Mary Burlie Park
Near the end of January, a proposal by the Chinatown Little Italy BRZ to redevelop Marie Burlie Park into a Chinese Garden with a Heritage Centre will go in front of the City’s Executive Committee. Your community league has supplied a letter of support partially summarized as follows.
The site is a crucial gateway into our community and into the Chinatown business area. The current use of the park is disserving the business and residential communities of McCauley and has acted as a long standing barrier to comfortable access to and from downtown.
The current design has proven highly inviting to a largely unwholesome, often volatile and violent clientele with its primary usage being a daytime drinking, drug use, and “partying” centre. It is a constant policing problem that 15 years of mitigation have proven incapable of solving (most recently being the removal of fencing, increased lighting, and addition of an outhouse).
For many years we have made planning and investment decisions, as a City, that have actively undermined Chinatown and adjacent residential areas. A substantial step to rebuilding the stability and vibrancy of this area is the redefining of its gateways as entry points to a cultural/commercial centre that is desirable and positively associated for the entire city.
The redevelopment of this park site and removal of the underpass are exactly the type of re-investment that could accomplish this. The addition of a Heritage Centre would also broaden and amplify the role of the Chinatown district as a hub for a large portion of our City’s population.
Minimum quality of life standards should be upheld for our neighbourhood and its public spaces – proximity to downtown or demographics are not an acceptable excuse.
Some will object to this proposal. People may see this as disrespectful to Mary Burlie’s memory, as an attack on the less fortunate, as the dismantling of “sacred” memorials, and so on. The basic reality is that none of these are true. This is a space in our neighbourhood that does not work. On a day to day basis it is used for illegal behaviour and is used by a subset of the larger community only a few times a year. To achieve a standard that would be considered “a problem” elsewhere in the city, substantive change is needed both physically and in the associated usages.
Minimum quality of life standards should be upheld for our neighbourhood and its public spaces – proximity to downtown or demographics are not an acceptable excuse. Given the disregard and vandalism the memorials within the park are experiencing it would be admirable to relocate and re-energize these.
It is our opinion that a far superior and respectful location for the memorial to the women killed at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique would be as part of the new NAIT LRT station where it could serve as a highly visible and considerate remembrance of this horrible crime and tragedy.
The McCauley Community League does not support any loss of public green space but is highly receptive to creative solutions or alternate locations within our residential area (especially south of 107A avenue).
Neighbourhoods and the spaces within them are dynamic and must accept and facilitate change if they are to mature, grow, and remain healthy. Mary Burlie Park is a space within our neighbourhood that must change and this is a change upon which many positive things can be built.