Pits of Shame

Examining the holes in the ground that dot the core


Oliver and Downtown boast an impressive slate of pits, chasms, and gullies. When all it would take is a little TLC to turn some blank, dusty nothingness into a pocket park, a community garden, or a Thunderdome, how did pits edge their way to the top of the pecking order in the public landscape?

Believe it or not, not that long ago pits were seen as a nuisance. In 2017, amendments to the provincial tax law were being considered to allow cities to levy additional taxes on commercial lots that were sitting unused. Nothing came of it, and pits have since come to be adored as essential aspects of the municipal biome. With that in mind, here are some of the notable pits of downtown and Oliver.

A Pit for the Modern Yuppie

This fun and flirty micropit is cozily nestled across from Earl’s Tin Palace between a church and an apartment building. Today’s young professional is turning away from the gaudy half-block sized pits of decades previous in favour of something more sleeker and Instagram friendly. This pit is proof positive that even in a future of infill and urban density, every neighbourhood will always be able to accommodate a fenced off hole in the ground.

Pit Infinitum

This rule bending bad boy at 116 Street and Jasper Avenue is an existential reckoning. For years it sat empty, until finally Westrich built a claustrophobic sales centre on a square of astroturf showcasing a model of The View: Grandin City. It is a pit with a shack, with a model of what a different pit will become. Like a snake eating its own tail, gaze into the abyss and confront the unending cycles of the universe.

The Ravages of Capitalism

Regency Developments are the proud owners of this pit, which belongs in the upper echelons of pitdom based on sheer poetry. It is where the BMO once stood, vibrating in the harmony of commerce! Fiscal exchange! Amortization! All reduced to rubble. This is a pit for the intellectual, the post- Capitalist academic. Smoke cigarettes, gesture at a pastel crimson obstacle course of rebar under the neon gaze of City Centre’s billboards and quote Marx (Engels too, if you really want to impress people).

The Two Solitudes

Just north of the Oliver Exchange is a pair of sibling pits diametrically opposed in character, aroma, and mouthfeel. If new to pits, this is a great place to start. Whatever you do, don’t look at Paul Kane park. It is not a pit.

The southern of the two pits is cleaner, bleaker, and adorned with a fresh placard with a picture of a building, just in case you forget what’s supposed to actually be there. The developer is keen to start construction, and until that day we are huddled in anticipation like teens waiting for their prom date to descend the staircase.

The northern pit is more mature, refined. It is confident, and self-assured in its pit-ness. There is no aspirational development placard, no false promises, just a washed-out company logo and an aroma I can only describe as “nutty”. This is the only pit on this list to boast a lone scraggly tree next to a tattered garbage bag.


Remember that this guide, at best, only scratches the surface on the pits of Oliver and Downtown. Every time a landowner says “Screw it, not my problem,” wherever a patch of land is caged up because it won’t yield enough profit to buy a new yacht, a pit gets its wings. It was announced in April that the 75-year-old buildings at Oliver Crossing, home to Louisiana Purchase and Urban Timber Reclaimed Co. will be getting demolished. A few blocks away El Mirador, architectural gem and home to me, will meet the same fate. I guess what I’m trying to say is that time makes pits of us all.