It’s a Bohemian art-o-rama sale to stock up on Christmas gifts, and it’s the first time the gallery is hosting it. So come out and enjoy the wine, and cheese, music, fun people and deals. Harcourt House, 10441 123 Street. 12 noon – 11pm. Free.
DECEMBER 2 Ginger SNAP
Celebrate art while eating ginger snap cookies. This year’s theme is retro, with shiny copper and black décor and lounge-y music. Local super-star Elm Catering supplies the eats. SNAP, 10123 Jasper Avenue. Doors 8pm. Contact SNAP for prices.
Build Your City
DECEMBER 6 10 Years of Local Good Fundraiser
Back in 2007, a group called E-SAGE (Edmonton Socially-Conscious Alternative Green Entrepreneurs) got together to support local sustainability. They (thankfully) re-named to the Local Good and now host fun, thoughtful events throughout the year — like this fund- raiser. Yellowhead Brewery, 10229 105 Street. 5pm – 7pm. Free, but please RSVP in advance.
JANUARY 12 Design Studies Alumni Show
Celebrate the design achievements and brilliance of some of MacEwan’s graduates. A great way to learn and engage with better design in the city. Allard Hall, 1110 104 Avenue. 7pm. Free.
JANUARY 20 March on Edmonton
More than 4,000 gathered at last year’s rally in the wake of that orange guy being elected president in the U.S. This year, Edmonton again joins in solidarity with cities around the world. Alberta Legislature. 1pm. Free.
FEBRUARY 28 Art, Culture and Community Engagement
What’s the future of arts engagement in our community? Using Oliver’s newly-opened arts-first facility, a moderator will lead a discussion that will end in a call to artists to serve the community. Allard Hall, 1110 104 Avenue. 7pm. Free.
For The Drama Seeker
DECEMBER 17 Canada’s Women’s Olympic team vs. Team USA
It’s the final game in a six-game series against our favourite (or least favourite?) rivals. The series a key step in Canada’s team’s preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeonchang, South Korea. Rogers Place, 10214 104 Avenue. 5pm. Ticketmaster.
FEBRUARY 1 Theatre Lab Grand Opening
Oliver’s arts landscape takes a dramatic step forward with the opening of Theatre Lab. The first production: Love and Information. Allard Hall, 1110 104 Avenue. 7pm. Free.
ON SEPTEMBER 30, WHEN ABDULAHI SHARIF allegedly rammed a police officer with a car, then stabbed him, and then ran down four pedestrians on Jasper Avenue behind the wheel of a U-Haul, the entire city was left in shock. But did the attack, which police have described as terrorism, really terrorize our downtown? We caught up with a few businesses close to where the attack happened to find out.
No sensationalism at Matrix
Olaf Miede, general manager of the Matrix Hotel, said his focus after the attack has been to ensure staff and guests feel safe. But is there a lingering feeling of terror? No.
“From my side, calling it a terror attack [seems extreme]. There’s lots of stuff going on in the world, and sometimes we over-exaggerate it. We want to work with the police and take it seriously, but still, there’s nobody here that’s going ‘Oh my god, I can’t work at the Matrix anymore and I have PTSD.’ There’s no sensationalism here. I look at it more as, you had a police chase and sometimes we [overemphasize] the nationality of who’s involved and create something out of it that creates a lot of fear, and fear mongering.”
Community strengthened at Central Social Hall
Neil Wolsegger, operating partner of Central Social Hall, said the attack might have back-fired, as it has only strengthened Edmonton’s sense of community.
“After the night it actually happened, there wasn’t a ton of buzz about anything going on in regards to terror, in my opinion. From people I’ve talked to, staff and customers, I think the Edmonton community is just way too strong to let that kind of negativity creep in. Obviously it’s a terrible thing that happened, and the people that were affected by it directly, I couldn’t even imagine to walk one inch in their shoes today. But as a business operator in downtown Edmonton it really hasn’t affected us at all. I think people just kind of bonded together and refused to let that kind of stuff creep in.”
What could be ‘Best of the Core’ winners in five years, and why? We talked with Edmonton starchitect Michael Zabinski to find out.
Michael Zabinski co-designed the new funicular and the Regenerating Rossdale proposal.
1. A Re-Imagined Best Buy
Having a Best Buy downtown is “pretty awesome,” Zabinski says. But the current, parking-focused design at 104 Avenue and 109 Street needs a rethink. To make it a 2022 Best-Of winner, Zabinksi recommends pushing the parking underground, putting small-scale retail on the ground floor to animate the street — including along the Railtown Park connection at back — and moving the Best Buy upstairs, just like you see in dense downtowns like Vancouver. Above it all? Residential units to serve MacEwan students and professionals.
2. Life in the Laneways
Zabinski thinks the laneways running between streets and behind buildings on 104 Street and Rice Howard Way have big potential. The laneways have historically been lanes for service vehicles, but today they’re also used as pedestrian-first shortcuts. Zabinski imagines small retail tucked into them, as well as lighting features, hidden art or other items of interest to give pedestrians reasons to stay in the lanes.
3. Digging Discovery
Zabinski says we need to look at downtown’s under-used spaces — underground. “The most interesting cities I’ve visited provide unique opportunities for discovery. Some of the greatest restaurants, bars and galleries are hidden from view, either tucked away in a forgotten basement or up on a secret rooftop.” Take the old Fanny’s Fabrics, underneath Dialog Architecture’s office on 104 Street: The mostly-vacant subterranean space has glass-enclosed bays that could be an underground marketplace or makerspace, he says.
4. Grandin Junction
In October 2017, Zabinski and others released a project proposal called the High Level Line. One of its most ambitious parts was called Grandin Junction.
The proposal: Connect the legislature grounds to Ezio Faraone Park “with a sweeping greenspace bridging above the traffic,” Zabinski says. “This expanded park would integrate into the existing LRT network, and bring pedestrians, cyclists, and streetcar users to a stunning vantage point overlooking the North Saskatchewan river valley, providing a wide range of uses through all seasons.”
THIS ISSUE OF THE YARDS celebrates what makes central Edmonton an outstanding place to live, work and play. But while we applaud what already makes our community great, the Oliver Community League (OCL) also works to create public and private development that will better serve our neighbourhood in the future.
Here are just a few of our successes.
In 2014, when city administration published its recommended capital budget projects for the following four years, Jasper Avenue was only scheduled to be repaved. The OCL immediately organized a team to explain to City Council the importance of consulting with Oliver residents to create a new design for Jasper Avenue. Council unanimously voted in favour of OCL’s recommended approach. In late 2015, the Imagine Jasper Avenue consultation initiative launched. And this summer, the city rolled out a first-of-its-kind, four-month installation on the avenue, piloting some of the proposed design features.
On the private side of things, our league continues to work to be nimble and agile negotiators, while maintaining our standards for process and good governance. While there are some land re-zonings in Oliver that are not best in class, there are nonetheless examples of developers improving design based on OCL recommendations. I’m happy to recommend these developers for working in partnership with our community.
For example, in 2016, Devonshire Properties proposed a site-specific re-zoning for a 14-storey tower on 118 Street, north of Jasper Avenue. The original design was typical of apartment buildings in Oliver — a single entrance on the main level and nothing else. The OCL Civics Committee asked the developer to consider adding townhouses on the main floor to improve street engagement, and also bolster housing choice in Oliver.
I was pleased with the developer’s reception of this feedback. Devonshire incorporated our requests into its design.
In the coming months, the OCL will draw on these experiences as we begin negotiations with Abbey Lane Homes and city administration over a proposal for the St. John’s School Site, south of Peace Garden Park. We will be pushing for maximum benefit to all residents of our neighbourhood.
When it comes to development, some communities have a reputation for opposing all of it. In Oliver, we do not do this. Instead, we have found it is more helpful to push for smart development that will better serve the community in the future rather than simply say no.
JANUARY 19, FEBRUARY 16, STARTS AT 8 PM Walking Pub Crawl
Meet with new and old friends at the hall every month before walking to pre-determined locations to enjoy Oliver nightlife. Meet in Oliver Park (between 104 Avenue and 103 Avenue, 118 and 119 streets) by the playground. No pub crawl in December.
DECEMBER 11, JANUARY 8, FEBRUARY 12, 7 PM Civics Committee
This fully engaged committee meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. Grace Lutheran Church. 9907 114 Street, enter by grey door on the east side.
JANUARY 17 Make Something Oliver Idea Incubator
Come help us dream up projects for our Oliver-building project. 6pm – 8pm, Brewsters, 11620 104 Avenue.
Free noon-hour yoga at DECL. Take a break to breathe and relax your mind with Irma and Jessica, and enjoy some ow and Hatha practices at lunch. All levels welcome and beginner friendly. Space is limited. Please register at email@example.com.
DECEMBER 14, 7-10PM Christmas Mixer
Come celebrate the season with your downtown neighbours. Bring some baking to share. Light refreshments will be provided and there will be a cash bar. Donations of warm clothing and new socks will be used to decorate our tree and donated to Boyle Street Community Services.
DECEMBER 6 AND EVERY SECOND WEDNESDAY STARTING JANUARY 17, 7 PM DECL Book Club
Join us for the return of the DECL Book Club. We focus on urban themes both fiction and non-fiction.
Many years ago, when my youngest niece was a baby, I took her out and about to give her mom — my sister — a break. It was then I learned how difficult it is to move around Edmonton with a young child.
We had the contraption where you strap the baby to your front torso and step out into the world as though you are a kookum out hunting moose (mine’s never hunted moose, by the way). But when my back couldn’t take it anymore I would bundle my niece up in a stroller. And then came the lessons.
Have you ever tried to take a baby in a stroller on an ETS bus? It is awful. People roll their eyes before (or if) they make room. Even worse, just getting to the bus stop can be difficult because you have to navigate puddles, people and deteriorating sidewalks.
So, between the clunky stroller barely fitting our often narrow, often poorly-lit sidewalks, the bus challenges and the cat calls — yes even while pushing a baby stroller — I came to realize that Edmonton is not designed with all women, mothers or caregivers in mind.
But who are cities like ours made for, then? It helps to look at who it works best for.
Mo Bot, an urbanist who works as a planner for the City of Edmonton, is passionate about the concept of universal design. Bot says different groups use city infrastructure differently. Take the bus, for example. “Studies [have] found that men tend to take the bus twice a day — to and from work,” she says.
Women, on the other hand, tend to use public transit with far more variance, and tend to make more trips on foot, too. Bot says they do something called “trip chaining,” which essentially means they often make multiple stops while riding the bus between home and work. You know, to pick up the dry cleaning, then the kids from school or the doctor, and then the groceries.
What matters here is whose life you make harder if you design, say, a transit system that works only for your city’s purely work commuters (a majority of whom, in this case, are men) and not its many other users.
I can already hear the “But-what-about-the-men?!” cries. Yes, parenting can be done by any gender, and there are more than two binaries to consider when discussing universal design. But the point is if you make a city accessible to everyone you’ll make it better for everyone.
The question is how. And this was Kalen Anderson’s point for her recent Pecha Kucha presentation on urban design.
Anderson is director of planning coordination for the City of Edmonton. She started her presentation with a quote from urbanist Gil Penalosa, that the best way to evaluate a city is to ask how well it treats the most vulnerable people — “The children, the older adults and the poor.”
She says core neighborhoods are the most important places in the city. “They need to provide holistic opportunities for people to live.” But, Anderson says, Edmonton’s core is not doing that well enough at the moment. “If you want to see how a community works look no further than the way it welcomes children,” she says — noting the core could well improve on that front.
My trips with my niece taught me about the importance of bus seating, wide sidewalks in good repair, better lighting. City design should serve those caring for children, or those with different abilities or of different ages, just as equally as everyone else.
May we have the envelope, please? This is our third birthday, and our third time trying to define what makes Edmonton’s core sweet. As always the hardest part is eliminating great stuff that doesn’t fit.
Many of us love the bizarre, aquamarine pedway linking the legislature to Grandin LRT station, for example. Or that snake and woman airbrushed on the fence at 102 Avenue and 117 Street. But are these familiar, lovable oddities really the best of what the core has to offer?
To get to the best, we asked writers and residents to argue out their favourites. And we pushed whacky new categories at them, too. The Best WTF? to celebrate the strange. The Best Growth From Stall to Shop to celebrate businesses emerging from farmers’ markets and food trucks. And beyond that, we zeroed in on four core characters who made the core a better place in 2017. So let’s tear open those envelopes. Please.
WINNER: Compound House in Oliver
Oliver’s Compound House (and we’re giving it this name) is a big WTF. Stretching an entire neighbourhood block, the house is what looks like should be trendy, expensive lofts, but the building is rumoured to be owned by just one reclusive person. The urban tales are rife as a result. One (con rmed) rumour has it that this massive compound used to be the Beth Israel Synagogue. Well, they moved out 18 years ago. 10205 119 Street.
RUNNER UP: Freemasons’ Hall
Don’t lie: Every time you walk by this gothic temple you wonder about the secret club inside. The Central Masonic Temple was built in 1930 and it’s still a gathering spot for Edmonton’s oldest fraternity. 10318 100 Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Shaw Conference Centre Funicular
Looking for a cheap thrill on a Sunday? This indoor funicular (think elevator on a hill) gives an excellent view of the river valley and costs nothing for a ride down to the river bank. 9797 Jasper Avenue. – BN
Best Urban Jumble
Serenity is density done well for Edmonton.
At 12 storeys, its human scale makes good use of a prominent Jasper Avenue corner. Residents get a high-rise feeling connected to Oliver while below pedestrians get an inviting facade and accent materials — and retail tenants at street level. Those disliking towers or fearing infill should look here for a good example of things done well. 10055 118 Street.
RUNNER UP: Mayfair
This sleek mixed-use building, completed in 2016 and inspired by active design principles, is setting a new bar for mid-rise rental downtown. The key to its goodness is Mayfair’s multiple uses. 10823 Jasper Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Central Court
This is a modest, older, affordable six-storey rental building that re ects — and adds to — its ‘hood. Steps from the 102 Avenue bike lane, retail is in the podium and amenities are a short walk away. 11212 102 Avenue. – DR
Best Place to Run Away
WINNER: Victoria Park
Be Alice and dive down the looking glass behind Le Marchand Mansion (100 Avenue at 116 Street), where a staircase leads to a magical trail. Whether you crave a peaceful walk or some seasonal Saskatoon berries to pick, escape is on offer here, as is access to Victoria Park, Ezio Faraone Park and Hawrelak Park. A great view to seek out is in Ezio Faraone Park, looking south, where you get the best glimpse of the High Level Bridge anywhere. 11523 100 Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Grant Notley Park
No stairs? No problem. This small park (named after a former MLA who fathered our current premier, Rachel Notley) offers a welcoming place to sit and take in the picturesque view of the river valley. In the summer, you can also feast on a food-truck lunch here. 116 Street and 100 Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Oliver Peace Garden Park
One of the best seedy nds on a neighbourhood stroll is this serene community garden. The inspirational space tended to by its users will have you wondering why there aren’t more gardens in the core. 10289 120 Street. – CS
Best Not-A-Main Street
WINNER: 104 Street
Edmonton has about nine designated main streets, but its best core streets are often smaller scale. The 4th Street Promenade, as few actually call it, links back to the city’s mercantile history in the early 1900s. On 104, you can spot the best and worst of Edmonton — from oversized parkades and for-lease signs to bustling subway entrances, a neon sign museum, a warehouse full of startup companies (and hipster haircuts) and a farmers’ market many cities would kill for.
RUNNER UP: 108 Street
Talk about waiting: Back in 1997, the city designated 108 Street as central to downtown revitalization. Construction began in 2011 and new street art arrived this year. The potential is still bigger than the result, of course, but the funky El Mirador apartments, food trucks, Federal Plaza fountains, Monument coffee shop, LRT access and pedestrian-first design make this a winner in, well, waiting.
RUNNER UP: 121 Street
This one is all about the experience — a street graced with the remaining treed-boulevard left behind by the former street trolley. The coming Oliver Mercantile Exchange, revamped Paul Kane Park and connections to the river valley and Brewery District make 121 an increasingly important street to walk. – TQ
Best in Business
WINNER: Grandma Pizza
Jakub and Jolanta Kulig moved to Edmonton from Greece 25 years ago and opened Grandma Pizza in the bottom of a residential tower. A few years ago, when the City of Edmonton came knocking and threatened closure, due to zoning regulations, neighbours rallied to keep the couple’s little pizzeria open. Customers love the family, the pizza and the location, which is a short walk from much of Grandin. 9837 113 Street.
RUNNER UP: Can Man Convenience
Looking for a quick light bowl of refreshing vermicelli for lunch? Or perhaps something a little toastier, like, say, bahn mi? Get it here for less than $10. And fast. 10240 124 Street.
RUNNER UP: Habitat Etc
Perfect for a little pick-me-up or a gift in a pinch, this artisanal YEG-centric gift shop is sure to have that something you’re looking for. 10187 104 Street. – BN
Best Growth from Stall to Shop
WINNER: Prairie Noodle
In 2014, five partners started perfecting ramen mixed with Alberta flavours in a series of pop-up restaurants. After a year of feedback they settled on the menu and a permanent location, and opened their doors. The space is intimate. You’re sure to interact with other patrons and at least three staff, most likely to discuss the remarkable ramen bowls — an ambiance those five partners worked to create. 10350 124 Street.
RUNNER UP: Arno’s
Macarons, meringues and other treats await you at this delightful, intimate retreat. Master pastry chef Arnaud Valade fills the place with baked goodness. Valade got his Edmonton start at our farmers’ markets, including City Market Downtown. 10038 116 Street.
RUNNER UP: Woodwork
One-of-a-kind libations like the House Sour and a menu of succulent eats (Brassica Salad, anyone?), mean nothing beats this intimate lounge — which got its start as the Nomad food truck. 10132 100 Street. – CS
Best in Threads
WINNER: Arturo Denim
This small but mighty team is slowly revitalizing Edmonton’s strong roots in denim manufacturing, which stretch back more than 100 years. Specializing in the best damn quality denim Japan has to offer, Arturo jeans are made to last. And they’ll repair ‘em like new if you damage them. 10443 124 Street.
RUNNER UP: Alberta Tailoring Company
With staff here paying special attention to how each garment should wear you’re sure to find the best fit. 10025 Jasper Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Swish Vintage
A time-capsule treasure, this hole in the wall holds some of the best memories in fashion from around Edmonton. 10180 101 Street. – BN
Best Regular Haunt
WINNER: Tzin Wine and Tapas
Regulars quickly get to know every inch of this intimate, seven-table space. Chef Corey McGuire’s crispy pork crostini, with maple balsamic apple compote and apple mayonnaise — called, simply, “Bacon” — is one of the best pork dishes in the city, period. The Patatas Bravas — fried potatoes with “angry” aioli — is also a favourite. Tip: Hit Tzin and say “Feed me!” The staff will understand. 10115 104 Street.
RUNNER UP: Red Star
This dimly-lit, subterranean, neighbourhood gastro pub is known for its friendly service, tasty food and its Cheers-like re-creation of that downtown place where everybody knows your name. 10534 Jasper Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Remedy Café 124
There are many Remedy Cafés in Edmonton, where the original recipe chai and Indian fusion wraps delight patrons. But the warmest staff (and spot with the best patio) are in Oliver. 10310 124 Street. – LH
Best Mouth Burner
“Mom,” as Vipha Mounma is called at Viphalay, uses chilies for almost every dish in her Thai cuisine. To heat up, spice addicts should try the Gaeng Ped (red curry with chicken or beef) or the Nua Na Lok (also known as Hell’s Beef). Water will not cool this burn. 10523 99 Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Khazana
Almost everything at Khazana is concocted with bold and aromatic spices — but you’ll truly meet the four-alarm heat within an order of hot beef vindaloo curry. 10177 107 Street.
RUNNER UP: Noodle Bar by Nomiya
Those in search of hot stuff should slurp up some spicy miso ramen noodle soup at Noodle Bar by Nomiya. This miso is a flavourful kick to the traditional miso (soybean and pork broth) bowl for heat seekers. 11238 104 Avenue. – LH
Best Fam Jam
WINNER: Festival of Trees
Glitter glee galore. For more than 30 years, the Festival of Trees has started the holiday season with whimsy. It raises money for a good cause, but mostly the festival raises everyone’s warmth, with a stand of Christmas trees and scenes, and of course, the endless decorated cakes, ginger-bread structures and kids activities.
RUNNER UP: Cariwest
It’s Carnival but in Edmonton, and Cariwest has brought the vibrant sounds and colourful costumes of the Caribbean community to our city for 30 years. The parade is off the hook.
RUNNER UP: All is Bright
This festival is lit. Residents of the core love to keep the winter streets filled with life. All is bright lights up the night and warms up 124 Street with family- friendly activities, music and food.
Best Parks and Rec
WINNER: Oliver Community Pool
Admission was free this past summer (thanks, Canada 150), so many jumped in at one of the area’s best kept secrets. The facility, opened in 1924, is clean, and its excellent lifeguarding make it ideal for a family outing. But many others love it, too — from Capital City Athletics, which uses the pool for post-workout cool-downs, and even area dogs, who jump in at season’s end. 10315 119 Street.
RUNNER UP: Don Wheaton YMCA
A staple of the downtown community since 1908, though in its current building since 2007, “the Y” offers free swims for DECL members on Sundays, 1pm-6:45pm. 10211 102 Avenue.
RUNNER UP: Alex Decoteau Park
The off-leash dog run at Alex Decoteau Park, named after an Indigenous war and local hero from Edmonton, is perfect to help furry area residents get needed exercise. 10200 105 Street. – MHC
Best Art to the People
WINNER: Harcourt House
Harcourt is one of only three artist-run public galleries in Edmonton and offers some of its best contemporary-art exhibits. It also offers classes and workshops, where instructors can help you tap your creative side. The community of artists are friendly and welcoming to all. 10215 112 Street.
RUNNER UP: iHuman Youth Society
Little wonder some of Edmonton’s most promising art talent is coming out of a place devoted to using art to build up youth. 9635 102A Avenue.
RUNNER UP: SNAP
This non-profit printmaking powerhouse offers courses and exhibitions for a wide array of people, ranging from professional artists to at-risk youth. The parties are also great. 10123 121 Street. – MHC
Best Way to Move
WINNER: Downtown bike network
Now every day is your leg day, or just a great day. Stopping at Bodega Tapas & Wine Bar (103 Street/102 Avenue) for an after-work drink is now as easy as removing your helmet. The city imagined these lanes a decade ago, but heroes within and without (Stantec) pushed the 7.8-kilometre grid into reality. To be clear, that current grid is puny compared to the 500 kilometres imagined in 2009. Still, the future promises more lanes, when the Valley Line LRT is finished, and a connection to the river valley, via the Mechanized Access.
RUNNER UP: Railtown Park
A lush corridor haven that gives you urban nature atop your feet or a bike. People are always here walking dogs, commuting or lounging. Use this to link MacEwan University’s new Allard Hall to the legislature.
RUNNER UP: Pogo CarShare
Instead of walking (a long distance) to a transit stop, and then … waiting … we can now hike our neighbourhood, find a Pogo, drive it downtown, park for free and walk to whatever festival we desire. Same exercise without the same loss of time. – CS
In January, Riza Kasikcioglu saw fire and ran toward it. It was evening and Kasikcioglu was working at Maximo’s Pizza & Donair, on Jasper Avenue and 117 Street, which he co-owns with his wife, Yeter. Suddenly, he saw the orange flames spill out of an upper-floor apartment in the 17-storey Oliver Place building across the street. He called 911. And then 47-year-old Kasikcioglu, who was in the military in Turkey, where he immigrated to Canada from, ran across Jasper Avenue, bounded up Oliver Place’s stairs and screamed at residents inside to get out.
Kasikcioglu says he knew he could lose his own life but believed in that moment the lives of others were more important. “Everywhere, I was hearing children screaming for help,” he says. “As a Muslim, I can’t allow any children or innocents to lose their life.” Eventually he came across a woman in a wheelchair who was trapped because the elevators were not running. He carried her down the stairs on his back.
Kasikcioglu says he’s heartbroken one person died that night. But without his quick response, many others would have remained in harm’s way. Today, you can still find Kasikcioglu at his Oliver pizza shop, welcoming his regulars warmly.
Walking through downtown Edmonton is brighter, thanks to Annaliza Toledo. Walls formerly bare, dirty or depressing are now alive with colour. The reason is that Toledo, along with her partner, Trevor Peters, created a festival to liven up the grey. Toledo and Peters are both artists, and in 2016 created the Rust Magic Festival to make our daily walks a little more Instagram-worthy.
Rust Magic brings graffiti and mural artists from around the world to Edmonton each summer. Once here, these artists paint spaces in highly walkable neighbourhoods – Oliver, downtown, Strathcona. All told, since 2016, Rust Magic has added 35 new works of street.
Toledo says the results are obvious. “It adds so much to everyone’s day to have something beautiful appear in front of you, large-scale, on your walk to work or your walk home,” she says. “Something like that makes such a difference in people’s lives. You are a product of your environment, so why not surround yourself with beautiful, artistic things?”
Next summer, keep your eyes peeled for more from Rust Magic. “I think we’ll do more quality murals and not concentrate on the number of the murals,” Toledo says. “We hope people will appreciate it like they have in the past.”
The next time you ride your bicycle downtown, send Olga Messinis a silent thank you. Messinis is the project manager behind the downtown bike network and has worked to make the 7.8-kilometre system a reality since August, 2016. Behind the scenes, in boardrooms, Messinis has fought the hard fight.
The lanes, opened this past summer, help improve equity on the road among Edmontonians, Messinis says. They will also improve quality of life for residents in downtown and Oliver – neighbourhoods where many already commute by bike.
And, Messinis says, the lanes incentivize change. Having them “encourages people who are trying to reduce their carbon footprint and make healthier choices,” Messinis says. “Some people who have never chosen to commute by bike tell us that they are commuting by bike for the first time. One commuter, in her early 70s — a really well-dressed woman on a bicycle — told me that she loved them and this is the first time she ever thought she could ride a bike within downtown. That was a great feeling.”
Messinis bikes to her downtown office from across the river in Strathcona. If you see her out there, maybe don’t be so silent. Ding your bell in thanks.
Jordan Reiniger is helping people at the margins by changing the job market in their favour.
Many pushed to the streets in Edmonton’s downtown core are rejected by traditional employers. That’s where Reiniger comes in. He’s the director of development at Boyle Street Community Services. And over the last two-and-a-half years, he’s created social enterprise programs to create jobs.
Through Boyle Street Community Ventures, Reiniger has founded several companies, including a moving company, a cleaning company and a junk removal company. All told, these outfits employ about 25 people. The best part is that downtown and Oliver residents support the companies, with many calling on the moving company in particular. “It’s a really good service and a good way for people to participate in social change,” Reiniger says. “They’re spending money on something they would have spent money on anyways, but they are choosing to do so in a socially conscious way. There is a sense of community and the sense that we are in this together.”
Reiniger’s next step? Four Directions Financial, a community bank where people are not turned away from opening an account due to a lack of I.D., the most common barrier for people at the margins.
Best in the Core Awards by: Sydnee Bryant, Mary-Helen Clark, Linda Hoang, Brittany Nugent, Tim Querengesser, Dan Rose and Chris Sikkenga
“How are you, brother?” John Roberts replies, to each of the many men who greet him along the line.
Roberts is 50 and spends much of his time spreading needed kindness at the Boyle Street Co-Op. Today, he’s outside, walking along what he calls his community’s main street. To anyone not from Roberts’ side of downtown, this is an alley you dare not walk. But to hundreds of others, this line is their Jasper Avenue or 124 Street. Along this line are daily stops for many in the community: Boyle Street, Quasar Bottle Depot, Bissell Centre, and several other services to the east of the core. It’s also the place to connect, say hi, have a laugh.
The line extends 105 Avenue eastward, in the form of a multi-use pathway from where the paved avenue essentially ends, at 101 Street, to where it resumes again at 96 Street. And back here, life is bustling. Several men huddle near vents that blow heat from within the Epcor building’s massive parkade. Nearby, a few couples tend to waist-high piles of belongings and supplies outside their tents. The view is standard downtown Edmonton but with bleak additions. To the south are downtown’s glittering towers, but there’s also a deep, open pit behind the CN Tower. Nearby is a cold, doorless, north-facing back wall at the new Royal Alberta Museum.
Also here is what Roberts describes as a message that’s wrought in steel. It’s a multi-layer wall of chain-link fencing topped with barbed wire, and it stretches six blocks, often on two sides. Here, where the train tracks once split the city, colder, sharper steel now divides.
Roberts says the line is a recent demarcation between the street community he’s come to call his own and the people who are coming — developers and gentrifiers, working to take this space and make it palatable, unthreatening and commercial.
The line is invisible from downtown, but it’s all you see, walking along this community’s main street. “It looks like a prison back here,” Roberts says.
“From a business point of view it’s a gouging to push those people out. We have to admit and there’s no hiding it: Poor people do not bring much to a city. There’s places in the ‘States where they forbid helping homeless people. But hopefully we don’t ever lose our willingness to help others out. Once you put a culture like that with a culture like the one at Boyle Street, it doesn’t look good. And it doesn’t look good for us at all. It’s got a prison like effect. We’re a province that’s supposed to be rich. But we don’t look after our own very well. This shouldn’t be happening.”
“You can get a fine for leaving your dog in the car. But to line up 250 men while it’s blowing at their ears at 35 below, it seems people think, ‘Let’s just push that aside — let’s just build some fences around so those people don’t get in. Let’s put up cameras so others don’t have to see it.’ You have to look at it from the people who are investing in their business. People are protecting their investments. But they set themselves up, in my view, by putting a culture into something that doesn’t work with it.”
“Things here have changed drastically for us. The result [of new developments downtown backing onto Boyle Street] is the police are picking out my Aboriginal friends because they drink and they have problems. They’re carding them, asking them questions, harassing them. If they carry a backpack they want to see in the backpack. They have no reason or rhyme. It’s just another way to make their life miserable so they’ll hopefully move away. I used to cast these people off — ‘You can do something with your life.’ But when you get educated about the Native people and the schools we ran, we created a tidal wave impact into the culture.”