— Downtown Edmonton Community League Update —

In Praise of Small Independent Retail

What would it take to have vibrant street retail Downtown? In the world’s many cities, small retailers scattered throughout their cores create streets with vivid sights, sounds and even smells. Downtowns are often pedestrian-scaled because buildings were built in a time before cars, when people walked from store to store for their daily needs. The benefits of well-designed urban centres are palpable as you walk along interesting main streets lined with small businesses.

Edmonton’s Downtown is recovering from a time when we cared more about how to park our cars than how to live and work together. But 104 St. is a prime example of collaboration by concerned citizens and the City toward improving a street with policies mandating good design. Those include main-floor commercial bays in new residential towers; wide, clean, well-lit sidewalks with generous street-scaping and greenery; transparent glazing, welcoming signage; and patios and planters that complement cafes and small grocers. Ultimately it all adds up to a better pedestrian experience.

A street lined with small retail bays is about more than creating vibrancy and convenience. It offers us an opportunity to support independent businesses, interact with our neighbours and contribute to the health and economy of our community.

Over the years, DECL has worked hard to ensure that our neighbourhood’s newest developments take vibrant, interactive and safe streets seriously. We encouraged provisions for recent proposals, such as a rental tower and student housing on the former sites of Augustana Church and Healy Ford, to include small commercial bays at-grade. Theoretically it would encourage small businesses to open; five hundred square feet or less could be the difference between a local entrepreneur taking the risk of starting up Downtown’s next shop or service—or not.

As we recognize some of our favourite businesses in “Best of the Core”, let’s remember to support small, independent street retail with our holiday shopping. Let’s also continue to insist small retail be included in future developments Downtown. Our city’s core will be a more exciting, pleasing, interesting and sustainable place for it.

Speaking of which, we’d like to invite you to the DECL Community Space—our own contribution to small and vibrant street retail—for our annual Christmas mixer on Dec. 10. Look for the “I Heart Yegdt” neon sign proudly shining for passersby. We’re also hiring a volunteer chair for our programming committee. Email us to apply.

DECL board of directors: Chris Buyze (President); Ian O’Donnell (VP); Milap Petigara (Treasurer); Jillian Gamez (Secretary); Erin Duebel; Laurissa Kalinowsky; Christie Lutsiak; Jarrett Mykytiuk; Lindsey Trufyn; and Chris Wudarck.

Email DECL or visit its website for more information.