It’s The Yard’s Fifth Anniversary!

Five years on – the Red Star pub was the only choice for a summit with the founding Publisher of The Yards magazine, Jarrett Campbell, to discuss the magazine’s creation five years ago.

“We had the first meeting here at Red Star. We launched in December, so it would have been March (2014) when we really started forming what this would be,” Campbell said, adding that the positive response from the community on the launch of this untested venture was heartening.

“A lot of people liked the idea of a community-focused nonprofit magazine.”

Before The Yards, OCL had a community newsletter that received content from unpaid writers and was distributed by volunteers to a number of buildings in the community, but was running into difficulty reaching many residents as locked front entrances to apartment and condo buildings gradually became the norm. As Campbell, then OCL president, looked at how to increase the league’s reach in the core, he reflected on the opportunity to create a larger partnership with the people who work, live and play in central Edmonton.

“Most people in Edmonton view the two high density neighbourhoods of Oliver and Downtown as one. You might live in Oliver and go to the bar Downtown, you might live Downtown and go to a restaurant in Oliver. These communities are intimately linked, have the same issues and should speak with one voice.”

OCL and DECL are now partnered with the Central Edmonton News Society, which publishes The Yards with professionally written articles by local journalists and distributes the quarterly magazine by mail to every single resident in central Edmonton. The reach of the magazine has grown further, with articles posted and shared online for the wider community to read about why Edmonton’s core neighbourhoods are so special.

As Jarrett set about determining the magazine’s funding and distribution model, Omar Mouallem stepped forward as the initial editor of the new magazine.

“What you see as The Yards – the voice, the tone, the look, the feel, and how it connects with communities and issue and people – that’s Omar’s vision,” Campbell explained, noting that engaging with motivated professionals like Mouallem who live in the area and participate in community league events has been key to the magazine’s success.

“Omar is an extremely talented person, and to have a guy like that step up to help create it, we’re very lucky.”

And The Yards’ luck continues as it changes and grows with its founding neighbourhoods. This fall’s issue was our biggest yet and we look forward to continued growth and success.

This December’s winter issue will mark the 5th anniversary of The Yards magazine.

Around the Core: Fall 2019

The Edmonton International Film Festival is a small yet burnished gem, highlighting excellent movies and allowing cinephiles to meet and talk to filmmakers and actors. Also at this time each year we enjoy the harvest of the bread-basket that surrounds us–a farmers-market bounty reminding us agriculture is critical to Alberta’s past and future. And there’s food for the mind, with Litfest–which this year includes a talk by legendary writer Malcolm Gladwell.

/// Oct 17-20
Seasonally inspired dishes with specially priced menus at dozens of downtown restaurants.

/// Sept 25
No more knots that come undone, or worse, that you can’t undo! Learn how to tie six of the best basic knots at this free clinic from MEC staffers in the Brewery District at 7 p.m. Register at their website.
11904 – 104 Street

/// Sept 20
Check out the over 20 parking stalls temporarily transformed into parklets, artistic displays, design installations and 104 AVE other enhancements driven by community members empowered to reminage the public realm and enhance the street space for pedestrians.
107 Street, north of Jasper Avenue (both sides)

/// Thursdays and Sundays
Food trucks, local goods, live music, kids programming and more at this 124 Street staple. Thursday markets run 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., from May 9 to October 10, and Sunday markets are 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. from June 2 to Sept 29.
108 Avenue and 124 Street (Thursdays) and 102 Avenue and 124 Street (Sundays)

/// Sept 7
High Level Line Day. Programming is scheduled along all parts of Edmonton’s historic tramline including on the downtown side. There will be musicians, buskers, theatre groups, improv shows and other live performances. Also, lemonade stands, bike repair stations, history and urban design tours. The lantern parade at dusk will light up the line.
Various locations throughout Edmonton

/// Nov 14
Enjoy hot refreshments while you watch the holiday light-up of a giant spruce tree and the space surrounding it in Churchill Square.
Churchill Square, 9930 102 Avenue

/// Nov 29 – Dec 8
Christmas in 19th century England comes to Edmonton, with European-style street market vendors, themed Christmas teas and dinners, and a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Citadel.
9828 101 A Avenue

/// Sept 28 – 29
ETSY Made in Canada – Edmonton Market. Back for their sixth year, On The Spot Pop-ups and ETSY are bringing over 225 designers, crafters and makers, artists, vintage sellers and even hand crafted liquor to the downtown convention center.
9797 Jasper Ave, Edmonton AB

The downtown market runs Saturdays, 104 Street north of Jasper Avenue and Sundays, 97 Street and 103 Avenue. Oct 5th is the tentative last date for the outdoor market on 104 Street. Oct 12 and 13 (Thanksgiving weekend) the market will be operating indoors and outdoors (weather permitting) at the new location.
10305 – 97 Street, Edmonton. The following weekend Oct 19/20 indoor only at the new location

/// Sept 21 – 22
The first of its kind when it launched in 1986. The two-day event sees seven galleries in a two-block radius open their doors Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
The West End Gallery at 10337 124 St is a good place to start.

/// Sept 26 – Oct 5
The Oscar-qualifying 33rd annual #EIFF19 brings more than 150 diverse shorts and feature-length films from 50+ countries to the heart of Edmonton. There are workshops, panels and gala events held in and around Landmark Cinemas City Centre theatres.
3rd Floor, 10200 – 102 Avenue

/// Oct 2nd
LitFest and the Edmonton Community Foundation are co-presenting an evening with author Malcolm Gladwell as a preview for LitFest, Oct 17 – 27. Winspear Centre

DECL: Fall Events 2019

DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.

Every Friday, 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Urban Kids Playgroup for downtown parents and kids 0-5 years of age! Join us for snacks and free coffee.
DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St NW

September 14, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Join us for free local corn-on-the-cob and all the fixings, music, and activities for kids. The community garden will also be open for folks to explore and our membership committee will be available to renew your annual DECL membership.
Alex Decoteau Park

Last Thursday of the month, 7 p.m.
Join us in discussion on the latest development proposals and city planning.
DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St NW

October 31, 6 p.m.
Join us for a potluck and Halloween activities. Watch for details on our Facebook page.
DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St NW

First Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m.
Join us to discuss and plan our downtown programming and events. Please email if you plan to attend.
DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St NW or other locations when required

December 12, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Come celebrate the season with your Downtown neighbours, partners and supporters! Light refreshments and beverages will be served, cash bar available. Watch for additional details on our Facebook page.
DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St NW

Downtown Edmonton Community League
10042 103 Avenue Edmonton, AB, T5J 0X2
Facebook: DECLorg
Twitter: @DECLorg
Instagram: @declorg

DECL board of directors: Chris Buyze (President), Laurissa Kalinowsky (VP), Glenn Rowbottom (Treasurer), Rainer Kocsis (Secretary), Jason Gold, Christie Lutsiak, Michelle McGuiness, Fardoussa Omar, Cheryl Probert, Tim Schneider, Cameron Smithers, Bronte Valk, Xiaosu Zeng

What’s a Community League?
Community Leagues are unique to Edmonton. They’re inclusive, grass- roots, community-based organizations found in each of this city’s 150-plus neighbourhoods. They facilitate healthy, safe, informed and connected communities by promoting participation in recreation, social activities and civic advocacy at the sidewalk level. They’re volunteer-run and promote volunteerism because getting involved is a great way to learn more about your neighbourhood and city. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to learn valuable professional skills, meet your neighbours and have fun. Join the movement today!

OCL: Fall Events 2019

OCL Community Space, 9907 114 St.

September 9, October 15*, November 12, 7:00 p.m.
This highly engaged committee meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. *Tuesday.
Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street

September 11, October 9, November 13, 7:00 p.m.
Come volunteer with the OCL and help plan events for the community.
Oliver Exchange Iconoclast, 12021 102 Avenue

September 16, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
In collaboration with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre, OCL is holding a tenants’ rights workshop. Drop by to learn more about your rights.
Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street
Visit our Facebook event for details

September 20, October 19, November 16, 7:00 p.m.
New format! We will meet at a local pub, to enjoy the company of friends and neighbours. Check our social media or website for location announcement closer to the date.

September 21, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
Join the OCL as we participate in the city-wide celebration of community leagues. Keep an eye out on OCL’s website, social media, and newsletter to learn more about the event planned.
Facebook – Community League Day: Oliverbaun Bike & Walk Parade
Kitchener Park, 114 Street and 103 Avenue

October 31, 6:00 p.m. onwards
OCL helps bring trick or treating to our high density neighbourhood. Keep an eye out on OCL’s website, social media, and newsletter to learn more about how you can participate.

Oliver Community League
9907 114 St NW
Edmonton, AB T5K 1P7
Facebook: OCLYEG
Twitter: @OCLYEG
Instagram: @OCLYEG

OCL board of directors: Robyn Paches (President), Luwam Kiflemariam (VP), Kirsten Mah (Secretary), Lisa Brown, Justin Keats, Jade Arnaout, Marc Workman, Derek MacDonald, Geoffrey George, Les De Zwaan, Sarah Toderian, Adrian Bruff, Allison Rosland, Carrie-Ann Cyre

Highrise families on the way up

Life is better for families in central Edmonton these days. The city’s bike network has made cycling much safer. The Alberta government brought in a new law ending the practice of adult-only rental buildings. And this summer, we saw the first public playground open in downtown Edmonton at MacKay Avenue School (which closed to students in the 1980s and now operates as a museum.) All of these changes are making the core more attractive for families, although without a working school the Downtown still lags behind Oliver, which hosts two elementary schools.

“In our highrise there are 13 other kids. Playdates are plentiful and coordination is easy”

Heather MacKenzie

Heather MacKenzie lives with her two children in a highrise in Oliver. She supported the move to end bans on kids in apartments. She talked to The Yards about the joys and challenges of raising a family in the highest density community in the city. Asked if allowing kids in apartments has made a difference, MacKenzie says there are more children attending Oliver school – and more children walking to school – than ever before. The city’s Green Shack programs in the core are well attended. “We were literally kicking kids out of the core and now that we’re not, there they are. It’s amazing.  It’s wonderful.”

MacKenzie says, “In our highrise there are 13 other kids. Playdates are plentiful and coordination is easy – they can just head to see if second floor Leo or eighth floor Leo is home. We are able to host family events together – we have a Halloween Party; carolling at Christmas in the lobby together. A lot of really special things happen when a number of families choose the same lifestyle in a highrise together.” Lots of nearby amenities makes it work for Heather’s family: “Within a 10-minute walk we have skating after work, sledding, skiing, swimming… three playgrounds within a 15-minute walk. The legislature grounds are our front yard and the river Valley is our backyard.”

Heather’s biggest frustration? “Jasper Avenue is a big challenge. It’s clear to my kids that they will never be able to just run off to school the same way another nine-year-old might. They’re frustrated by having to be escorted.” Families living downtown may have a slight advantage over the Oliver kids in this regard – they can use the downtown’s extensive pedway system to avoid traffic dangers. The public library, the museum and the art gallery are all connected via the pedway system, which runs under Jasper Avenue in several places and provides two points of access to the river valley: Canada Place and Telus Plaza. The Downtown Edmonton Community League offers drop-in playgroups on Friday mornings, and the Library has also offers programming. The funicular is also a welcome addition for those with mobility challenges, including families pushing strollers. Mackenzie says the new MacKay Avenue playground is a welcome addition.

Oliver and the Downtown are close enough together that, “any service or amenity that pops downtown has a direct benefit for our kids and vice-versa.”

Tech Sector hanging on

With Edmonton’s sixth annual Startup Week less than a month away, the city’s tech industries are maintaining cautious optimism about keeping their momentum in spite of a tax credit being frozen recently by the province.

Downtown Edmonton Community League president Chris Buyze noted office vacancies decreased in the first half of 2019.

“The vacancy rate is actually lower downtown than it is in other parts of the city right now,” he said.

Growth in the tech sector surged in Edmonton over the past few years with heavy support from all three levels of government, but the city’s roadmap to the future has hit a few bumps of late.

Last October, city council paused both the Innovation Hub in the new Enbridge tower and plans to establish an Innovation Corridor between NAIT and the University of Alberta. Then in August the UCP government froze the Alberta investor tax credit , pending a financial review. The NDP program was launched in 2017 to help get new businesses off the ground. However, Buyze said so far the sector has weathered the disruptions.

“Ironically, it seems downtown is still attracting investment in tech startups. A lot of the private investment is going ahead regardless of what’s happening at the provincial government level and I think that’s going to continue to be the case.”

Chris Buyze, DECL President

However, he also cautioned pulling the tax credit permanently could hinder new startups, create uncertainty and slow growth.

“We have this private investment. Why is there a possibility of withdrawal of tax credits in the provincial government?”

StartupBlink, a Swiss company that ranks cities for their startup-friendliness, named Edmonton 95th in the world in its 2019 Global Ranking of Startup Ecosystems, up 35 spots from 2017 and surging past Calgary, which dropped from 108th place to 111th. Edmonton is home to nearly 400 tech companies and the University of Alberta is counted among the best A.I. research facilities in the world.

Buyze added another benefit making downtown more startup-friendly has been a jump in renovations of older office space to attract new tenants and retain their current ones.

“We’ve got a lot of capital investments, we’ve just got to make sure we’re also doing the little things like keeping it a clean, safe and welcoming place for people to work, invest in or even live,” said Buyze. “We’re competing with jurisdictions across the world. How do we ensure the talent coming out of our universities stays here?”

Noting Edmonton has a much more diverse economy than Calgary already, Buyze said it was important to continue to push for more economic drivers than simply oil and gas.

“(A stronger tech sector) would poke some holes in that boom and bust cycle we sometimes experience.”

Startup Week runs from Oct. 21 to 25, with the city’s 10th annual Launch Day set for Oct. 24.

Offering over 50 workshops for entrepreneurs alongside networking and brainstorming opportunities, Startup Week is the extension of Launch Party, a celebration of innovation in its 10th year.

Wheel sharing – scooters and bikes

Edmonton’s extreme caution in jumping on the two-wheeled micro-mobility bandwagon doesn’t look so laughable as the trend shakes out in other cities.

Based on shifts to escooters and away from ebikes, we may have missed the bike-share boat altogether. While Edmonton was deliberating, Drop Bike executed a successful bike share launch in the summer of 2018 in Kelowna, and Lime Bike brought ebikes to Calgary in October 2018 and operated through the winter. 

But by May, Drop Bike had pulled out early from Kelowna’s pilot. In June, not a single ebike company had stepped into the Kelowna market and several scooter companies rolled into the gap. In February with winter still underway, Lime started pulling its bikes out of U.S. cities and dropped “Bike” from its name, even as they reassured Calgarians they’d keep their ebikes to the end of the pilot. Yet in early summer Lime scooters replaced the distinctive Lime-coloured ebikes virtually overnight. Bird scooters followed shortly after and Calgarians scooted through summer.

Within weeks over 60 Emergency Room visits were recorded for broken bones and head injuries. OGO, a company with Edmonton roots, provides a helmet for each escooter in Kelowna. In June OGO encouraged Edmonton to proceed slowly. Our city’s planned rollout doesn’t come with any special requirements for helmet use. 

Other cities are facing a rash of deaths and head injuries. Atlanta suspended night scooting  after four deaths between May and mid-August. Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is weighing in, noting almost half of escooter injuries involve head trauma. Councillor Scott McKeen voted against the move and says ebikes are legitimate, but, “There are more problems than answers with e-scooters.”

“Atlanta suspended night scooting after four deaths between May and mid-August. Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is weighing in, noting almost half of escooter injuries involve head trauma.”

The market is driving the nature of our micromobility choices and cities are embracing market-driven initiatives as inexpensive ways of replacing short vehicle trips. (Although a study published in August found about half of all escooter trips would have resulted a walk or bike ride instead.) Kelowna’s bike pilot resulted in 33,000 trips over four months, and 28 per cent would have been by vehicle had the bikes not been available. As we race to reinvent our cities to combat climate change, the stakes are high, and ebikes and escooters are both reducing vehicle trips, although it’s not clear if escooter users will replace the same number of vehicle trips that ebike users were logging. And – to coin a phrase – winter is coming. 

Escooters haven’t been tested in many winter cities. When Calgary’s ebike service rolled out last winter, some wondered if the weather would keep people off the bikes, but 50,000 trips were logged by May. Calgary’s escooter pilot will suspend operations over the winter season, but Edmonton’s standard license has an expiry date of Dec. 31, 2019 with an option for an extension.

The overall trend last winter in northern cities was for the big scooter/bike operators to redeploy fleets to warmer centres. Coming in late into the micromobility market might provide an advantage for Edmonton. The bike network and the 102 Avenue protected bike lanes that connect the core through Oliver to Glenora are kept clear on most winter days and they could offer the perfect testing grounds for companies wanting to see how ebikes and escooters work in a real winter city.

Real Change – Building A Sustainable City

It is the height of the day in the downtown core, but you wouldn’t know it. The streets are bare except for the odd person, wrapping whatever they can around their face to try and filter out the yellow haze filling the space between the darkened buildings. The sun casts a sick glow on anything it touches as health experts advise people to stay indoors.

This isn’t the trailer for a new science fiction dystopia film – this was Edmonton twice in the last year as smoke from forest fires elsewhere blew over the city.

Heavy smoke and heat waves are two weather phenomena experts are trying to re-align the city to face as climate change progresses.

“Forestry experts tell us the forests are drying from climate change,” said Alberta Capital Airshed executive director Gary Redmond. “They anticipate a lot more burning. So I think we can expect more smoke in the air than we’re used to.”

Redmond emphasized smoke isn’t the only significant air pollution problem facing Edmonton. Cold air in the wintertime can keep pollution closer to the ground and lead to air quality warnings, though ash and carbon particles from forest fires are several orders of magnitude worse.

A non-profit air quality monitoring group, part of the Airshed’s work is to bring stakeholders together to identify potential problems and brainstorm solutions.

Redmond advises people in good health to keep physical activity indoors during smoky days, where the Air Quality Index is at least seven. People with health issues should take precautions if it’s as low as three. Covering your face with a scarf may actually do more harm than good, because it pulls particulate matter in your airway. 

One solution Redmond advocates is Community Clean Air Shelters, retrofitting public spaces with air filtration systems to give people safe places to breathe, which have been effective at improving people’s health.

Working from the other end is Shafraaz Kaba, principal architect of Ask for a Better World and Energy Efficiency Alberta board director. Kaba has ambitious ideas for dealing with air quality and other problems facing the Edmonton downtown.

“Why don’t we build in air filtration in homes?” he asks while looking gloomily out at yet another stormy day in Edmonton. “Or ways to mitigate the effects of massive amounts of rain?”

Preparing for a hotter downtown

Kaba is keenly aware of the challenges Edmonton is facing. As part of the Energy Transition Advisory Committee, he helped develop the “Climate Resilient Edmonton: Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan,” an examination of environmental, health and economic issues and strategies. It was presented to city council in November 2018.

Well past arguing whether climate change is real or not, Kaba says the real questions are how is it affecting us and what are we doing about it? The solution is to both develop resiliency against Mother Nature’s wrath while simultaneously reducing the city’s carbon footprint to placate the elements.

Kaba explains this requires a more holistic way of thinking about building structures, ranging from things like the thickness and insulation of the walls, the glazing and size of windows and even simple things like the material used around them all contribute to the amount of heat a building can hold on to.

“[Forestry experts] anticipate a lot more burning. So I think we can expect more smoke in the air than we’re used to.”

Gary Redmond, Executive Director, Alberta Capital Airshed

“An example is thermal bridging, where heat transfer happens,” he says as he motions to the aluminum trimming of his 10-foot tall window. “The aluminum frame that holds the glass is a massive conductor of heat, from the inside to the outside in the winter and vice-versa in the summer.”

A more extreme example is skyscrapers, which effectively act as giant greenhouses, even in the wintertime. While not the best holders of heat, they pull enough in over a cold winter day that many commercial buildings use much of their power cooling the inside of the building in spite of below-freezing temperatures outside.

“We basically took in a global mechanical system and said ‘We’re going to do that too,’” said Kaba. “We need to design buildings that say, ‘Okay, it’s sunny and –30 C out. How do we have a mechanical system that warms cold air instead of using air conditioning?’”

Better heat efficiency not only reduces the carbon footprint of buildings, it also helps to minimize the Urban Heat Island effect – concrete and other materials like aluminum hold heat and downtown Edmonton has a lot of concrete.

This makes heat waves of particular concern. People with health complications may not be able to cool off quickly enough. This happened in Europe in 2003 where eight consecutive days of over 40 C highs killed over 50,000 people across the southern part of the continent. Sixteen years later, the United Nations now says weather events like heat waves, smoke, flooding and/or either too much or not enough rain are happening once a week on average.

“There’s a bit of a reckoning coming,” said Kaba. 

A huge variety in designs of buildings makes things even more complicated, each requiring their own solutions. Smaller buildings are better suited for solar panels because they have more surface area exposed to the sun, whereas a taller building only has one good side at best for solar generation.

“In a tall building, you have a lot more wall surface area and very little roof,” explained Kaba. “So you’re forced to consider how much of that wall you need for windows to let in daylight versus if you’re going to make them thick, insulated walls to prevent heat loss.”

Regardless of the challenges, he said the goal should be to have every building generating at least some of its power – and potentially even food – to offset the costs of building and maintaining the structure.

“It’s not if or should – it’s a must,” he said. “Every client I have, I can show them it’s a no-brainer to add solar modules to be able generate power because it’s also a risk mitigating system.

“As we decarbonize our grid, we will need any amount of electricity that’s green fed into our grid. Installing renewables now in a new building or a retrofit is far cheaper than ripping out what you put in 10 years from now to put in solar.”

“Why don’t we build in air filtration in homes?”

Gary Redmond, Executive Director, Alberta Capital Airshed

Redmond agrees pointing out that adverse health effects from excessive heat and poor air quality can have far-reaching economic implications.

“If someone works in an office building and they’re having trouble breathing, that affects the business of that building,” he said. “Air quality is going to become a business necessity.”

Kaba notes the plan to develop a central park out of four vacant parking lots downtown is a good start for offsetting both pollution and the concrete jungle heat. The next step is finding ways to establish more indoor green spaces, since winter is still going to be with us for a long time.

“Plants are a natural pollutant scrubber. The challenge in our climate is we can’t incorporate greenery into the façade of our buildings because in the winter they will freeze and die,” he said, adding that exception did not include green roofs. “You can create a green roof out of grasses and other things that survive the winter, absorb water and reduce heat.”

Another hurdle is regulatory. To pave the way for green roofs on top more efficient structures and more renewables built into them requires legal definitions, which are the purview of the provincial and federal governments.

For its part, Ottawa has been busy. Changes to the National Building Code are expected to roll out in 2020 by standardizing durability guidelines to reflect climate change trends.

Kaba maintains it makes sense for Edmonton’s downtown be ahead of the green wave and said the construction industry should lead the way.

“Buildings contribute almost a third to the energy we consume as a society and 40 per cent of our landfills are construction waste,” he said. “As an architect, I need to design something and show people how to build it without that much waste.”

“We have better ideas. Now we just have to start using them.”

There’s an app for that

Homeowners hoping to keep the smoke out will soon have a new tool at their disposal. Kaba has just finished a project with All Sky One Foundation to be officially launched in September. The Climate Resilient Virtual home will allow people to see how their home stacks up in terms of both energy efficiency and its capacity to withstand a changing climate in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

“We have a website that will ask what kind of environment you are in, if it’s a new or old home, and what kind of climate issues you are concerned about,” he said. “Then it will give you a model with all the things you should think about for your house in terms of structure, roofing, walls, landscape design… Everything down to making sure you anchor things in your yard, otherwise a high wind could blow it away.

“It’s giving people the tools and ideas to start thinking big picture.”

Playing the title role

The former Land Titles Office sits inconspicuously on 100 Ave at 106 Street surrounded by temporary fencing as it sheds its stucco cocoon. No butterfly will result, only an honest red brick chestnut – a seed that grew into the Alberta capital.

In the 1890s there was a plan afoot to move the office to Strathcona, south of the North Saskatchewan River. This would have effectively shifted government operations to Strathcona. If not for a plucky group of protesters led by militant merchants, the downtown core and the Alberta capital would likely be in an altogether different place.

Strathcona was the terminus of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway and landholders had to cross the river on John Walter’s ferry to do their business in Edmonton. In June of 1892 the federal government packed land titles documents and furniture on to wagons for the trip south. 

Edmontonians balked and sabotaged the wagons knowing if the office moved it would be the end of their hopes to make Edmonton a major city. Edmonton mayor Matthew McCauley led a disabling party as officers of the North-West Mounted Police looked on. The town’s burgers set out to build a permanent structure that could not so easily be moved. It was a solid beast, made of concrete and brick, 45 cm thick. Doug Gelbert, in his book Look Up Edmonton – A Walking Tour says this sturdy structure was entered through iron doors and Inside was douglas fir woodwork, imported from British Columbia. It was an anchor which held Edmonton and its hopes in place. 

The building design was based on a plan by Thomas Fuller, who held the august title of Chief Architect of the Dominion. It’s similar to Hudson’s Bay Company warehouses of the time. Fuller was responsible for some of Canada’s most iconic structures, including Ottawa’s Parliament building and the revered Parliamentary Library. Over the years there have been two additions to the building. 

The Alberta capital outgrew the one-and-a-half storey building and the office was moved in 1912. It then became an armory through both world wars. After the Second World War it housed the offices and labs of the Alberta government’s Department of Health. Most recently it housed the Elizabeth Fry Society which works with women caught up in the justice system and helps  some transition from prison to life on the outside.

For much of its history the Land Titles/Victoria Armoury building was accompanied by its much larger brick cousin across the street, Arlington Apartments. Sadly that building was gutted by fire in 2005. There had been hopes the facade could be saved but it was demolished in 2008.

The Arlington’s humbler companion across the street is currently under extensive restoration. Most Edmontonians who notice the building could be excused in believing it was always white stucco. But as the metamorphosis continues it won’t be long before the red brick that characterizes most of the city’s remaining historic buildings is again exposed. To some the loss of the building’s white cladding means loss of and identifiable non-brick landmark, but many people embrace the red brick genesis of 19th century architecture and welcome one such landmark back after losing so many others.

Food evolving – from truck to table

Filistix, one of the city’s first food trucks that turned into an on-campus food spot, is a new downtown restaurant, co-founded by Ariel del Rosario and Roel Cañafranca. We spoke with del Rosario to find out what brought Filistix to 100 Avenue and 106 Street.

It’s that hospitality quotient. Food is first and foremost at Filistix. Everything is meant to be shared family style, which is unique, not unique to Asian restaurants, but unique to crossover-type restaurants. Everybody shares. Big serving spoons. You get a big plate of fried rice and everybody shares and tastes.

It was two years ago that we started thinking about opening an off-campus site. The criteria for us choosing a spot was, we had to have [density]. The government district had that density. The area is starting to become more developed. I think in the next year or two, all of those buildings will be occupied or populated and it’s just going to bring more vibrancy to the area.

Initially, our idea was to do strictly Filipino street food, hence the name Fili for Filipino and Stix for skewers, meat on a stick. And that’s the quintessential Filipino-style street food. On every corner you see these little old ladies doing grilled skewers like satay in Malaysia or Indonesia. The inspiration came from that, but as circumstances changed, like us opening up on campus, we really had to evolve our menu so that it wasn’t just Filipino street food.

We had to tweak our recipes so they weren’t super traditional, so they were a little familiar. Even the presentation had to be a little more familiar. We want to introduce our version of our food. We’ve never claimed to be authentic in any way. We want to bridge the gap to people who don’t necessarily know what southeast Asian food really is. We want them to come in and feel the atmosphere and get a little glimpse of the culture.

We want to educate a little bit, introduce a little bit, where people come in and have good food, get drinks and enjoy the atmosphere in a super, super nicely designed space. We have cinderblocks and wood and plants and this really cool tiling on our ceiling that gives a sense that you’re not in Edmonton.