Urban designer

‘Placemaking’ to retrofit McKay Street Park

The movement to encourage constructive spaces for people within the community to interact is a Transition Prince Rupert initiative

A lone basketball net, a singular bench or an abandoned baseball diamond might not inspire outdoor play but a workshop coming to the city will explore the reinvention of park space as a social public place.

The movement to encourage constructive spaces for people within the community to interact is a Transition Prince Rupert initiative.  Ken Shaw is the president of the group that promotes positive development in the city. The group invited renowned urban designer, Mark Lakeman, from Oregon to host the Placemaking Prince Rupert workshop at the Lester Centre of the Arts from Jan.       8 – 10.

“Placemaking is about how we have lots of space in the community but we don’t have lots of place and places where people gather and interact,” Shaw said.

An example of placemaking comes from Lakeman’s project in Portland, Oregon in 1996. He designed areas of the city to reclaim public space as a social gathering point to improve urban life. In one intersection of a neighbourhood residents worked together to build a children’s play area, a sharing bookshelf, a community cob oven, a 24-hour tea station, a notice board and chalkboard as well as a food-sharing stand.

“We’ve got ideas, we’ve heard lots,” Shaw said. “Not only will the workshop move that process forward but it will also give all the participants an experience and a sense of how to approach and go about the redesign and rebuilding of places in the community.”

Shaw has heard some parents say that the playgrounds in the city are only suitable for ages eight and under. Parks should appeal to multiple ages by building a basketball court or a community garden.

The workshop is meant to draw residents into the conversation.

“If a whole bunch of people have been exposed to these ideas they can talk to each other and ideas can arise and people won’t think it’s bizarre,” Shaw said.

He said there’s literature about places where we instinctively feel good and other places that we don’t. A city can design alienating ghettos or build a foundation for positive social factors to arise.

“What the experts in all this find is that when people come together on a neighbourhood basis then there’s a whole bunch of positive social interactions that arise,” Shaw said adding that when people form a relationship within the neighbourhood it lowers crime rates, encourages the growth of local economics and develops a sense of community pride through volunteerism.

The pilot project for placemaking is intended for McKay Street Park, where the Transition Society has already set up a community garden.

The concept is in harmony with the city’s Re:Build Prince Rupert plans. Mayor Lee Brain called this a grassroots movement. The city owns the property where the placemaking will occur but that’s as far as the City is involved in the project — for now.

“The City doesn’t have the capacity to pay for something like this. Until maybe more industries come online, we get a bigger tax base going, we might have that chance in the future,” said Brain.

He sees this as an opportunity to re-start the volunteer base in the community and avoid volunteer burnout.

“Rather than prolong periods of volunteering, we’re saying ‘Hey, why don’t you show up for a weekend and we’ll build this great park’.”

The city is currently considering how to maintain and manage the site once it has been built.

“For now we want to show the power of people, that people organizing themselves and coming together can do something magnificent for the community and I think there’s going to be a lot of really cool things that emerge from this process.”

The first phase will be the workshop. Tickets are $15 for the public workshop on Jan. 8 from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. The weekend workshop runs on Jan. 9 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Jan. 10 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.


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