Seating and tables need to be added however. I’m hopeful that some additional light will be added too, as the northwest corner is pretty dark at the moment (as you can see below) and already a few of the LED bollards are not working. Still, the work done thus far will definitely make the park more usable and attractive.

104 Street Lights

To my knowledge, the park doesn’t have an official name. But I would second the suggestion to name it after Michael Phair in recognition of all the effort he has put into the project! Michael has demonstrated that you really can get things done if you’re persistent, patient, and collaborative.

104 Street Pocket Park

Come on down to the promenade and check it out! And if you haven’t already done so, take a stroll down 104 Street at night too. The lights make for a pretty magical walk!

104 Street Downtown

104 Street Downtown

Just another reason to ❤ YEGDT!