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Marda Loop pop-up ‘parklet’ converting parking spaces to community hub

It’s a community experiment conjured up in the city’s newest urban spaces program – the Pop Up Lab.

The recent rollout of a ‘parklet’ at 22 Street and 34 Ave SW in Marda Loop is one of three spots slated for public realm activations by the City of Calgary this year – the others are pegged for the Municipal Plaza and Chinatown later this summer.

It’s fairly low key; a handful of tables in the style of a Parisian outdoor café, nestled into a handful of on-street parking spots in the busy Marda Loop business corridor.

“It’s allowing more of the walkable, casual dining, hangout space that a lot of inner city communities are lacking because of the street parking,” said Alyssa Berry, communications consultant for the Marda Loop Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ).

“It all sort of fits in with the eclectic style that is Marda Loop and wanting to have that relaxed component of the area.”

The project, which cost less than $10,000 to implement in Marda Loop, and will be used in multiple locations, is part of the city’s goal of activating different spaces around Calgary. It will cost $5,000 each time the installation is moved.

“Our real objective here is to test out low-cost installations, public realm ideas with the hope of creating more vibrant and well-used spaces – to really add life to neighbourhoods,” said Thom Mahler, manager of the city’s urban strategy.

Mahler said this current Marda Loop project will stay until Aug. 30, but they may also test other projects in the same area – though those new ideas are top secret.

“Over time the idea is to get people to think about the possibilities where you can do these kinds of fun installations to make these spaces a little more interesting and more usable,” Mahler said.

Arabelle Jimenez was in the area Sunday and said it’s a space where she’d love to stop and have a coffee on a nice day. She also wasn’t concerned about losing a few street parking spaces, noting though that it’s almost impossible to grab a parking spot on the busy street most days.

“It’s so colourful,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”

And that’s what the Marda Loop BRZ is going for.

“It creates that sense of community where you can sit down for a couple of hours and sort of experience the neighbourhood and allow yourself the opportunity to go visit other businesses as opposed to getting out of your car and then leaving,” said Berry.


– with files from Brodie Thomas