With all the changes in Downtown, it’s easy to forget that the end goal is a sustainable, inclusive and robust community that people are proud to call home. Sometimes that’s lost on folks who don’t get why we live here, and you see it in recent conflicts like the proposed “megabars” for 104 St. and 109 St. These debates in particular stress thoughtful development—proposals that not only respect zoning and statutory plans in place (in this case the Capital City Downtown Plan adopted by City Council in 2010), but our dense, multi-stakeholder neighbourhood. No other part of the city can boast, for better or worse, a street like 104th, a place with density levels comparable to Manhattan, but which has had to fight to retain its 15-year growth and investment as a model “urban village.”
The pressures of a master-planned entertainment node, the Ice District—arguably an important missing part of vibrancy in Edmonton’s core—means we have to be thoughtful and sensitive when we decide how we’re going to encourage more people to live Downtown, and live there longer. One block can make a huge diferent in an urban setting. When it comes to the co-existing but disparate needs of residential complexes and late-night bars, other cities do this successfully. We’re only beginning to see the kinds of skirmishes that arise from an urban core, which is starting to be more bricks and mortar than gravel parking lots.
There’s a place for great late night venues and entertainment. We’ve seen how successfully Jasper Ave. has been transformed by venues like the Needle Vinyl Tavern, and we expect to raise a glass or two in the anticipated sports pubs and bars of the Ice District. A decade ago you could open any business wherever you wanted in Downtown without opposition, namely because no one lived close enough to be afected. But times have changed.
We’re learning how to co-exist as neighbours. The applicant of the proposed 400-seat bar on 104 St. pulled the appeal, not just because of pressure from local residents and businesses, but because it wasn’t the right place for such a venue. But this won’t be the only learning curve. Being open to change and growth is why we all live Downtown. We will have to continue to work together, in an open dialogue, to make sure the special community that have been created continues to thrive. It’s an exciting time to be part o