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Calgary’s 17th Avenue SW gets a Pocket Square

After months of construction, some parts of 17th Avenue are finally starting to take shape. 

One of these finished projects is the Pocket Square at 5A Street and 17 Avenue SW, next to Western Canada High School. The lot previously filled with gravel will now be a space for Calgarians to gather. 

The new space was suggested by The Bench Project – a volunteer organization that looks to improve public space.

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The Bench Project member Matt Knapik said the Pocket Square was a great way to get the community involved with beautifying their own space. 

“We did community engagement with the citizens of Cliff-Bungalow and Mission,” said Knapik.

“We brought people in and we had them build models, do drawings, and complete exercises: Really rich workshop type things in order to build community ownership over the idea.”

Pocket Square connecting the community

Knapik said the project has been a great experience which shows the connection the area’s community. Everything from the community association to the local high school to the Business Revitalization Zone has been involved. 

“My biggest recommendation, to anyone who wants to replicate this, is to first talk to your community association,” he said.

“They play such an important role in our city and we built a great relationship with them right away.”

This multi-leveled involvement, he said, has helped make this project possible. Knapik said the BRZ has agreed to upkeep the space so it doesn’t fall back into being a run-down, empty space. The 17 Avenue construction also helped this project come together, the Pocket Square project worked with the construction project to bring the design of the space right to the edge of the road.

A point of pride in the project, Knapik said, was the benches in the square, they were designed in Calgary and made here in Alberta. Made from polyethylene they are recyclable, as well as graffiti and weather resistant. The pocket square on 17th Avenue will be the world premiere of these benches. 

A press release from the The Bench Project and the Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association – the joint creators of the space – said the project received funding through the City of Calgary:

“In 2017, the citizen-driven initiative successfully obtained funding through the Council Innovation Fund due to the project’s unique approach to creating public space in a dense neighbourhood where land can be prohibitively expensive to acquire,” stated the release. 

The official opening of the space will be on Thursday June 27th from 4-6pm.