my edmonton: it has to be downtown.

There was a time when I believed that I would need to move to a bigger city like Vancouver, Toronto, or even Calgary in order to find a great job and improved quality of life. Experiencing the changes that have happened and are happening in Edmonton has changed my mind over the past few years. I am excited about the changes that are happening in our city, especially the changing face of Edmonton’s urban core.

A cool strip. Jasper Avenue and 104th Street.

104th Street & Jasper Avenue
New life has been breathed into a street that until a couple of years ago was derelict and barren. The City Centre Market, along with the new Icon Towers and other condo developments in the area have brought a new sense of cool to the district. The addition of a Sobey’s urban market and many non-chain stores and vendors also adds to the character of the street (Blue Plate Diner, Credo Coffee, Carbon, deVine Wines, and the soon to be re-opened and re-located Bistro Praha).

Jasper Avenue & 109th Street
The construction of new residential and commercial development will change the face of a corner that has been dominated by a derelict Mayfair Hotel and a less than desirable Oil City Roadhouse.

Today’s formal launch of phase one of ProCura Real Estate’s innovative 708-unit Mayfair Village apartment complex at the southeast corner of 109th Street and Jasper Avenue has been years in the making.
When it’s finished, the stylish twin-tower complex — which will eventually stretch an entire block east to 108th Street — will house some 900 residents, bringing new life to a blighted stretch of the main drag long dominated by the derelict Mayfair Hotel and a drab surface parking lot next door.

The proximity to the Corona LRT station and the kitty-corner Save-On Foods could make this a pretty cool corner to live on.

Transit HUB
The LRT is finally being extended and downtown Edmonton will be the connector in the spokes of the proposed LRT routes to west to Lewis Estatessoutheast to Mill Woods, and north to NAIT (and eventually northwest to St. Albert). This development of this kind of critical transportation infrastructure is overdue for our City and I am excited to see our urban train system grow!

West downtown and Oliver neighbourhood (note the parking lots).

Jasper Avenue between 109th and 124th Street.
There is life in the Oliver, Grandin, and Railtown neighbourhoods of downtown. There is life because there are people living here. I believe that the neighbourhood could do with more densification and less above ground parking lots. Who needs a single family home when you can live in the most densified area of the City with the North Saskatchewan River Valley as your backyard?

Downtown Arena District
I was initially excited about the potential for a real debate about how this proposal could shape our downtown, but since Daryl Katz’s company launched the proposal, they have engaged in little real debate on the issue and instead have created a slick political and public relations campaign geared towards convincing Edmontonians need a downtown arena. There remains many debatable questions about what kind of effect a downtown arena would actually have on the area and one of the largest unanswered questions: who would pay for it.

City Centre Airport Lands
Alex Abboud has a great post about the potential residential development for lands currently used by the City Centre Airport, which is entering a phased closure. With the debate around the future of the lands having finally been settled by City Councillors in July 2009 a huge parcel of land in Edmonton’s urban core will be opened up for development.

Edmontonians living in the urban core face some unique challenges such as the closure of inner city schools and crime. As a resident of the urban core and a younger Edmontian, I share the perspective of a growing number of younger professionals and creative-types who believe that Edmonton is a place to be. The changes that are happening in Edmonton’s urban core make me excited about how we will shape our city over the next five to ten years.

Tomorrow I will post a list of some of the main challenges I feel are facing downtown Edmonton.

(In March 2010, I created a photo collection of Jasper Avenue from 98th Street to 124th Street)

15 thoughts on “my edmonton: it has to be downtown.

  1. FACLC

    Who said the airport question has “finally been decided”? It was finally decided a decade back, but that didn’t stop things from being changed. Dawson Bridge replacement was “finally decided” in the 1960s, but you may note nothing has changed.

    There are fresh municipal elections coming up. Hopefully at that time a new city council can take form, and the airport question can be “finally decided” again.

    This time, with the correct decision.

    Reply
  2. Trevor Mark

    Well I guess I’m glad you decided Edmonton was worthy enough for you to be a Pretentious urban hipster in.

    I grew up here and I’m glad to see downtown coming alive again. A new downtown arena willake it even that much better.

    Reply
  3. Neal

    I’m afraid downtown’s potential can only be reached if we get a City Council that’s serious about infill development. And when I say serious I mean that they will halt all new development on the outside fringes of the City.

    Between the airport lands, the quarters, the 70+ surplus schools sites, etc, there must be at least a few years of steady development that could be achieved without further extending our road, sewage, and utility networks. Imagine the benefits to the city as we increased our tax base without seriously increasing those associated costs!

    I want a vibrant downtown like you Dave, but I fear that the will just isn’t there. Edmonton is growing but not enough to justify endless suburbia as well as complete all the required infill.

    Reply
  4. Denny

    One of the biggest problems I’ve seen with downtown redevelopment so far is the lack of development for families.
    There have been plenty of new developments targeting so called “young urban professionals” and suggestions for ones targeting students, but these tend to be developments with one or maybe two bedrooms in each unit, some of which are deemed by the developer to be “adult only” buildings. This combined with consistent threats of school closures makes downtown seem less and less desirable for families. If this doesn’t change people who move downtown who have plans of eventually starting a family will view living downtown as a temporary stop on their way to the suburbs. If the city wants to get serious about making living downtown seem like an attractive long-term solution to as many people as possible, they need to start encouraging, or even requiring developers to include family-oriented housing in at least some of the new developments.

    Reply
  5. Joe Albertan

    Fire the housing minister. Putting low income housing on Jasper and 109 will kill the whole community. We should be putting all low income housing in one area just outside Edmonton. Anything else will devalue property values. Better yet, get rid of the whole housing department!

    Reply
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  7. Martin Levenson

    I’m with Neal. The other move that will encourage “infill” development would be to assess downtown surface level parking lots at their “potential” value (if developed). Also, there should be land-use bylaws that require industrial park development to be AT LEAST three floors high. And tax THOSE parking lots, too, talk about unproductive land! This would greatly encourage transit use, leading to demand for better services to industrial areas.

    Reply
  8. Stupid Urban Hippes

    The idea to halt suburb development is stupid.

    People want their own single detached homes and big yards. If any of you jealous, sanctimonious urban twits tries to stop this, these people will live somewhere else. Like Calgary or Red Deer or Beaumont or Leduc or Spruce Grove or Fort Saskatchewan…

    Just wait until you knobs get real jobs, wives and 3 kids and they will be screaming at you for a home with a yard.

    You are all a bunch of hypocritical passive aggressive pusses.

    Reply
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  10. Nadine

    Hey, Change Camp! Remember me? We both spoke a few Pecha Kuchas back.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I have recently become a huge fan of your site – way to spur a discussion of important local issues! Whether people agree with your arguments or not (and I usually do, myself), at least we are talking about things like local politics and urban development in an energetic, compelling way that’s easy to digest.

    For anyone who questions the value of high density mixed use development as opposed to sprawl, I challenge you to check out “The Geography of Hope” by Calgary author Chris Turner. It’s a very positive take on how living sustainably doesn’t have to mean giving up comforts, and addresses this issue very well.

    Reply
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