Friday marked the hotly-anticipated opening of Calgary’s newest park, offering up a host of new amenities, activities, and access to the Beltline and surrounding communities.
Pixel Park was the culmination of months of work by Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), construction firm Buttcon, with design by Populus and Ground Cubed, to open a space that gives a nod to video games with a variety of outdoor activities.
The new space included skateboard ramps, outdoor seating space, a dog park, basketball court, pickle ball court, and 24 level II and III chargers—the latter being the first in downtown Calgary.
“Pixel Park was inspired by our video game world that we live in, how we typically play, and this is a really playful spot,” said Kate Thompson, CEO of CMLC.
“Bringing that same metaphor into the design of this space makes a lot of sense for us to have people take a pause from their screens and get out and play in the physical environment and start exploring our world.”
Pixel Park will have CMLC staff on site on Friday through Sunday in the afternoons with pickle ball paddles and balls, basketballs, and other activities to borrow from a dedicated Sea-Can office.
Park replaces underutilized parking lot
CMLC is also making a second sea can available to community groups and festival organizers to help activate the park throughout the year.
The park, which is located on Macleod Trail in between 11 and 12 Avenue SE, was designed to be a temporary addition to the community as other amenities like the Event Centre, BMO Centre Expansion, Green Line LRT, and other projects are completed.
Thompson said that the temporary nature of the park was more akin to that of the East Village’s Bounce basketball courts, which has served that community for multiple years.
Pixel Park replaced in part by about half, a parking lot that was adjacent to Enoch Park that has been owned by CMLC.
“What we have the advantage at CMLC to do in thinking of city building, is what what’s the best way to create a neighbourhood, how do you create a district, and how do you actually get people to think ‘hey, where’s that cool place where can I go bring my dog and kids can go skateboarding,’” said Thompson.
“Weirdly, it’s that empty parking lot that used to be an empty parking lot north of Stampede.”
The project cost approximately $1 million, up from the initial budget of $670,000, due to expanded opportunities to provide amenities sought by the community.
Among those was the addition of 12 additional electric vehicle charges to the originally planned 12.
“We were able with with Enmax and with Tesla to be able to do the 24 chargers. And this is really unique for all of Calgary, but having those 12 superchargers, we can’t even find that in Vancouver, So this is a great, great moment for our city,” said Thompson.
Welcome addition for community members
Angie Dean, Vice President of the Tesla Owner’s Club of Alberta, said that the addition of the superchargers was something long asked for by Calgarians.
“The chargers are going to draw people on their own, but the fact that there are so many amenities here is just going to make it so desirable,” she said.
She said that the addition of the superchargers turns a full, two-hour charge into a 20 minute wait.
“You can come in here, you can park for 30 minutes free from what I understand. That’s plenty of time to get a full charge… it would allow you to maybe go take a walk, play some pickleball.”
Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott joked during the preview event on the morning of Oct. 13, that people had gathered to use the park and were waiting for speeches to be done so they could use the amenities.
“The moment it’s ready, the community is trying to get in. That says something,” he said.
“That means that what CLMC has done here with all of their partners, it works. So, East Victoria Park, we are excited to welcome another place for people to come to to be here.”
One of those young persons who couldn’t wait to skateboard at the park was Zoe Hunter.
“As a person who really likes video games and skateboarding, I think it’s a perfect mix,” she said.
“I think it’s really great because I’m in a few groups. I’m in the 100% Girls Skate Group, and I’m also in the Blur Skate Crew, and I meet with those two groups on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It’s cool to see how everyone else can just come here and also skate.”
Demand by business owners and customers for park
David Low, Executive Director for the Victoria Park BIA, said that Pixel Park was a great step forward to create genuine assets and amenities for local residents and visitors.
“It’s also a massive gesture in how we can advance our thinking about underutilized spaces,” he said.
“I’ve already been approached by at least half a dozen businesses going, ‘hey, you have car chargers now? Is there a way that we can engage with those people to get them into our shops?’ I think that is going to be, I don’t want to say a game changer, but a huge boost in in upping the value proposition of coming down here.”
He said that part of that increased confidence from business owners comes from giving people additional reasons to stop and get a coffee and visit local shops, without having to actually pay to use the space initially.
“It is these, what we call, fine grain gestures in the public realm that people really notice, and especially that it’s not commercial, it’s free, that is another huge asset.”
Low said that the increase in traffic was also likely to help address safety concerns in Enoch Park, which is adjacent to Pixel Park, alongside fostering better community relations with unhoused individuals who frequent the area.
“Over the last few years with with Covid, the downturn in the core, and the lack of positive activity and animation has created a bit of a vacuum. So being able to replace that with positive activity and animation is going to be a huge boost to people’s confidence levels,” he said.
“It should be a place for everyone.”