Right in the middle of Alberta's booming business stretch is an empty plot of land that's conspicuously lined with weeds and fig trees while the rest of the street has sprouted condos, boutiques and bistros. It's the Lot. And now, after lying vacant for 10 years, City Repair Project is starting to pull together a team to start seriously trying to turn it an official community park.
The empty lot is a big opportunity for the NE neighborhood - City Repair and Alberta neighbors think making turning it into a park could reduce gentrification tensions in the neighborhood by giving neighbors a common space to socialize. "I'd like to see more interaction between old timers and new comers," says Vernon neighborhood association treasurer Oma Richardson, "It's such a beautifully located lot, it would be great if we could keep it natural rather than putting a condominium on it."
Anonymous neighbors have already staged low-key attempts to claim the space anyway. During the last year, someone built rock shrines on the corner and planted a sign reading "community garden" among the grass and trash. Twice people tore down fences that encircled the property and hung out there during Last Thursday. The neighbors have all sorts of ideas about good uses for the lot, if they had some money. They could build an amphitheater, maybe, or just planting some more trees. "It would be nice to have some place where dogs could frolic," says Richardson. (Non-gentrifying dogs of course.)
Anyway, this is all still in the works - Hindi Iserhott, who's heading up the project for City Repair, hasn't contacted the landlord yet with a proposal. The landlord has a reputation for not working well with the neighborhood, but Iserhott hopes she can scrounge together enough grant money or donations to convince him to lease or sell the lot to the neighborhood. The landlord might be willing to let go of the land because, face it, the condo plan is probably dead in this economy.
On the city side, it's probably not likely the Parks Dept will be up for buying the property, since just blocks away from the lot are the big Alberta Park and the tiny Sabin HydroPark, 10 blocks up the road is Wilshire Park. Plus, it's rumored that the lot's owner paid more than a million dollars for the prime space a few years ago and the Parks Dept has to pay market value to acquire land. So looking at a million dollars for a small park in a neighborhood that already has a lot of them? The neighbors are better off looking for dollars elsewhere.
Iserhott is looking for anyone who can help pull together a serious proposal for the space: designers, grant writers, people with experience in land acquisition should drop her an email.