In 1990, a group calling itself simply ‘The Road Doctors’ painted Edmonton’s first guerrilla bike lane. Soon after, the city removed this lane and repainted it, creating the first ever official, on-road bike lane in Edmonton. To this day, nobody knows exactly who The Road Doctors actually were. But 27 years after the fact, one is breaking his silence.
Back in 1990, David Boroditsky—who’s now a business owner—was an avid environmentalist and active in Edmonton’s cycling community. As Boroditsky tells it, some “enterprising” city bylaw officers had been giving students tickets that summer for riding the wrong way down 88 Avenue (between 109 Street and the University of Alberta, 88 Avenue is an eastbound one-way). The tickets irked a lot of people. “It seemed like monetary injustice, preying on poor, defenceless university students, and the road was amply wide to enable cars, parking and bikes,” he says.
So he and two friends decided to act. “With paint rollers, duct tape and hockey sticks—and we had some stencils for ‘bike lane’ and ‘bikes not cars’—we took a trip down there on a Saturday night,” Boroditsky says.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of people out that night, so the trio hit—what else?—a frat party, where they drank beer and recruited a fourth member. Then, later that night, “we went back and laid down a line,” he says.
Later, Boroditsky anonymously wrote a press release from The Road Doctors about the lane. “We apologise (sic) for the wigglyness of the line,” it read, “but owing to our budget of $7.42, we were unable to employ state of the art straight line application technology.”
Boroditsky also gave a local radio station an anonymous interview, from a phone booth.
And then, magic. “There was a nasty editorial in The Sun, an article in The Journal and the city scraped the paint off, and threatened us with an $800 cleaning bill,” Boroditsky says. “But then they came back a few days after and actually put in a proper bike lane.”
MICHAEL PHAIR PULLED ON THE BUILDING’S ugly tin cladding and saw red brick underneath. This building was worth saving. “No one knew — including me — that it had any architectural value at all, until a couple of people working there dragged me over,” Phair says. “I pulled back a little bit and I was like, ‘Oh my God, look at that — that’s brick.’”
It was 1999. Phair was peering at bricks of the Phillips Building, on 104 Street in downtown Edmonton. Midco Equities Ltd., owned by Bill Comrie of The Brick, had purchased the building and adjacent parking lot in 1981. It first wanted to erect a 25-storey of office tower, but the economic crash of the early ’80s erased those plans. By the mid-’90s, Midco next wanted to demolish Phillips Building and replace it with a surface parking lot.
Local residents wanted the building to remain. So they contacted Phair, who was a city councillor at the time, and asked for his help to save it. And he did. Preventing developers from demolishing the Phillips Building became one of Phair’s first major YIMBY wins. He’s had dozens more since.
What’s YIMBY? The acronym stands for ‘Yes in My Backyard’ and it’s the opposite of the far more well known NIMBY (Not in My Backyard). Proponents of YIMBY actively seek to obtain or keep things in their neighbourhoods instead of trying to keep them out. From tangible YIMBY successes like the Icon and Fox tower developments on 104 Street, to the new downtown bike grid, to less obvious achievements like establishing the AIDS Network of Edmonton, Phair has made a career out of saying ‘Yes.’
One cheery July afternoon, Phair sat in his eponymous park on 104 Street to reflect on what the street was like before he and other YIMBYs got involved — and how people who want to become YIMBYs can learn from his approach.
“Most people forget that this was all empty here,” he says, gesturing at the high rises surrounding us. “There were no buildings here at all, except on the corner.” That corner, on Jasper Avenue, was occupied by the ruin of the Cecil Hotel. Running north from the Cecil were empty lots, derelict properties and a few historic structures, such as the Birks, Metals, Phillips and Great West Saddlery buildings. Some had businesses but many were empty or partially vacant.
Saving the Phillips Building — Worthington Properties bought it in 2000 and converted it into loft apartments — was an early victory for 104 Street and also Edmonton in a broader sense. It marked a slow shift in local thinking and proved that a small group of dedicated citizens could shape the future of their neighbourhood.
After the Phillips Lofts were completed, in 2002, developers next proposed several high rise towers on 104 Street — the Century first, then the Icon towers, and later the Fox towers. But the original plans for these towers looked a lot different than what developers eventually built. That’s thanks, again, to the YIMBYs.
“There were a number of people living in the area who met with me and formed a kind of coalition group to push the city and developers that high rises were fie, but we don’t want ugly buildings — this is a historical area,” Phair says. “And, we don’t want this parking that you see everywhere. And we want podiums — which was not in the plans.”
But Phair knew fighting for improvements on individual projects was always going to be a losing battle. The key was zoning. Phair recognized changes were needed to prevent developers from proposing to build whatever they wanted on 104 Street. “The importance of the zoning, in the end, is probably what ensures that you are getting kind of what you’d hoped and wanted,” he says. Eventually, Phair and others got city council to change 104 Street’s zoning, in 2004.
But because council makes zoning decisions, Phair says, YIMBY groups seeking influence over what needs to be added to development proposals will need to make their case before that body. “It’s important that you have connections with the local councillors or MLAs, depending what the situation is, so they know what’s happening,” he says. “Even if they don’t agree or don’t push for anything, it’s always better if they know – but hopefully you can make allies out of them. Many members of council — hate to be blindsided. I’ve been that way a little bit, too.”
To become an effective YIMBY, then, Phair says you’ll need to get in touch with city administration to discuss zoning options in your neighbourhood, inform your local councillor and then meet with developers, property owners and other stakeholders about any proposed development. Developers usually aren’t keen to make changes to their plans, Phair says, especially ones that cost more money. This is why he says it’s critical to gain allies with positive voices — you can always find someone to oppose something, and often that negative voice is the loudest.
Phair says compromise is also key.
The zoning changes council made on 104 Street — which requires towers to have podiums for retail and commercial space, design elements reflecting the area’s historic nature, and parking set backs — doesn’t have everything residents asked for, Phair says, but it was a good compromise. “Quite frankly, 104 Street would not be what it is today if that hadn’t happened,” he says. “It made just this huge difference.” But sometimes YIMBY voices can’t make compromise actually happen. Chris vander Hoek, a former board member of the Oliver Community League (OCL) and intern architect with NEXT Architecture, says the Brewery District, in Oliver, is a good example of that. Vander Hoek was on the OCL board in 2013 when First Capital Realty and Sun Life Investment presented its initial proposal for the site. He says he remembers feeling alarmed when he saw it.
“Everything was internally oriented around the parking lot,” vander Hoek says. In response, the OCL worked to amplify the community voice. It hosted open houses and charrette sessions so residents could provide feedback to the developer. Initially the tone was optimistic, vander Hoek recalls, but that changed after the OCL met with the developers. “It became evident that they weren’t interested in compromising at all,” he says. “Their whole attitude was simply, ‘Let’s just build it now. Let’s build this hybrid suburban model and then when the LRT comes and when it becomes more urban, then we’ll just knock it down and build a new version that’s more urban.’”
Today, vander Hoek says Brewery District is not a walkable space, as Oliver asked it to be, because nobody likes walking across parking lots or among blank façades, “We saw that in the plans early on,” he says. But the YIMBY voice could not change it.
It should go without saying, then, that effective YIMBY campaigns require patience — often, a lot of it. Phair says Edmonton’s bike lanes are a perfect example of a project that required not just compromise and political support, but also heaps of patience.
“I live on 102 Avenue and we’ve been wanting a bike lane and arguing and yelling at the city for years to get that,” he says.
Phair chaired a working group on the downtown bike lane project that the OCL established five years ago. Things got bogged down due to the costs involved, and then delayed by the 2013 civic election. Phair remembers endless meetings with city administration trying to push them to take action, to no avail.
Meanwhile, though, the number of people working on bike lanes continued to grow. Paths for People, a nonprofit advocating for better cycling and walking infrastructure in Edmonton, formed in 2015; Phair is on the board.
The process seemed permanently stalled, Phair remembers, until a couple things happened. First, almost all of the senior management team at the city’s transportation department either retired or was let go. Second, Stantec offered to cover half the cost to trial downtown bike lanes.
“All of a sudden, very positively, it’s all happening,” Phair says. “We are busy now putting together some information for candidates running for city council and for the school board members, because there needs to be some work done on schools, encouraging bikes.”
The thing about YIMBY projects is that they can be about more than just buildings and bike lanes. They can be about building community supports for things that some in the community may even be fearful of. Phair has done that YIMBY work, too. In the early 1980s, he helped establish the first version of the Edmonton Pride Parade, as well as the AIDS Network of Edmonton (later renamed HIV Edmonton).
When the AIDS crisis hit Edmonton—the first case was identified on July 1, 1984 — no one was working on the issue locally. Phair formed the AIDS Network in response. The group worked out of his house at first, because no one would rent them office space. At the time, sexual orientation wasn’t protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act.
“There was a great deal of hatred —‘You deserve it; this is God’s scourge’ — every Bible verse that you could use, twisted,” Phair remembers. “We called ourselves the AIDS Network. We chose that name because we were clear that it needed to be more than just members of the gay and lesbian community. There needed to be other players. I think that was critical, knowing that in order to get what you want, and when you’re dealing with a situation that’s negative or difficult, is you look for others that need to be part of it.”
Some of those other players included local unions and churches, who were friendly to the cause, as well as contacts with the police and media. Savviness with media is critical to YIMBY, Phair says, especially when the issue at stake is contentious.
“Any major story about AIDS, we always got called for the local angle, and learned that you need to respond,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to put forward what we would think as the best foot, to put forward how we saw it and what we were doing — which then got through the media, got out that there were local people that had AIDS, there were local groups that were working on it to try to do things. We tried to sound reasonable.”
Sandeep Agrawal sees the YIMBY and NIMBY conversations through a planning lens. Agrawal is a professor and inaugural director at the University of Alberta’s Urban and Regional Planning Programs, where he focuses on the inclusion of human rights in urban planning. He is pushing Edmonton planners to look not only at planning legislation, bylaws and policy, but also to consider the Charter and human rights legislation, when dealing with NIMBY/YIMBY issues, like safe injection sites, supportive housing and potentially even adults-only buildings.
“Eventually, something that’s intangible becomes quite tangible in the form of use of land and a building and such — and then it becomes a planning issue,” Agrawal says. “Frankly, so far planners have yet to understand how these things affect their thinking, their practice and obviously their policies.”
The University of Alberta doesn’t have a course on NIMBYism specifically, but Agrawal teaches a course on land-use planning and policy that discusses it. “Land-use planning is all about uses of land and zoning, and when it comes to any kind of development, you have to deal with NIMBYism,” he says.
Awareness and education are ultimately what overcome NIMBYism, Agrawal says, since it’s often a knee-jerk, emotional reaction to change. Once people become aware of an issue and are exposed to it, more people come to accept it. Consider how absurd it seems today that someone could be denied office space based on their sexual orientation. This will undoubtedly hold true for everything from safe injection sites to bike lanes – it just might take a while.
Phair agrees. “I think in another eight or nine years, having bike routes will be so commonplace that they’ll just automatically happen, but it’s still going to take that time,” he says. Until your YIMBY victory has become permanent, he says, you just have to keep working on shifting the narrative.
“I can’t tell you how important I think it is to find some either positive voices or at least positive compromising voices,” he says. “As opposed to those that just don’t want it, period – and let them run the show and be seen as what everybody thinks and wants.
“Easier said than done,” he adds, with a laugh. “I wish it was that simple.”
SOCIAL MEDIA AND PRINT MEDIA: Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook can help you nd and connect with people interested in working together, as well as to make you aware of what others are working on already. Consider physical newsletters, posters on bulletin boards in local businesses and ads in community newsletters, and local newspapers to reach community members who aren’t online.
CROWDFUNDING SITES:Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding sites can help grassroots organizations and startup dollars and help cover costs associated with public outreach and consultation.
CITY OF EDMONTON ZONING RESOURCES: There are zoning resources and information on the City of Edmonton website. Contact the planner who works on your area of the city for detailed information.
EDMONTON FEDERATION OF COMMUNITY LEAGUES: The EFCL can put you in touch with local community leagues and other associations and organizations who may be interested in working on YIMBY projects in their area. The EFCL also hosts seminars and work- shops on community issues.
YIMBY asks for DECL and OCL
MORE DENSITY DONE RIGHT: The design of developments is more important than just density or height. Still, increased density can bring more people to live downtown, and more amenities, which will make the area more sustainable in the long-term.
BIKE LANES: If built correctly, bike lanes can benefit all people. It’s all about offering more mobility options to engage a younger population who doesn’t want to own vehicles, and this can be augmented by car-share and ride-share.
MORE GREEN SPACE, LESS PARKING: Surface parking lots don’t make for the vibrant downtown we want. Some empty lots should be reserved for open green space and parks. Parks are people’s living rooms when they don’t have their own yard.
BETTER STREETSCAPING: Well-considered streetscaping is critical to the success of downtown for people as well as local pedestrian-oriented businesses.
REC AND COMMUNITY FACILITIES: Oliver has the population of a small town, yet many don’t drive, so we need recreation facilities close by. The Stanley Milner library in central downtown is out of reach for many Oliver residents, as are downtown rec facilities like the Don Wheaton YMCA.
SUPPORTIVE, AFFORDABLE AND FAMILY HOUSING: Oliver needs greater housing diversity to support inclusive, long-term human investment through socially responsible development.
FAMILY INFRASTRUCTURE: The downtown core lacks physical supports as well as services for families, like all-ages buildings, appropriate recreation facilities, affordable child care and even public washrooms.
Coun. Andrew Knack is at a grey bungalow in Crestwood saying nothing much at all. Knack is campaigning for re-election in Ward 1 but tonight, the older female homeowner he has summoned with his knock to her door is not a supporter. Knack stands wordlessly absorbing views on subsidized housing (does not belong in Crestwood, she says) and property taxes (too high, she says) while, nearby, three boys play catch beside a white BMW. Crestwood’s average household income is $165,668, or nearly double Edmonton’s average, and it will be a central door-knocking target for Ward 1 candidates. Finally, after 15 minutes, Knack bids the woman goodnight. “I kind of make a terrible politician because I listen, even if I know, like her, they aren’t going to vote for me”, he says, once at the sidewalk.
Knocking on doors can win an election. In 2016, an unpopular Ted Cruz beat a popular Donald Trump in the Iowa Republican Party leadership primaries by hitting more front doors. For municipal politicians, who lack the political parties that help voters navigate toward or away from candidates and platforms, door-knocking is doubly-important. Fittingly, Knack is door-knocking tonight primarily to re-win his seat. It is serious business. As we walk, Knack opens Canvasser, an iPhone app he pays $100 a month for to organize his plan to knock on all 18,000 or so single-family, row-house and duplex doors in his ward, and crosses the woman’s house off the list. But Knack says there’s more to it. Door-knocking gives him a too-rare chance to hear peoples’ concerns face to face. It is a democracy moment with the purity of apple pie. “I care whether you can vote or whether you can’t—I talk with permanent residents who can’t vote, and I care equally as much about their opinion as someone who can go vote,” he says.
Let’s assume Knack is right, and that door-knocking is essential for potential city councillors to hear the concerns of residents. What does it mean, then, that up to half the doors in our city will likely not get a knock? According to Statistics Canada, about 49.3 per cent of Edmonton’s housing is multi-unit, from condo towers to low-rise apartments to mid-rise rental buildings. But these doors and the people who live behind them are effectively terra nullius during a campaign. According to Knack and several other council candidates I spoke to, it is hard to get inside multi-unit buildings to meet people. Once in, many residents—leery of marketers—do not want you there. And what is worse, Alberta’s election rules only allow you there for a short period, anyway.
Add these factors up and you understand why one candidate who is aggressively targeting multi-unit housing puts his odds at getting inside buildings at less than one in three. Knack, who lives in a multi-unit condo himself, says he has not had a candidate knock on his door during any election campaign. And as he walks toward his next door to knock on, he says his 18,000-door tally does not include multi-unit doors and that the pattern concerns him. “It’s a struggle. You actually technically can’t access [a multi-unit] building until nomination day [on September 18]. Think about that. I’ll be lucky, having started door-knocking at the beginning of July, to hit every door once—and that’s just every single-family house door. You add in all of the multi-unit dwellings and the ability to try and hit every door in four weeks, it’s impossible. You won’t connect with everyone.”
For candidates to come first, Knack has sketched out why those living in multi-unit housing in downtown, Oliver and throughout Edmonton could be coming last. Given so many of us live in buildings with multiple doors, how can it change?
Back in August, on another door-knocking night, Knack says he came to see what disengagement really looks like. He was in the Canora neighbourhood, where the average household income $59,976 and where many rent, often in multi-unit housing. At the doors, he says three individual people living in rental housing shared that they feel invisible. Knack says one resident told him, “as a renter,” she was “not allowed to vote”— (“I have no idea where she was taught that,” he says)— while two others told him their opinion did not count. “They said, ‘I just rent, so I don’t want to waste your time.’”
Knack has a compelling theory for why. To win elections, politicians door-knock and engage voters predominantly in areas with a history of high voter turnout. Those high turnouts are, traditionally, clustered in the high-income areas of wards where the doors are easily reached. And to Knack that embeds the cycle. “It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he says. “The spots where we have, by far, the largest voter turnout are some of the wealthiest communities with some of the highest percentages of detached-home ownership. And so if you’re a candidate, it’s not that you want to ignore areas [with multi-unit renters and owners] but you’d better go to where the highest voter turnout is first.”
Next, add the time-crunch created by rules that limit legal protection from being told to leave multi-unit buildings until a month before the vote. That amplifies things, he says. “If you’re short on time, something’s not going to get done, and often times it’s those areas that have low home ownership or low voter-turnout. Because nobody engages them, very few people go out and vote, which means the turnout is low, which means the next crop of candidates see that and say, ‘Well, why would I go there first?’”
“They said, ‘I just rent, so I don’t want to waste your time.'”
Edmonton historian Shirley Lowe says there are other amplifications of the pattern and that they link to historic election laws. Lowe points to Jack K. Masson and Edward C. LeSage’s book, Alberta’s Local Governments, where the authors write: “Election rules are seldom neutral; they operate to the advantage of some people and the disadvantage of others.” In Alberta municipal elections, the authors argue advantages have been created by laws such as one that allowed British citizens living in Canada to vote in municipal elections even if they were not Canadian citizens. Another, dashed only in 1983, discriminated against non incumbents by allowing a candidate’s occupation to be shown. Incumbents would simply write, “Mayor,” or “alderman,” as their job and look far more electable on the ballot as a result. It made incumbency then—and arguably now—an iron-like qualification for Edmonton City Council.
But it’s rules around property ownership that Lowe points to as we talk about the multi-unit engagement gap. Up until 1977, a bylaw explicitly favoured people who owned property over those who did not by allowing only them to vote on council candidates and fiscal rule changes. While the rule now only requires a voter to be a resident of your municipality on election day, and to have lived in Alberta at least six months prior to it, some of the property sentiments linger. And they disadvantage people in multi-unit housing. “It’s systemic,” Lowe says. “The City of Edmonton still sends out notices about developments, but they don’t do it for renters. That means even a temporary land owner, like a developer, has more rights than someone who’s lived around that property for a long time.” As a result, she adds, renters have long been “second class citizens.”
That feeling, directly expressed to Knack on the doorstep in Ward 1, is something being thought about in wards across the city as politicians campaign. That includes Ward 6, which covers downtown and Oliver.
The ward’s incumbent, Coun. Scott McKeen, says he’s run up against the barriers to door-knocking in multi-unit condo buildings similar to the one he lives in. In 2013, he says, he had volunteers inside a multi-unit building knocking on doors when they were challenged in the halls. “The resident told them they had to leave, but it turned out one of the volunteers was a former city hall lawyer,” he says. “He knew the legislation and explained it. The resident grudgingly let the volunteers continue.”
“If people are not voting, you’re caught in this silo of making decisions based o a very select group of individuals”.
Is this unexpected? No, McKeen says. “I don’t think this [reaction] is unusual. Most buildings don’t allow people in to canvas door to door. The election rules allowing entry are not widely known and so people can be upset with the intrusion. I live in a condo building and it’s weird to have someone knock on your door. As someone once said, the door to your apartment is unlike the door to a house. It’s more like opening your bedroom door to a stranger. You feel more vulnerable.”
One of McKeen’s main challengers in Ward 6, Tish Prouse, says he has encountered anger from people while trying to engage residents in multi-unit buildings and has resorted to different techniques as a result—from simple social media discussions to a series of barbecues near the larger buildings that people can come to and meet him at. He says that he recognizes candidates over-emphasize door-knocking on single-family homes and that it skews their take on what matters to their ward. “You want to have proper representation of a demographic,” Prouse says.
Voter turnout in Edmonton is low compared to the Canadian average, at less than 37 per cent in both the 2010 and 2013 municipal elections. And the least likely age block to vote is the 18 to 29 bracket. Matthew Redfern, who is running for council in Ward 7, has a term for that group. “Those are what I associate with the rental years,” he says.
For some in Edmonton, the rental years are transitional, while for others they are a lifestyle choice. Regardless, for a city where the median age is just 35, renters are a significant number of voters. Indeed, according to Edmonton’s 2016 census, 49 per cent of residents own their housing while 29 per cent rent it (though, a whopping 21 per cent provided no response to that census question). For context, the 2011 federal census put the owner-renter spread in Edmonton at 65 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively.
Redfern feels connected to the people living as renters in multi-unit voters. He identifies as Dutch and Cree (his mother, a residential school survivor, was born on a trapline near Moosonee, Ontario) and for much of his 20s and 30s lived as a renter in multi-unit apartment buildings. And this meant that he never interacted at his door with a municipal politician, he says. “It didn’t enhance my engagement in democracy and local politics.”
So, like many in the 2017 campaign, Redfern is trying to work around the traditional engagement gaps. His approach is to venture into Beverly Heights, the lowest income portion of Ward 7, to knock on doors and meet people. Many of the people living in the neighbourhood live in older detached housing, which they rent, though there are some low-rise apartments, too. The average household income in Beverly Heights is $68,749.
Redfern says the feedback can be stark. “I haven’t met a single person yet that told me they’ve had someone knock on their door [in Beverly Heights],” he says. “I’m the first candidate they’ve seen in any election— municipal, provincial or federal. In Beverly, it’s a lot of rental houses, a lot of…”— here, his voice changes and he grins—“…indigenous type people. They don’t get much attention. We’ll find out if it works. Those are home owners, renters and definitely voters.”
How can the engagement gap for Edmonton residents living in multi-unit housing change?
McKeen says it is “critical” to door-knock in multi-unit housing. “Though some buildings do a terrific job at creating a sense of community, apartment living can be isolating. So it’s important that candidates take on the challenge of getting in those buildings, knocking on doors and meeting people where they live.”
His solution is simply perseverance.
Redfern is actively seeking to engage a voting group that others have ignored, but is not sure it will lead him to victory. He admits he is doing it out of principle. “We’re missing their voice, a whole different perspective—people who are living a different life than your detached home homeowner,” he says. “Not everybody has a house and a dog and a wife and 1.8 children, whatever is ‘normal’ now. Most people in their renting years don’t vote, which is a shame because they use a lot of city services.”
He also says there is a need for more open venues for voters to engage with candidates, and laments that some community leagues have stopped offering candidate forums.“Maybe the elections office could hold forums,” he says. Knack says he has also thought about how to fix the situation but has not hit on the magic bullet. “There’s several things” to try, he says. “Could we open up the rules to allow candidates to get in [to multi-unit buildings] earlier?” But, do that, he says, and “you would run up against the issue of people just not feeling comfortable answering the door.”
Still, as he walks to knock on doors in Crestwood, Knack says he hopes to work to change the situation. “How do you start to break through it,” he asks. Canora, he notes, has a voter turnout below 20 per cent, which could mean as little as 10 per cent of households (some have more than one resident) are reaching the ballot box. Voter turnout in Crestwood, on the other hand, where he has just gotten an earful from a resident about taxes, is way higher.“You have to be careful to expand who you’re hearing from,”he says. “If people are not voting, you’re caught in this silo of making decisions based on a very select group of individuals.”
Supervised injection sites are set to arrive downtown by the end of 2017 as the province, the city and health agencies all dig in to battle an opioid crisis that claimed 343 lives in Alberta in 2016 alone, and 80 in Edmonton in the first six months of 2017.
But are they safe? Yes, experts say— because they are safer than the alternatives.
“The main reason that we started looking into this was the health and safety of people,” said Marliss Taylor, program manager of Streetworks Needle Exchange, a roving injection-supervision service that operates primarily in the Boyle Street area. “Health and safety were our two big drivers. When people are injecting these substances outside, and it’s just poisonous out there, overdose is a huge risk factor.”
Community agencies including Streetworks and Moms Stop the Harm, along with researchers from the University of Alberta and the Edmonton Police Service, have all endorsed adopting supervised injection sites in Edmonton. But rather than a single location, as other cities have used, by the end of 2017 Edmonton will see multiple supervised injection sites within or close to downtown, including the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, Boyle Street Community Services, the George Spady Society and the Royal Alexandria Hospital (for inpatient treatment only).
Why multiple sites? Taylor said many potential users of the new sites told researchers they would only be willing to travel between four and 10 blocks to use them, meaning multiple locations were needed.
Unsurprisingly, some worry that the locations will draw people in from elsewhere—but it’s not the case, said one expert. “I know a lot of people are convinced we are going to be bombarded with people, but [research shows people will travel only] four to 10 blocks,” said Rosemary Fayant, a peer specialist at George Spacy Society. “You’re not going to go downtown, use a safe consumption site, and take a bus home— if that’s how you get around. You would do it in the comfort of your own home. But in the downtown area, there’s so much homelessness, that they don’t have that luxury.”
The locations also have other services in place, offering discretion for people wanting supervised injection. Taylor said 80 per cent of those surveyed said they were already injecting in public near the future sites as it is.
The model for Edmonton’s supervised sites is the layout of Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver, a HIV day-health facility and 24-hour nursing care residence.
The Dr. Peter Centre and Insite, the first supervised injection site in North America, have both helped reduce the spread of HIV in Vancouver, with only 30 new cases reported last year (compared to 2,100 in 1996), as reported Insite’s website. They also state that users of the facility are 30 per cent more likely to receive treatment for addiction.
In Edmonton, the supervised injection sites will consist of three rooms: An intake, where a nurse obtains information about the person; a series of booths and a resident nurse, where the user injects; and a third room, where Taylor said, “the magic happens.”
Magic? Because the community member will be lucid and not going through withdrawal, the third room is where social workers will engage with them. If they are open to seeking treatment, Taylor said this is where trust will be built to facilitate those services.
During a presentation at DECL about the sites, Ann Galbradt, project coordinator with Access to Medically Supervised Injection Sites Edmonton, said community information nights have shown most downtown residents area are either supportive or neutral about the sites.
She said some are concerned the inner city will be bombarded with addicts, and that the risk of violence will increase.
But Taylor said a person injecting in a safe, sterile and calm environment versus in an alley, where they are scared, is comparable to enjoying drinks with friends versus having drinks at a tense family dinner. “When you’re injecting in a back alley, and you’re frightened, and it’s dark, and you’re just hoping to inject fast, you would have a very different reaction to the drug then if you are in a place where you feel safe and secure,” she said. “Our anticipation is that by the time they’re in the third room, they’ll be in a much better headspace, and the reaction to the drug will be different.”
During the meeting, Milap Petigara, DECL treasurer, said he worried the sites would give people another option to inject while also seeing them inject outside in an unsafe manner. He also expressed concern that this was further entrenching the homeless community into overburdened areas like downtown, as well as attracting traffickers who prey on addicts.
But Taylor pointed out that these people are already in the community, injecting near fences and behind dumpsters. This would allow them to inject safely to prevent skin infections, disease and death.
“That’s been the concern, we get a lot of ‘Oh my gosh, you’re going to be releasing people that are out of their minds in our neighbourhoods?’ But that’s kind of what’s already happening right now.”
Other cities in Canada have discussed safe injection sites, including:
VANCOUVER: Currently home to the only two operational supervised injection sites in Canada. Since 2010, there have been more than 1.5 million visits.
TORONTO: After nearly 200 drug-related deaths in the first half of 2016, the city received funding for three safe injection sites that will be opened within the year. Three-quarters of residents who inject drugs said they would use it.
VICTORIA: There are three proposed sites in the city after 622 reported fentanyl-related deaths in 2016. A pop up location built in late 2016 reached capacity in a matter of days.
The size of the crisis: Edmonton and fentanyl
By Kevin Pennyfeather
In the first six months of 2017, Alberta Health recorded 241 deaths caused by fentanyl overdoses — and 80 happened in Edmonton.
Elaine Hyshka is an assistant professor at the University of Alberta’s school of public health, and has devoted her career to tackling the opioid crisis. We caught up with her to chat about Edmonton and fentanyl.
Q: Is fentanyl a dominant street drug in Edmonton?
A: Yes, essentially we have a variety of opioids available on the illicit market, and the majority of them do tend to test positive for fentanyl. That implies that a lot of the opioids that are circulating right now are clandestinely manufactured and that they’re being produced with fentanyl. Sometimes they’re made to look like Oxycontin or Oxy 80 pills, or they’re these golden powders — and those powders are either identified as fentanyl or being sold as heroin.
Q: Why would substance users intentionally use fentanyl?
A: If it’s the only drug or opioid that’s the easiest to access, then people who have opioid use disorder, are going to use fentanyl because that’s all that’s available to them, or potentially all that they can afford — even though there may be knowledge that fentanyl is a risky substance.
Q: What misconceptions exist about the kind of people dying from opioid overdoses?
A: It’s pretty clear that overdose deaths are affecting people from across the socioeconomic spectrum and from all walks of life. If you look at the recent overdose report [released in August], it gives you a sense of the diversity of people who are dying. The easiest way to think about this is everybody is affected by overdoses — but if you are low income, you are particularly at risk.
Whereas before the quote was around 80 per cent are dying outside Edmonton’s core, now it’s 59 per cent. That’s significant, and I think it speaks to the need to provide overdose prevention services in the core, as well as in other parts of the city.
Calvin Bruneau was blowing minds by telling facts rather than fiction. It was 2012 and Bruneau, who heads a First Nations group that isn’t fully recognized by Canada, was narrating the history of Edmonton. But as he lectured to the first-year native studies class at the University of Alberta, he included the Papaschase people in the story.
Edmonton’s standard foundation myth is full of yarns about forts and voyageurs, pioneers and oil derricks, business people and settlers. Historically, the sometimes beautiful, sometimes stark stories of indigenous peoples and their lands have been left out of Edmonton’s story. But Bruneau didn’t omit them as he talked that day and sure enough, mouths dropped.
“The majority of the students were in their 20s, young, and I could tell by the look on their faces that they hadn’t heard of Edmonton’s history and the history of the Papaschase reserve,” Bruneau says. “There was one student who said she’d grown up on the south side and had no clue about this history. She was just blown away. The real history was hidden from them.”
Canada is 150 years old on July 1. Ottawa is bankrolling a birthday party set to sweep through our city and many others. But the indigenous nations that Canada swallowed to become a country are many thousands of years old. And the story of their lands, which many settlers took, and their cultures, which colonialism attacked, are plot points that Canada has struggled to place in its happy-birthday narrative.
Knowingly or not, Edmonton residents, including those who live downtown or in Oliver are connected to this darker, often hidden story. Indeed, some of the same people Edmonton has lionized as founders are those who indigenous peoples, like the descendants of the Papaschase, see as the central characters responsible for taking what was theirs. So, as we prepare to mark Canada’s 150th birthday in our city, some say it’s time for some harder work—to advance the conversation and make these two histories one.
Rob Houle is tall and dwarfs the chairs at the Kids in the Hall bistro as we talk. “It’s fine that people want to celebrate Canada 150 and whatever else, but it has a much different understanding and interpretation for indigenous people,” he says. “To a lot of indigenous people, Canada 150 represents the things that were lost.”
Houle is a member of the Swan River First Nation and has written several indictments of Edmonton’s history from an indigenous perspective. A central reason for why he says he struggles with Edmonton celebrating Canada 150 largely goes back to one man: Frank Oliver.
Oliver is something of Edmonton royalty. To this day he’s celebrated in city discussion as a pioneer, a business man and Alberta’s first member of parliament. Fittingly, Oliver’s name is everywhere. In the 1950s, the city named the neighbourhood he built his house within after him. There’s also Oliver School, a park and a community rink, as well as a power centre. Oliver is given a prominent story at Fort Edmonton Park, too, celebrated for his use of his printing press to publish the city’s first newspaper, The Bulletin.
But Oliver’s role in Edmonton’s history is far different when you ponder his dealings with indigenous people. History shows he used The Bulletin and his powerful positions in governments to systematically attack many indigenous nations and ultimately take their land, upon which much of our city was built.
It’s a point Houle can’t omit. “He may have done some things, he may have helped the city of Edmonton become what it is today, but people have to realize that the reality and the truth is a lot of that success came at the cost of someone else, and a lot of those people were indigenous people,” he says.
Consider the Papaschase. In 1877, as Chief Papaschase—known to newcomers in Edmonton as John Gladieu-Quinn—signed Treaty 6 at a spot roughly where the Alberta Legislature now resides, the Papaschase saw the Canadian government attempt to reduce their vast, traditional territory to a land reserve of just 100 square kilometres in size. Papaschase selected the land he wanted, as was his right, choosing a square of land about 10 kilometres south of the North Saskatchewan river.
But the land was ideal for farming and Oliver knew it. In editorial after editorial, he targeted the Papaschase reserve. He lobbied Ottawa for “settlers rights” and dismissed the Papaschase people as “lazy,” or, incredibly, as not “true Indians.” Meanwhile, the Papaschase version of history recalls how rations promised by the Canadian government never arrived and that the disappearance of the buffalo, which coincided with European settlement of the North American prairies, saw them slowly starving to death in their reserve.
In 1888, 11 years after signing Treaty 6, Oliver succeeded—at least in the eyes of Canada. Three men, who were then living on the Enoch reserve to survive, signed what Canada took (and remains to this day to support) as a land surrender to the Papaschase reserve. Three signatures and it was gone.
Today, the former Papaschase reserve is parts of Old Strathcona, Ritchie, Queen Alexandra, Hazeldean, Pleasantview and Mill Woods, to name a few neighbourhoods. Papaschase has been all but erased—aside from one industrial neighbourhood, just north of the Whitemud and east of Gateway Boulevard, which bears the former chief’s name.
In 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a Papaschase application to pursue a land claim and calls for about $2.5-billion in compensation.
Houle says he will never forget Oliver’s connection to this history.
“I purposely avoid Oliver [neighbourhood] because it has a reminder for me, as an indigenous person—one I’m sure people from Enoch and people from Papaschase has an even stronger recognition of—of what this guy did to them,” he says.
Cory Sousa first learned of the hurt surrounding Frank Oliver’s name when he was involved in discussions to move the privately-owned downtown park that was named after Oliver.
That park is currently in a sort of limbo, as its former home—right beside Hotel Macdonald—is being developed. But when some proposed moving it into the Oliver neighbourhood, the community spoke.
“People on the project were very much like, ‘We don’t want this racist,’” Sousa recalls. “I think that was the first time that I heard or became more aware of just how much he was disliked and how there was concern regarding Frank Oliver.”
Sousa is a principal planner with the City of Edmonton’s naming committee and has been pushing— along with strong public support from people like Mayor Don Iveson— for dramatic change in what receives name recognition. Most recently he’s advocated assigning indigenous names within Edmonton’s river valley trails in the future.
He says he feels names can be tools for creating the conversation many say Edmonton needs to have during Canada 150.
And, he says, there are signs of progress. Consider Alex Decoteau Park, opening in September along 105 Street at 102 Avenue. Originally the park was set to be called “Renaissance Park,” but Sousa and others worked behind the scenes to see it honour Decoteau, who among other things was an Edmonton police officer, a soldier in the First World War and a marathoner.
Their victory on that name spurred more movement. Sousa says he’s now hopeful that several new suburban neighbourhood developments in the city’s south will be named along indigenous themes. And one of the overall area names—think Windermere or Hardisty, for comparison—will be Decoteau. “Getting Decoteau was huge because that whole area is going to be home to 50,000 people, which is like a small city in Alberta,” Sousa says. “So, 50,000 people are now going to be saying ‘Decoteau,’ and I think that’s just a really neat tie to who he was and the history.”
But Sousa knows there are other names that might be hard to change. Oliver is one of them, he says. Instead, he sees more possibility with new names, or in shifting existing ones, to spark conversation and learning.
“We’re pounding on a door, saying ‘We want back in to our own place.” – Calvin Bruneau
Which takes us back to the Papaschase Industrial area. “Why an industrial area?” Sousa asks. “We want to really respect the history of Papaschase to those lands, so why wouldn’t you name the whole area Papaschase and bring more prominence there? Then the busses will have the neighbourhood name, people will have it in their taxes, or roads. If there’s one individual or family name that we should really bring more attention to it’s Papaschase.”
Bruneau heads the Papaschase, though there are other groups that claim to represent the descendants of former Chief Papaschase as well.
Regardless, he says his battle is to see the Papaschase become part of Edmonton’s mainstream story.
We meet the day he’s finished work consulting with the city on artwork depicting Chief Papaschase, to be installed at a stop in Mill Woods along the future Valley Line LRT. But that’s just the beginning, he says.
In future, Bruneau says he’s hoping to create an urban reserve where land, profits and taxation powers are returned to the Papaschase. And as Canada 150 approaches, he’s hoping his nation’s story will prompt many in Edmonton to ask why they know so little about his history.
“Edmonton is our city, but at the same time, too, it’s like we’re knocking on a door,” he says. “We’re pounding on a door, saying ‘We want back in to our own place.’ We’re getting there, but it’s just like there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
There may be a lack of green spaces in the core, but with the right know-how, backyard-deprived condo dwellers can nurture plenty of beautiful blooms and tasty veggies right on their balcony.
Container gardening is a great option for those wanting to take advantage of, and transform, their smaller outdoor spaces. “It connects us back to the natural environment that we often disconnect from as urban dwellers,” says Justin Keats, Garden Director of Oliver Community League.
Throughout the spring and summer, Keats teaches Oliver residents gardening basics and how to get the most out of their tiny outdoor spaces.
Here, Keats shares some tips on how to bring some green into your urban environment:
Check with your condo board or property manager for any guidelines or restrictions. This may affect the amount of space you can dedicate to your garden, height and weight of plants and pots, and even overall placements.
Start with a plan, and start small. Decide how you want to use your space. Are you looking to engage in urban food production or grow something more ornamental?
Consider the general climate. Edmonton resides in the 4a zone on the Plant Hardiness Index. Choose plants labelled 4 or lower, which are suitable for cooler climes. Plants higher than 4 enjoy our warmest months but are more susceptible to seasonal change.
Consider your micro-climate. Every balcony or garden plot will be different. These environmental factors dictate the types of plants that thrive best.
• Be mindful of the direction your balcony faces, as well as any surrounding structures that may block sunlight.
• East-facing balconies receive morning and afternoon sun, but usually retain a bit of the previous evening’s coolness.
• West-facing balconies get afternoon and evening sun and are generally warmer than those that face east.
• South-facing balconies enjoy the most direct sunlight and get maximum sun exposure during the hottest time of the day. Plants may require extra attention (watering more than once a day or some shade) to avoid drying out.
• North-facing balconies receive little sunlight and are best suited for plants that thrive in the shade.
Investigate the specific requirements for each plant. Read the plant tags, research online and ask questions at your gardening centre.
• Shade-friendly plants include begonias, lobelias, pansies, ferns, hostas, ivy, and some leafy greens like lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard.
• Sunnier areas are good for plants like marigolds, petunias, junipers, potato vines, tomatoes, strawberries, container eggplants, mini carrots, and herbs such as dill, thyme and oregano.
Mind your height. Balconies located on higher floors are more prone to cooler temperatures, especially as summer begins to wind down. Wind is also a factor at as you get higher. Protect your plants from wind by using a windscreen or by shielding more delicate plants with other pots.
Consider purchasing seedlings over seeds to get a head start. Many seeds require a longer growing season in our climate and will need to be grown indoors until the risk of frost passes.
Use large containers to avoid clutter and to ensure that you don’t overcrowd your plants. Take into consideration how much room each plant needs to grow.
Double-up your clay pots or use glazed pots to insulate and help prevent evaporation, and water at least once daily; limited soil space means that your soil will dry out quicker than the ground.
Most importantly, have fun, and experiment with various plants if you can. “Enjoy it! You don’t want it to become a chore,” advises Keats.
Need help getting your balcony garden started?
The Oliver Community League will host a balcony gardening workshop April 22 and 29 fro 1-3 pm at the Oliver Community Hall, 10326-118 St.. It’s an interactive workshop facilitated by OCL Garden Director, Justin Keats. You’ll learn gardening basics, including how to plan your space. Prepare to get inspired! A small $5 fee goes towards the OCL garden Capital Fund and donations are always appreciated.
Visit olivercommunity.com/gardens for more info or email email@example.com
A rendering of Alex Decoteau Park which opens this summer
A look at the community gardens hidden throughout the Oliver and Downtown neighbourhoods
Oliver Community League has one community garden located at 10259-120 Street. The name Peace Garden Park was chosen because 103 Avenue was formerly known as Peace Avenue. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are used in the garden. To find out more about the garden and how to join, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two options exist Downtown for those interested in community gardening. Our Urban Eden Garden located off Bellamy Hill has beds available to Downtown residents. The space is owned by the City of Edmonton, as part of its Partnership in Parks program. The second space opens this summer at Alex Decoteau Park on 105 Street. Plans include planters and composting facilities. To find out more about the Alex Decoteau Park garden and to get involved email email@example.com.
It’s The Yards second birthday! But, please, save the streamers and cake—or at least pass them on to these people, places and passions that we celebrate every winter in this annual tribute. Because we here at the magazine and partnering community leagues are crazy about our neighbourhood. We really believe it to be the best in the Edmonton. And that would make this year’s award winners—chosen by staff, volunteers and writers—the best of the best.
RED STAR PUB It’s where locals come to wind down after work and run into familiar faces, neighbours and friendly staff who know them by name. This dimly lit, mellow pub has a comprehensive beer list, serving everything from low-brow Pabst to premium IPAs. Carefully made appetizers lead to long conversations and table-hopping as the evening progresses. 10534 Jasper Ave.
Credo You’ll almost certainly bump into somebody from your business network and have a power meeting on top of your pre-scheduled coffee. 10134 104 St.
Chicken For Lunch Visit “the Amazing Amy” Quon (of the Lingnan fame) enough times, and she’ll not only remember your name and have your order memorized, but she’ll move you through their winding line-up faster. 10060 Jasper Ave., 780-425-9614 —BN
Best Tailor (TIE)
OLIVER: MASTER TAILORS SEWING CENTRE Luba Korsountseva has tailored and made custom pieces for over 35 years. She has a keen eye for fabrics and quality design—and never shies from giving her professional opinion, even if you don’t want to hear it—so your garment looks its finest. And if you have a special piece that you’re looking to revamp, Korsountseva is always up for a challenge. 10147 119 St., mastertailorsedmonton.com
DOWNTOWN:TONY THE TAILOR Junko Daraseng, the owner of this 16-year old family business, has had one of the top Google ratings for tailors for five years. It’s easy to see why: atop excellent stitching, altering and hemming, you can just drop your garments of on the fly and someone will text you when they’re ready for pick up. The eco-friendly dry cleaning is a bonus. 10172 104 St. —BN
Best Signature Cocktail
BLACK PEARL’S SNOW CRAB CAESAR Craving a bit of Clamato with a side of the sea? Of course you are—you’re Albertan. This signature cocktail adds a fresh wave to the province’s favourite drink by swapping the rabbit food for a snow crab leg. Enjoy this $14.50 Caesar with some of the freshest seafood found in the city. 10132 104 St.
North 53’s Smoke & Oaked Fashioned A truly multi-sensory experience, it’s served fumed with a slab of torched oak that’s flipped over as a coaster for this $15 cocktail with oaked gin, maple syrup and a lightly stirred orange oil 10240 124 St., north53.com
Woodwork House Sour A variation on the classic whiskey sour, this signature cocktail is made with bourbon, lapsang tea-infused honey, lemon juice, egg white and an angostura bitter brûlée. 10132 100 St., woodworkyeg.com —BN
Best Place for Something Truly Unique
Source: Facebook / Swish Vintage
SWISH VINTAGE This tiny boutique brims with everything a vintage-obsessed shopper could possibly want. Owner Angela Larson’s eclectic antique jewellery, statement hats, barely-worn designer shoes and walls upon walls of jaw-dropping party dresses pair beautifully with her curated housewares, including teak cabinets, vintage club chairs and mid-century modern dishware. 10180 101 St.
Dress to Suit
Boutique Dress your best without breaking the bank at Edmonton’s only all-men’s consignment store, with an exhaustive selection of lightly worn formal and business-casual attire. 12070 Jasper Ave.
Bloggers Armoire A veritable treasure-trove for Instagram stylists, this hip consignment store carries the latest in trendy apparel and accessories, as well as brand-name fashions at a fraction of the usual cost. 11016 Jasper Ave. —JP
Best Liquor Store
JASPER LIQUOR MERCHANTS It doesn’t look like much from outside, but this unassuming liquor store tucked beside a Husky might have the most bountiful booze offerings in the core. After a recent expansion, it has enough craft beer to keep any brew-head satisfied. And if beer’s not your thing, the chatty staff will guide you through their competitively priced wines and fine spirits from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week. 11607 Jasper Ave., 780-488-3464
deVine Wines and Spirits You won’t find more knowledgeable staff than the employees in these aisles of carefully curated wines and spirits from the globe. Ask about deVine’s regular tastings. The only downside is early closing times. 10111 104 St.
City Cellars This brightly lit, of-the-path store is massive and houses one of the core’s largest liquor selections at a variety of price points. 10505 123 St. —JP
Best Breakfast on the Go
LOCK STOCK COFFEE’S BISCUIT SANDWICH Its contents—gourmet cheese, meats and homemade mayo—may be a rotating special, but it’s all about that homemade biscuit. Baked from scratch daily, this flaky goodness melts in your mouth. 10534 Jasper Ave.
Burrow’s Breakfast Sandwich Complete with savoury tomato jam, farm-fresh eggs, aioli, gruyere and (optional) farm bacon, this sandwich might actually make you enjoy getting lost in the pedway. Central LRT Station
Careit’s Coffee & Pastry Combo Add some sustenance to your morning cup of joe by adding a house-made “Careit cookie,” banana bread slice, or Portugese tart—all for just $3. 10226 104 St., 780-426-2429 —KH
Best Store to Shop for That Friend with a Kid
Courtesy: Instagram / @shop.babyplum
BABY PLUM An offshoot of Plum Home + Design on 124 St., this is the brainchild of mother-daughter duo Pamela Freeman and Jenna Pryor. The pair have stocked the e-commerce store (and the physical one) with the top baby brands from across Canada. Find quality clothes, toys, books and blankets—all given the slobbery stamp of approval by baby-sized judges. 12407 108 Ave.
Audrey’s Books The Jasper Ave. institution boasts a children’s book selection worthy of a “please mom!” moment, or two, from little bookworms. 17002 Jasper Ave.
The Skinny in Vacancy Hall Dress matchy-matchy with your kid before it becomes a fashion faux-pas. Shop for the super-cute and super-hip infants, toddlers, tweens and mommies in your life—online or of-the-rack—inside Mercer Warehouse’s Vacancy Hall. 10359 104 St. —NW
Best Place for Little Home Upgrades
THE PRINTS AND THE PAPER Sandy Muldrew has created a destination graphic arts shop that’s wonderfully curated with gorgeous paper products, high-end prints, limited edition artwork, artful movie posters, illustrated books and eclectic stationary—plus framing services, because you might find something too precious to expose to the elements. 10725 124 St.
Alberta Craft Council The ACC has advocated for the arts in Alberta since 1980 and there’s always something new at its gallery, shop or studio. Bring home some fine art creations made by local artisans to refine your style, whether its cutting edge and contemporary or timeless and traditional. 10186 106 St.
Hideout Local Distro This garage is teeming with treasures, including crafty leather products, jewellery and ceramic décor from Canadian makers, as well as local records and fashion for a piece of true Edmontonia. Vacancy Hall, 10363 104 St. —KH
Best Place to Tinkle
ALBERTA HOTEL BAR + KITCHEN Doc and Marty had the DeLorean, but for these diners the act of relieving themselves is all it takes to travel back in time. Antique marble tiles and gleaming fixtures harken to an age of glamour and opulence. But the real showstopper is reserved for the men: Standing proudly at almost five-feet tall and two-feet wide, the marble urinals are a sight to behold. 9802 Jasper Ave.
Cavern With floor-to-ceiling Carrera marble and rich, dark wood accents, plus luxurious soaps and fresh-cut flowers filling them with soothing scents, these restrooms give even the chicest boutique hotels a run for their money. 10169 104 St.
Bar Clementine The soft green walls, brass fixtures, Victorian-inspired details and classic audiobooks on the overhead speakers (think: Moby Dick) defy these restrooms’ 2016 craftsmanship. 11957 Jasper Ave. —JP
Best Place to Sweat
DON WHEATON FAMILY YMCA Take advantage of the after-work deal. For only $30 a month, the “Y” offers express memberships, meaning you can use the health, fitness and aquatic facilities weekdays from 7:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. And, with a DECL membership, Sundays and holidays are free! 10211 102 Ave.
Hive Fit Co. Perfect for the busy downtowner, this new workout hotspot offers 45-minute cycling, rowing and yoga classes in an on-trend environment you won’t want to leave. 10343 Jasper Ave.
Hotel Macdonald’s Fairmont Fitness Centre It’s not just for guests. You too can be a member and feel like royalty in this newly renovated fitness centre featuring a saline pool, sauna, steam room, whirlpool squash, court and private sundeck. 10065 100 St. —KH
Were it just an economic proposition, the expectations for the Ice District would not be so high. Were it just about creating jobs or boosting investment, then the September 10th open house at Rogers Place may not even be happening. Certainly other cities’ arena proposals have touted billion-dollar spillovers to rally taxpayer support—and most, for the record, have been wrong—but in a city as prosperous as Edmonton, merely boasting economic virtues, let alone hockey pride, to unzip the public purse would never pass muster. From the beginning, this project was about status. The confidence of our city. The face of Edmonton. The glory of downtown.
As Edmonton Journal columnist John MacKinnon put it in 2007, a year before billionaire businessman Daryl Katz bought the Oilers, “In a city with a small market mindset and a lingering inferiority complex even as it grows by leaps and bounds, might a single, heavyweight owner of the local hockey club help change how others see Edmonton? How Edmontonians see themselves?”
How it will change our outward appearance is yet to be seen; it’ll be at least another four years before the $2.5 billion dream is realized with its promised plaza, community rink, premium retail, glitzy hotels and residences. But how it will change our inward appearance is well underway, and nobody knows this more than the people living, working and studying in the core.
To them, the stadium’s silver body and surrounding towers are like a Rorschach test, reflecting their hopes, dreams, fears and anxieties about turning 25 acres of derelict or drab land into a major attraction. Where one sees an opportunity for social cohesion, another sees class division. To one, the promise of big crowds is a much-needed defibrillation for the heart of the city. To another, an unwelcome nuisance.
So, how will the Ice District change our core?
The truth is nobody knows. If you ask 10 people, you’ll get 10 answers—which is exactly what we did. The Yards listened to ordinary Edmontonians from all walks of life, from arena supporters to detractors, from the corporate executive to the street-involved, in order to get a shake of their crystal balls.
A Downtown Restaurateur Who Played the Long Game Has Big Hopes
LINO OLIVEIRA Residence: Oliver Occupation: Co-owner of Sabor, Bodega, Urbano Pizza
“When we got here the arena was just talk. We didn’t even take that into consideration. We just loved the space. Business consistently got better, but the third year was the hardest. We became mentally exhausted and, financially, it’s such a big space, so we considered selling it, put out some feelers. The arena sure helped the idea of going forward. There was a light at the end of the tunnel. If we sold it, one day we’d look back and regret it.
“What I hope and think will happen is, with the extra daily exposure we’ll get from being so close, every time there’s a game there will be thousands of people exposed to our brand. It’s going to be tough competition out there; the chains concern us, but we still have a niche.
“During the 1980s, the chains came in and the independents couldn’t survive anymore. West Edmonton Mall opened, everybody left, the suburbs grew and all the little shops closed down. I was working downtown as a kid and coming here every day. As soon as the rush hour was over you could hear the wind in the streets. So even if I had nothing to do with this business or downtown, I think it’s a great thing.”
A Community Worker Wants to Be Part of the Excitement
IAN MATHIESON Residence: Griesbach Occupation: Director of Operations, Boyle Street Community Services
“There will certainly be more people seeing the inner city, which is a good thing. People think this is an unpleasant part of society, but you’ll see some of the most amazing examples of compassion and citizenship here. Of course, there will be challenges as well. Any time someone interacts with our community and our community interacts with folks who aren’t familiar with them, there has to be an understanding that our guys, who work and live in our community, are as much citizens of Edmonton as anyone else. That takes some time.
“We’re waiting to see what it will look like on an event night. Crowds leaving, public intoxication from the people at the event—it can put our community members at risk when those big events let out and people aren’t thinking rationally. There’ve been a lot of arena developments around the world and they’ve ended up displacing people. This is a chance to do things differently. We want to be part of the excitement around it. We want to be good neighbours and the Katz Group and Oilers want that too.
“The best case scenario is community members whom we serve are getting jobs with businesses there, that there’s a partnership with the Ice District and inner-city services, that we’re working together. The worse case scenario is it becomes a closed space for only a few people who can afford it. The [Alex Janvier tile mural] inside is great, but will our indigenous community members actually get to see it?We understand that it’s business—the Ice District isn’t here to save the world—but if they want to create public spaces, and use public dollars to do that, then the city primarily has a responsibility to ensure that all of the citizens irrespective of income, or whether they’re intoxicated, have access.”
A Boyle Street Client Doubts We’ll All Get Along
FABIAN GREYEYES Residence: Oliver Occupation: Casual cleaner
“People around here will be trying to get into their cars and the whole nine yards. I know the kinds of people around here. Whether or not I choose to have [Boyle Street Community Services] here, it has to be moved to keep the conflicts away.
“The worst case scenario is we’re still here and there will be fights and arguments every day from the fans. They’ll be scrapping each other, for sure. It’ll be chaotic down here between the white guys and native guys.
“The best case scenario is we move five, ten blocks away from the immediate arena and things go a little smoother. I like it here, but I know it can’t be here. One of them has to be moved and, of course, they can’t move the arena.”
“This is going to bring even more people, increase more traffic to the area, which is positive. It will probably also increase property prices and lease agreements, as it becomes more of a desired area, but I see that as more of a benefit. Everything will cost more, but it will renew downtown.
“The one downfall is, if it’s booming, if people are intoxicated, it could increase some problems. I remember the 2006 Oilers riots; I wouldn’t want to see that happen again. The arena will be so central, and people get pretty crazy sometimes.”
A Senior Dreads the Noise
ANDREW BROWN Residence: Oliver Occupation: Retired project management consultant
“One major problem we have now, living as we do on Jasper Avenue, is the traffic noise, particularly from souped-up sports cars and motorcycles, which basically goes on and on every nice sunny day. I’m afraid we’ll get the same thing in the winter months now when that arena opens.
“The other issue is going to be parking. We live six blocks from it and parking is going to be dreadful. It will spread into Oliver—left, right and centre. It’s going to make driving difficult and we’ll have noise till 11:30pm, when the traffic clears, because there’s only two escape routes to get south of the river. They never thought through the consequences, just like the High Level Bridge suicide barriers.”
A Season Ticket Holder Predicts a Spark for the Team (and a Headache for Drivers)
“I’m an avid sports fan and long-time Oilers season ticket holder—so anything to get the team to the next level. I think this actually could help the Oilers in trades. International events give a positive outlook on Edmonton, and the Ice District will just add one more flavour to who we are as a city. Growing up here, and working downtown for 30 years, I saw it go through its time, from when it was a ghost town, to slowly coming around over the last decade with new bars and restaurants and condominiums and towers, to what it is today. I’ve watched the whole thing get built from my office window.
“We’ll have to see what the logistical problems are with moving all those people downtown, in and out of the building, having them park somewhere. When Katz Group wanted additional parking for their own land, the city said there’s 18,000 spots downtown, what’s the problem? They’re right. I know where to go to park any day, any time of the night. It isn’t an issue if you know
what you’re doing.”
A Psychic Forecasts Good Things, Mostly
AYANNA DEMMONS Residence: Queen Mary Park Occupation: Tarot card reader
“This represents a new beginning. It’s going to bring a lot of good energy, a lot of new people. I look at these next 50 years, and it’s going to be a good thing. Edmonton is changing from a redneck town to a metropolitan town, and that’s always good.
It will bring a lot more business to the city, so Edmontonians can set up some standard living allowances for poverty stricken people, and right now I’m one of them. I’ve been in my apartment for two years. The arena is going to build up my area, but it’s also going to raise my rent. My apartment is a Main Street [Equity] building, so this is a moneymaker for them.”
A MacEwan Student Fears the Wrath of Parking Prices
“When I started here, parking was $60 a month, which was pricy but reasonable, but it jumped $100. They said they had to match the prices downtown, in other words, the arena. It takes from my student loans, and it will only get worse. The purpose of having it downtown is to get people using buses and commuting here by public transit. For people living here, it will be better. But there’s not a bus I can take.”
A Construction Worker Takes Pride in What He’s Helped Create
VASCO KALALA Residence: Central McDougall Occupation: Journeyman plasterer at the Ice District
“I’m also an artist, so I get passionate about creating, entertaining and seeing other people happy. The moment I realized that what I was doing was helping community, bringing people together, it became more than a job. Just to be a part of something that’s that big, for the community and the city, is amazing.
“It will make Edmonton a more iconic place. I’ve seen a lot of hockey players come in to tour the new arena, when they come and see where they could be living, how beautiful the city is. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this? It’s a cool package, especially for the people who say they don’t have a reason to go downtown. I’ve been in Alberta for seven years. I never had a reason to go downtown before; it didn’t feel alive. The arena will bring some life.”
All interviews were edited for brevity and clarity.
As the adage goes, good fences make good neighbours. But for condo dwellers, when all that separates your living space with the one next door is a single wall, you’re bound to butt heads. With real estate in the core at a premium, prospective homebuyers are exploring the realities of condominiums—whether apartment-style complexes, three-story walkups or townhouses. They offer the opportunity to own a slice of our city’s burgeoning central neighbourhoods, but shared living spaces require a special type of cooperation.
The condo board. It’s both the first line of defence for issues that may arise and the first source of frustration for new owners. A well-run committee can improve your quality of life, but few board members are experts in conflict and financial management. “If the condo board isn’t doing their job, it will be reflected in the corporation’s condo documents and reserve fund study, which is required to be updated every five years,” says Anand Sharma, president of the Canadian Condominium Institute North Alberta Chapter. “These documents tell you how the condo board is saving money, how they are allocating their money for capital projects, and whether they are acting efficiently.” It all comes down to a cohesive and well-run board.
Though not many people actually enjoy the monotony of balancing budgets, and only a sadist would enjoy breaking the news that everyone must pitch in for a new elevator. Hiring a management company instead of self-governing might formalize the process and ease the board’s administration duties but it’s the elected board of directors who make the decisions, says Sharma. “But at the end of the day, the buck stops with the board.” So what makes a healthy board?
Like any good relationship, open lines of communication are key. Still, balancing the wants of everyone in the building is hard. “You are interacting with people that you don’t see everyday. It can be hard to get a read on people, or to tell another grown adult to do something without coming across as bossy,” says Matthew Garrett, who has served on his petite building’s five-unit board since moving in, in 2014. Joining your condo board shouldn’t be as painful as a bikini wax from a first-year cosmetology student. If your corporation is willing to work together, the process of governing can actually be pleasant.
“I don’t necessarily like to be in control of everything, but I like to have a say in my own destiny,” says Jeff Johnston, who served as his former condo’s president for four years. Even in the midst of overseeing a major structural repair to the building’s foundation, he found it to be incredibly rewarding. They regularly met in someone’s suite to discuss goings-on in the building or the neighbourhood. “It wasn’t all drudgery,” he says. “The meetings were quite fun, and it helped us to build a community.”
Now doesn’t that sound nice? That’s why we’ve prepared a comprehensive breakdown of every issue, foreign word and colourful character you might encounter on your path to harmonious homeownership in the core.