Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Carewest George Bojack’s parking lot transforms into a community unity pop-up plaza

The Carewest George Bojack has opened its doors to the Bridgeland community with a Caboodle created in the parking lot to socialize, to break isolation, and to combat loneliness. 

The Bridgeland community and Northern Lands Studio converted the Carewest George Bojack parking lot into a pop-up plaza opened in August. They plan to stay until next summer. 

“We had a big launch in the summer,” said Heather Chapple from the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association.

“We had many volunteers come out from the community with paint brushes – children, families, and neighbours came out – and since then, there has been sort of a group of volunteers that come through and help to keep it clean.”

Chapple said they often have new installations and they do this because it’s a space that the neighbourhood also uses as a park space. Their goal is to engage and encourage individuals to share their actively and participate in the community’s initiatives.

“We had an ice cream day where a truck came and people from the neighbourhood came and the Carewest residents came outside, and we had ice cream together,” Chapple said.  

“We’ve had a couple of music days where a volunteer comes in to play the piano and people have come in and had some dancing.”

Chapple said it’s an adaptive space; they’ve even had a basketball net in the area. During the summer, they would have people join in for pickup games on warm nights. 

“It can be an adaptive space and so, we’ve seen people use it in many different ways,” said Chapple.

More than just a parking lot

The Bridgeland community wanted to optimize the use of the parking lot. Some mornings only half of the lot is occupied. In the afternoon and holidays, it remained empty.

“A parking lot can be more – it can be a plaza. This adaptive space you can turn in the blink of an eye into something that actually the community needs,” said Juliana Morar, an urban designer from the Northern Lands Studio.

The Carewest George Bojack is a long-term care that opened its doors in 1969 and has since grown to offer services for 221 long-term residents. 

A photo of the Bridgeland community on Tuesday in Calgary, Nov. 7, 2023. YAQING KE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The project took shape when, during the research process and the aim to provide a social space for the community, they realized the importance and impact they could have on society by creating and developing a space where all citizens could participate.

The Carewest residents are older adults requiring complex cognitive care. In the project, it was essential to gain a thorough understanding of their specific needs, Morar said.

 “We went with a few colors on the ground with wayfinding on the ground. We had some very intentional design considerations for this,” said Morar.

One of the primary concerns was addressing their mobility needs and ensuring their comfort, as a significant portion of them rely on wheelchairs, walkers, and motorized mobility aids.

“We have family members [that] come and they take their loved ones and walk them a little bit around the community,” said Morar. 

This holds great significance for the community, particularly for senior citizens, as they often experience isolation during a certain phase of life, leading to potential consequences such as emotional distress, feelings of loneliness, depression, and negative impacts on both their physical and mental health.

“We still have yet to see more direct interaction because traditionally, long-term care facilities and COVID made it so obvious that you [have to] stay away from seniors to protect them and there are outbreaks here quite often,” said Morar.

“I think there is some sort of institutional resistance that we need to break again.”