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Green Line public gardens could be paid for with private sponsorship

When stage one of Calgary’s Green Line is completed sometime in the next decade, it could be more than green just in title.

A scoping report on creating public gardens along the Green Line is now out, and waiting for council’s approval.

The idea was first brought forward by Coun. Shane Keating last December. As the long-serving chair of Calgary’s Transportation and Transit Committee, Keating championed the Green Line project and then added this final aesthetic flourish.

The 64-page report spells out how the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history can go from bland to blooming by adding public gardens where possible at stations along the route.

Keating said there’s potential to have themed gardens at stops along the line.

“If we were able to develop a number of different themed parks along the Green Line, it could become an international phenomenon,” said Keating. “I think that’s the potential.”

According to Keating, the Chinatown BRZ has expressed in partnering on a traditional Chinese water garden near that community’s stop. He said there are other potential park areas which can be developed on closed landfills further south.

However, Keating is prepared to start small. He said it’s still just an idea right now that needs council approval.

“The concept is great – the idea is great,” said Keating. “What we need to do is invest little a bit of the public art money, or the softscaping money, into a master plan.”

He noted that the idea is not to take public art funds and spend them on gardens, but rather to take some of that money and to leverage it into something bigger.

He also noted that the term garden might be misleading, and that these won’t just be flowerbeds everywhere. It would be a number of public spaces, including Indigenous land formations.

Keating said at one of the consultations meetings, someone floated the idea of relocating the controversial Bowfort Towers to another park where people could approach and interact with them. It’s the kind of thinking he likes and wants to see moved forward.

Don Terway, president of the Calgary Horticultural Society, said his group was invited to take part in scoping sessions for the report.

He said the society doesn’t have any way of making financial contributions to any Green Line gardens, but they do have an army of volunteers who could help with the overall plan.

“Whether that’s workshops or education programming – anything that we see that greens up the city more, we’re definitely for that,” said Terway.

He said a project such as this would really help with place making in the city.

“A train station would just be a concrete parking lot and a place to get on the train. It should be a focus area for a lot of other things,” he said.

The idea of “railway gardens” dates back to the 1800s, where it was common for railway workers to keep up a small public garden at stations as a form of civic pride. The report notes one that was located near the Palliser Hotel on Calgary’s 9 Avenue.

The city’s approach in the 21st century, however, could turn to the corporate world for help in defraying the costs.

“New municipal infrastructure projects, such as Green Line, present unique opportunities for third party investment.” reads the report. “Investors regard such projects as community-building investments that enhance their existing business and marketing platforms. Third party investment can yield a high return on investment and value back to the city and its citizens.”

The report suggests looking at philanthropic donations, sponsorship/naming rights, grants, and commercial/vendor contracts.

As first reported by LiveWire, Calgary Transit is already looking for a broker who could help close sponsorship deals throughout the entire transit network.

The report notes that activating unused spaces helps make them safer. It points to the recent development of space under the 4 Avenue Flyover as one example of this.