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Pop-up biz may be added to Calgary’s park spaces

Calgary city councillors will be asked this week to consider a proposal to pilot pop-up retail, food, entertainment and art kiosks in city parks.

The motion, put forward by Couns. Kourtney Penner, Courtney Walcott, Sonya Sharp and Raj Dhaliwal, will come up for review at Tuesday’s executive committee meeting.

The rise in public park use has been documented in Calgary over the pandemic. In some cities, that’s spurred an increase in potential commercial services available to users.

“Part of being an innovative city is testing,” said Ward 11’s Kourtney Penner.

“I think it’s one of those things where we test, and we try new things and then we have it and then it gives us a chance to evaluate before we need to reoffer it again.”

The notice of motion requests a low barrier set up so businesses can participate in a park economy.  Penner said it’s best suited for local makers, artisans and small service providers. It’s a good place to raise awareness, she said.

“Oftentimes people will walk the market and they may not purchase something that day, but they take cards and they come back and they purchase later,” Penner said.

“The returns become long lasting, and people often become repeat customers for these small businesses, or they pass on names, or they start to follow them on social media and so then it builds brand awareness for these small companies.”

One of the areas that may be considered is South Glenmore Park.

Summer pilot

The plan is to launch a pilot project between June 1 and Sept. 30.

Jillian Logee, a representative for Etsy Calgary, said this would be important to raise the profile of smaller local businesses. Etsy Calgary organizes community markets where local artists, makers and others sell their wares.

“It’s always impactful because it makes it more accessible,” Logee said.

“Anytime that you can put your products in front of the people who live around you, the better chances that you get at making money at your, for some artists that could be their side hustle, or it could be their main source of income.”

Logee said it will be really important for the city to help promote where these pop-up locations are throughout the city. Without it, it could fall flat.

“Getting the news out to the people who live by these spaces, and letting them know – this is going on, you might like it – and getting that interaction going,” she said.

While there may be a future appetite to set up in winter, it also poses barriers, Penner said.

Legal and liability issues will need to be ironed out for the summer pilot, too.

“There will likely be a degree of need for some licensing. There may also be a need for those who are vending to carry a certain degree of insurance,” Penner said.

Councillors will consider the merits of the notice of motion Tuesday. If it passes, it will go to council for full debate and possible approval.