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Reimagine Food Story: PlazaPOPS

Posted on: November 21, 2023

This past summer, the City of Guelph received their first installation of PlazaPOPS at Shelldale Community Centre. PlazaPOPS is a community-lead, high impact, and low cost, process to transform parking lots into free and accessible gathering places. Together, diverse stakeholders from around the city worked together to install and maintain the PlazaPOPS, which included The City of Guelph, Our Food Future, Guelph Community Health Centre, The SEED, Kindle, University of Guelph, Food Uniting Neighbours and Habitat for Humanity. Known as ParkPOPS to the greater community, this temporary, “pop up”, infrastructure supported gardening and gathering at Shelldale Community Centre and Norm Jary Park during the summertime.

PlazaPOPS is led by Brendan Stewart and Karen Landman, professors of Landscape Architecture at the University of Guelph and Daniel Rotsztain, the Urban Geographer. After a successful pilot of WexPOPS in Scarborough in 2019, and another pilot at the University of Guelph, PlazaPOPS received operational funding for 3-years from the Federal Development Agency for Southern Ontario, through its “Main Street Renewal and Rebuild” Initiative in 2021.

In July 2023, PlazaPOPS was installed on 5 parking spaces adjacent to the Shelldale Community Garden plots. The infrastructure consisted of wooden benches, chairs, and tables, umbrellas to provide some shade, and grooves that held various plants, flowers and vegetables.

Each partner played an important role in the PlazaPOPS project. The City of Guelph, Our Food Future, Habitat for Humanity, the University of Guelph and Food Uniting Neighbours supported the installation and deconstruction of the site, while the SEED, the University of Guelph and Food Uniting Neighbours, and Kindle facilitated on-site maintenance and summer programming. 

PlazaPOPS was an impactful project and supported the vibrancy of the Shelldale Community Centre. It was an initiative by the community for the community; creating a welcoming space for diverse users. Although occupying just a small portion of the Shelldale Community Centre’s parking lot, PlazaPOPS activated the space in a big way by giving back to the community and meeting local needs. The infrastructure acted as a meeting point for the community; for people to chat, eat food, get to know each other, rest, and support different community events. It also provided a central view of the Shelldale Farm Park, the Community Centre, Willow Road Public School, the basketball court and the splash pad. Children, adults, and seniors regularly occupied and made the space better than how it was previously used.

PlazaPOPS was accessible to the public from July to mid-October, and relied upon a mighty team to help deconstruct the infrastructure. The plants and flowers were available to the public to rehome, while the frames, seats and tables will be stored in the winter and put up again next summer for Downtown Guelph’s patio season! 

To learn more about PlazaPOPS, click here to go to their website. 

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