A new condominium complex set to be built on parkland in St. Vital will be named Okolita Parc, in honour of the family for whom the park is dedicated.
Peter Okolita, the youngest member of the Okolita family — whose market garden business contributed to the growth of St. Vital — said it’s a "consolation" that his family’s name will continue to mark the area through signage at the new development.
"I would have preferred to have a park," he said, noting the green space — — located off St. Mary’s Road near Britannica Avenue — was a more appropriate memorial to his family.
However, Okolita is pleased with the decision by the developer of the 119-unit condominium complex, Karma Development Corp., to pay homage to his family.
"The proposal is to name the complex Okolita Parc," he said. "It’s sort of a consolation."
Myles Kraut, president of Karma, said naming the development after the Okolita family made sense.
"It’s important to Karma to maintain the culture and heritage of the existing community," he said, adding the company has also hired a French-speaking marketing firm from the area for the same reason.
Another silver lining, according to Okolita, is the chance to work with the developer to create a personalized sign for the complex, rather than the "generic" sign erected by the city for Okolita Park.
"I wanted something more along the lines of what was originally planned — something a little more substantial, or respectful," he said.
Okolita’s grandparents moved to the area in 1936 during the Great Depression with their six children.
They established a family farm on the land, slowly clearing their plot by hand.
Two of the couple’s sons — John and Alexander, Peter’s father — eventually took over the original farm, while sons William and Michael purchased their own plots.
All three farms were popular market gardens in St. Vital until the 1970s, when the Okolita brothers started selling their land.
In the early 1990s, area residents petitioned the city to name the park in honour of the family, and achieved their goal in 1991.
But Okolita said it took the city more than 15 years to erect the Okolita Park sign — a delay the city attributed to a clerical error — and most of the family members died before seeing the finished product.