by Stephen Dafoe
If you have seen something springing up in the vacant lot next to the historic Heppler House on the corner of 100 Avenue and 100 Street, you may have wondered what is going on.
The project, scheduled to open next spring, is the brainchild of Mitchell Carswell, a carpenter by trade. While working on restoration to the Heppler House for its current owner, Carswell came up with the idea of a community hub that would combine food trucks and a beer garden with live entertainment and a venue for local artists and artisans.
Carswell will lease the land for Garden’s Gate from the property owner and then make the spots available to food trucks.
“It’s basically like a community open social house,” he said of the concept. “It’s not a bar. It’s not a restaurant. But it has everything included in that in an outdoor venue. So it’s kind of like along the lines of a good earth forward [concept] to help small businesses compete with larger franchise operations.
“We can come together more as a co-op and have a joint, cool, fun space where we can have entertainment. We can have comedy. We can have live bands. We can put on shows and do whatever.”
But the cooperative notion is not the only good earth forward part of the project. Carswell is building with materials that otherwise would have gone to a landfill.
“Everything on location, with the exception of a few tables and some of the chairs, has been upcycled, thrifted, restored, or bought through architectural clearinghouses,” he explained.
As a business model, Carswell said he has three lease spots for food trucks, and Carswell would obtain a liquor licence to have alcohol available at the venue.
Mitchell Carswell stands behind what will be the venue’s bar. The sea can in the back will be transformed into a frontier saloon concept. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
The concept will see the venue open to families from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and liquor sales added to the food mix occurring after those hours. Family hours would be longer on the weekend, with a noon start.
Hoping to generate a hub in the community that people can enjoy, Carswell will set up spots for photos that will change to keep it interesting.
“I’m doing Instagramable moments. There are going to be three different setups for photography so you can get family pictures done,” Carswell explained, noting the venue will be open to showcase a lot of different arts. “It’s music, entertainment, photography, and a fence panel will be for artists.”
The carpenter has designed the project to be whimsical but tied the front of the venue with the Heppler House’s restoration.
“The front section kind of pays tribute to the old house. It’s got the wrought iron gates, the columns, that kind of stuff. And then the corner is going to be a treehouse theme with large swings. It’s something that people when they come, will take a picture of [for social media].”
Originally from the small town of Taber, Carswell sees the need for small-town downtown cores to revitalize and thinks his concept can help do that in Morinville, offering a day trip for those outside the community to check out and in the process shop at other local businesses.
The venue will open in the spring of 2022.
Photo gallery – Mitchell Carswell Photos