The Yards magazine (published by the Central Edmonton News Society, on behalf of the Downtown Edmonton and Oliver Community Leagues) needs a new Editor-in-Chief to keep the momentum going on this popular quarterly magazine and to build its supplementary online reporting platform. This is a part-time paid position with very flexible hours. The ideal editor is self-disciplined and self-motivated, enjoys working with writers and creators and collaborating with community members, and LOVES EDMONTON’S CORE NEIGHBOURHOODS.
The Yards is a hyperlocal magazine for Downtown and Oliver covering community and civic affairs, so the ideal editor would be knowledgable about the area and someone who actually likes civics. But we also cover culture, food, business and all other aspects of downtown life—so someone “in the know” is equally valuable. The Yards has won awards from the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association and its hyperlocal journalism has been recognized by the Canadian Association of Journalism and the CBC; it is important to us that our stories meet writing and journalistic standards. We really love journalism junkies and magazine fanatics—people who relish the publishing process, who can be witnessed sniffing glossies and fondling paper stock in the magazine aisle.
Meet with Central Edmonton News Society to develop stories and key messages for stories
Schedule editorial meetings and manage pitches
Develop story assignments for specific writers and editorial interns
Hire editorial interns, liaise with writers and editorial assistant to ensure deadlines met
Review stories and make substantive edit
Liaise with CENS to ensure satisfaction with stories and to edit notes
Write headline, decks, pull quotes and cut lines
Meet with art director to plan design, assist when needed
Proof first and final designs
Publish stories to web with editorial intern
Contribute to social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)
Represent the Yards out in the community (broadcast media and community events)
Organize panel discussions and work with events manager to launch each issue
Approximately 10 hours weekly. Because The Yards staff and volunteers work remotely through email, it is a requirement of the position that applicants are self-starters and can make themselves available for feedback, discussions and design changes via email at a relatively prompt speed.
Pay is negotiable and in flux, depending on the growth of The Yards online reporting.
Send your resume, cover letter and published articles to publisher Jarrett Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org, by Dec. 10, 2016.
SEPT 12, OCT 10, NOV 14 Civics Committee This fully engaged committee meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. (7pm, Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.)
SEPT 17 Oliver Community League Day presented by Planet Organic (Jasper Ave.) Join the league as we celebrate Community League Day. We’re delighted to have our proud event sponsor and partner, Planet Organic (Jasper Ave.) onsite with snacks. Members of all ages are welcome as the Edmonton Public Library kicks off the day with MakerSpace tools. Or try your hand (and whole body) at bubble soccer! A beer garden and barbecue in our beautiful park round out the day. (Starts 2pm; beer garden and barbecue at 5pm, Oliver Park, 10326 118 St.)
SEPT 18, OCT 16, NOV 20 Ollie’s Treehouse Inclusive Playgroup Come let your little ones run around the hall and play with friends. Held every third Sunday, Ollie’s is a great place to meet other parents and make new friends. (4pm, Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.)
SEPT 21, OCT 19, NOV 16 Events and Programs Committee If you like event planning, this is the committee for you. (6:30pm, Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.)
SEPT 23, OCT 21, NOV 18 Walking Pub Crawl of Oliver Meet with new and old friends at the hall every month, before walking to pre-determined locations to enjoy the Oliver nightlife. (8pm, starts at Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.)
It’s 9:32 on a January morning, the first day back from the holidays. Rushing into city hall, I’m met with a troop of seven- and eight-year-olds from École J.A. Fife, a French immersion school in Lake District, venturing single-file into the pedway maze en route to Churchill Station. Many of them are about to take their first LRT ride, but they’re not the only ones. “I’ve lived in the city for 10 years,” says a parent assisting with the field trip, “and this is the first time I’ve been here.”
City Hall School is now in session.
Led by Linda Hut, a public schools instructor for 30 years, the civic education her students are about to receive quickly outstrips the average Edmontonian’s experience. Every year, about twenty-five elementary and junior-high classes spend a week downtown with “Mrs. Hut,” learning about Edmonton’s history, municipal government and urban infrastructure. Former councillor Karen Leibovici, impressed by a classroom in the Legislature, initiated the City Hall School in 2005. Similar schools have since been added to the Valley Zoo, Fort Edmonton Park and Edmonton Journal offices, but none immerse the students so completely in the city’s innards as this. Hut, who took over the program six years ago, now receives double the number of applications she can accept. By maintaining an even distribution among both Catholic and public school wards, she will, at least once, meet most of Edmonton’s student body by the time they’re in high school.
“I’m very fortunate to be able to work with over 600 students each year and plant seeds for the future,” she says. “Edmonton’s future is in good hands with these thoughtful, engaged, caring, socially active citizens.”
Before City Hall School, she taught grades 1, 2 and 3 at Westglen Elementary School in Westmount. “Although I miss being in a regular school and the rapport that you build with one class and your staff, I’m constantly rewarded when I see how students and teachers take City Hall School connections and build them into year-long experiences.” Hut keeps in touch with all 25 of her participating classrooms through her weekly newsletter, City Beat, which showcases city events and initiatives, such as the Winter City program, and offers suggestions for classroom discussion and activities.
Moselle Semeniuk, this Grade 1/2 split class’s regular teacher, appreciates Hut’s ability to make each week relevant to individual classes. “Linda is always looking to make new contacts to help students get the most out of their City Hall School experience,” she says, pointing to a visit from the City’s chief architect Carol Belanger. “It’s a wonderful surprise that she was able to find an architect that speaks French.”
After discussing his passion for public buildings, en francais, Belanger shows the class renderings of the new police academy, which everyone agrees looks like something from Star Wars. Hut then challenges them to design their own civic building: Junior sketches a city hall with towers that rival Tolkien’s fortresses. Morgan imagines a pet shelter shaped like a dog’s paw. Keeva draws a library. Maja, a soccer club. Under Hut’s direction, the students move from learning about cool buildings to showing appreciation for a civic service that touches their lives in an important way.
Photo by Lizzie Derksen
Beside the classroom’s formidable Lego replica of city hall, Hut keeps a copy of On Looking by Alexandra Horowitz. The book is about observing the same environment from different perspectives. Likewise, Hut tries to open her students’ eyes to their own city by asking them to observe the urban core from the perspectives of people most familiar with it. A typical week at City Hall School might include tours of the Art Gallery of Alberta, CBC, McLeod Building and MakerSpace at the Stanley Milner Library, plus visits from aboriginal relations liaison Gord Stewart, city hall’s artist-in-residence Jennie Vegt or Kevan Lyons, “the Poet of Churchill Square.”
“Many children have never actually been downtown,” she says. “It’s such a pleasure to introduce them to the heart of their city and open their minds to all the possibilities that it offers—all the possibilities for connecting citizenship and career pathways through encounters and experiences with real people in authentic situations.
No week is complete without a visit to council chambers. Hut asks the J.A. Fife students to find the seat of their ward councilor, Dave Loken, and then steps up to the lectern to demonstrate the process for speaking as a citizen in a council meeting. She asks the children to vote on the question of whether smoking should be permitted on school playgrounds. They unanimously vote “no.” Hut turns to the class. “Guess what? You voted the same way that city council voted on this very same question!”
After completing their week at city hall, the students may not see Hut, or downtown, again until the year-end Citizenship Fair in June, to which the year’s participating classes are all invited. That’s when Hut asks them one fundamental question: “What is citizenship?”
Last year, the responses were, perhaps, all too typically Canadian, focused on being polite and rule-abiding. This year, Hut hopes her students will express an understanding that “citizenship is more than being kind, being nice.” For Hut, seeing her students develop even the smallest traces of participatory and justice-oriented citizenship is both the most important and the most exciting part of her job.
The full impact of the City Hall School stint often manifests after students have returned to their regular routine. Last year, for instance, a Grade 6 class from Belvedere Elementary that joined Hut in volunteering for the city’s homeless at the Mustard Seed started a Make Something Edmonton project called Calendars for Hope that raised money to help end poverty.
“City Hall School students recognize that they have a place and a voice in their city.” But they’re not the only ones. “I have always been a proud Edmontonian—born and raised here—but over the six years in this role I have developed a deeper sense of pride and belonging.”
Living in the core, you expect a little noise. But Edmonton’s roads can sound like a speedway when drivers, and especially motorcyclists, feel compelled to stunt with pimped out rides, leading recreational vehicle users to clash with patio patrons.
As Edmonton improves the core’s walkability and street life, community members and a determined city councillor want exhaust pipes to pipe down. “Patio culture can add so much to an urban area,” says Coun. Scott McKeen. “If cruising noisy vehicles take away from that it’ll impact the area and it success.” Loud vehicles aren’t just disturbing the patio peace, but young families, seniors residences and those catching sleep after a night shift, he says.
Edmonton implemented a noise bylaw for motorcycles in 2010. Vehicles must not be louder than 96 decibels while driving. EPS has a sound level meter that captures levels provable in court.
But enforcement of noise complaints is not an easy process. Police are aware of the problem spots, such as Jasper and Whyte avenues, but they can’t respond to individual complaints, and instead will set up zones to test vehicles. “There [needs to] be better enforcement of noise issues on Jasper,” says Dustin Martin, civics chair with the OCL.
In a presentation to the police commission in January this year, Insp. Dennis Storey admitted the major collisions investigation unit, which was conducting noise enforcement, didn’t have the resources to address noise, let alone the unit’s main focus of major collisions. Only 175 violations were enforced by police in 2015. This year, EPS trained 25 more officers to deal with noise violations and has stationed those officers throughout the city, which shifts enforcement to a neighbourhood-level approach.
McKeen says this shouldn’t be a police priority. Instead he’d like to see bylaw officers’ powers expanded in the Municipal Government Act. “Any patrol officer or peace officer should be able to write an order on the street to say you have to appear within the next two weeks and have your bike tested,” says McKeen.
Many motorcycle riders argue that loud pipes are necessary for safety—to let bigger vehicles know their comparatively small presence—but not all will agree that noise is a necessary part of riding. “High visibility trumps loud pipes for safety,” says Ricardo Dominguez, a local rider of six years. He says the pipes are useless because they point backwards, not forwards, toward the traffic it’s approaching.
The Oliver Community League and Downtown Edmonton Community League would like to see a public education campaign on the effects of noise. They also want traffic planning to constrain riders’ speed in the core—and thus their noise—by timing street lights in a way that doesn’t turn them green for blocks on end, and by better emphasizing cyclist infrastructure and pedestrian crossings as road-calming measures.
Earlier this year the Oliver Community League voted in a whole slate of new members at its annual general meeting. We met with a few of them to find out what they love most about their community and what they hope for Oliver’s future.
Name: Tim Mallandaine, Director at Large Occupation: Voice coach and owner of Songkraft Studio Years in Oliver: 7 Why did you join the board? I joined to create a role for OCL in the arts. I want to begin a dialogue to discover what the arts mean in Oliver and build on that. What do you love most about Oliver? You can’t go a day without meeting someone new. What would you change overnight if you could? I’d create a greater awareness of and connection between artists and Oliver, with the hopes of greater opportunities and benefits for both.
Name: Majorie Henderson, Director of Communications Occupation: Communications specialist at the University of Alberta Years in Oliver: 4 Why did you join the board? I feel proud to call Oliver my home and I wanted to give back by putting my skills to use and creating a positive change. What do you love most about Oliver? Our community is one of the densest neighbourhoods in Alberta, but I also think we have the most diversity and hidden gems. I love our old trees, the Bubble Houses and the 124 Grand Market. I often use #OliverProud on my Instagram. What would you change overnight if you could? I’d have more affordable family- friendly housing and an updated rec centre with a library.
Name: Anika Gee, Make Something Oliver Director Occupation: Volunteer and program coordinator at Sorrentino’s Compassion House Years in Oliver: 5 Why did you join the board? It’s my way of giving my best effort to make sure our piece of Edmonton is the best it can be. What do you love most about Oliver? The people. They’re friendly, caring and have a pride in Oliver. The sense of community we’ve managed to foster in such a high- density neighbourhood is impressive. What would you change overnight if you could? We’d all wake up to a beautiful new hall with more space for ongoing programs and maybe even a library!
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE — MAP LEGEND Grey: LRT Stations / Blue: Boat launches / Red: Construction / Purple: Restaurants / Green: Parks and BBQ spots / Orange: Recreational sports / Light Blue: Attractions
Everybody wants a piece of the North Saskatchewan. Some want to cycle, paddle or run through the river valley. Some want to walk their dogs. Others want to enjoy a coffee, beer or entertainment riverside. How can we have it all? The debate over access and amenities in the river valley has been ongoing for as long as most Edmontonians can remember. But to fully grasp accessibility, it helps to know what’s already there, what’s in the works and what the future holds. There’s a lot to enjoy already—if you know where to go—and more is set to come.
For starters, in the central river valley, the funicular and south LRT will open new portals onto the river valley. Meanwhile, new development is in planning for Dawson Park and Rossdale Flats. From 82 St. on the east to 136 St. on the west, north and south of the river valley topography is changing quickly. By 2025, you might find yourself strolling seamlessly from European promenade into western Canadian wilds within just a kilometre or two along the riverbank. Until then, here are the basic puzzle pieces easily accessible from the core, mapped out to represent the changing physical reality of Edmonton’s most treasured natural asset.
Dawson Park (Planned) There’s a new vision for this dated downtown parkland recognizable by its unique white clay coulee formations and popular bike trails. Final design and construction timelines aren’t known yet, but planning and consultation are underway.
River Valley Wayfinding Bolder, more attractive signage along the parks and trails —with updated maps, clearly marked amenities and at-a-glance directions—is on its way starting this year. South LRT Bridge at Louise
McKinney Park By 2020, a new LRT line—with pedestrian crossing—will span the valley, linking to a south side station by Muttart Conservatory. Mechanized Access and “Touch the Water” Promenade. We’re just a year away from a funicular linking the Hotel MacDonald area to the river valley, where the vision is to build a promenade stretching to the new Walterdale Bridge within the next, well, let’s say decade; the City needs more time for funding and development.
New Walterdale Bridge The final arch was raised this spring and completion is anticipated by 2017.
West Rossdale River Crossing (Planned) The vision for Rossdale Flats suggests park and public market space, upscale residential and mixed commercial, but construction is still years away.
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.
It’s been a year since the City’s open house invited us to help dramatically makeover the west side of Jasper Ave. Another round of public engagement is in the works before the 18-month planning process, branded as Imagine Jasper Avenue, concludes with a finalized concept plan, tentatively in February 2017. Once approved, construction will take some years to start, says Edmonton chief planner Peter Ohm.
The project’s true purpose is to reconstruct Jasper’s road base, but under immense pressure from Oliver residents, council asked the transportation department to rebuild it as a “complete street”—one that will not exist entirely for the benefit of motorists, but also for pedestrians, cyclists and residents as a whole.
The project’s $19 million budget is approved, but it’ll only cover the roadway replacement. Streetscape work will require additional funding from the next capital budget once the concept plan is complete.
“Jasper Ave. is Oliver’s living room,” says Ohm. In the City’s most recent survey residents have made their top priorities clear: more sidewalk cafes and patios, street trees and landscaping, broader sidewalks for better movement and mingling, and more support of nighttime activities with better lighting.
“Certainly the question has to be asked, Where do we get the room for that if not from the traffic lanes?” says Ohm. “The answers will be coming.” In other words, they don’t know yet. But he acknowledges that sacrifices to car commuters will have to be made to find the right balance for the project as a whole.
TOP ANSWERS FROM A CITY SURVEY
What do people like most about Jasper Ave.?
1. Connects the community
2. Represents Edmonton’s history
3. Close to the River Valley
What do people dislike about Jasper Ave.?
1. Not visually appealing
2. Sidewalks too narrow
3. Doesn’t connect well to destinations off the avenue
Catch a great flick with old friends and new neighbours at Downtown Docs at the DECL Community Space and All Saints Lutheran Church. The free monthly film series starts Sept. 28 and the league will take care of snacks and a cash bar. Just show up and get to know the community better through three movies by local filmmakers, like Rosvita Dransfeld. Director of Broke, the Gemini-nominated documentary about an inner-city pawnshop, Dransfeld will be in attendance to screen her 2014 lm Anti-Social Limited. We caught up with her to find how downtown influences her movies.
What is it about this city that keeps you making films here?
It’s really a world-class place. I think Edmontonians need to be prouder of everything they’ve accomplished. Some of the programs invented here [like Project KARE, or the Edmonton Food Bank] have been adopted internationally.
How has Edmonton’s inner-city inspired some of your films?
When I’m making films, I like to get very close to people with my camera. Because Edmonton has less of a ‘city’ feel, it’s easier to meet people from all walks of life and get to know them personally. There aren’t as many ‘uppities’ as you might find in other cities.
What is some advice you might give burgeoning Edmonton filmmakers?
It’s important to really find the story before you start filming. I tackle big subjects with my films, but if you find the right characters, or story, that will make a project successful.
Frank Oliver Park’s flowerbeds and manicured shrubs are a brief square of colour opening the vista of the Hotel Macdonald. It’s accessible to Edmonton’s many residents and visitors. And it’s for sale.
It may come as a shock, but like the Melcor-owned park on 102 St. and Jasper, or the proposed urban balcony project in the Quarters, Frank Oliver Park is an example of private property posing as a public space.
When ProCura bought it from the Fairmont, in 2009, chief operations officer Randy Ferguson said that it should never be blocked by a tower. Today, judging from the sign for a future development on it, there’s nothing holding ProCura to that earlier promise. Grant Pearsell, director of parks and biodiversity with the City of Edmonton, says if the park space disappeared it would work to find replacement space, but that does nothing to protect the glorious view of the Hotel Mac from Jasper Ave.
As downtown redevelopment takes hold, and land prices increase, Pearsell says the City is looking to relationships with private developers to ensure park space is provided. Most recently, it worked with NorQuest in its redevelopment to include park space. “That’s a way to make our dollars stretch further.”
But finding green space is always more difficult in the heart of Edmonton. Municipal urban planners calculate the amount of necessary park area at 1.4 hectares per thousand people, and they take into account private park spaces. But what happens when those spaces are developed? asks Justin Keats, DECL’s former garden director, who is now with the OCL. “We need more of a guarantee these spaces can be around longer.”
The OCL knows first-hand how difficult it is to navigate private parks and land swaps. The community’s Peace Garden Park has moved three times since 2009. The City owns the land the garden now occupies, and leases the space to the OCL for free.
“Parks are integral to our health and to reconnect with nature within the hustle of the city,” says Keats. “We need to be able to spend more time emphasizing what these spaces do for people. And you can’t always put a dollar value on this type of thing.”