Why Some Edmonton Parks Are on the Chopping Block

Courtesy of IQRemix/flickr

Courtesy of IQRemix/flickr

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.”

Cools news, Rumours and Excitement around the Core

Photo courtesy of Instragram

Photo courtesy of Instragram

Have you noticed sturdy and steel lime green stems cropping up around town? Those are Steam Whistle Brewing’s bike repair stations for DIY fixes. You’ll see one just outside Kelly’s Pub on 104 St., complete with a tire pump and tools, so you’ll rarely have to walk your velo home with a flat tire.

Robertson-Wesley United Church brings back its Spiritual Arts Collective for the fourth consecutive year. But this time they’re doing it differently, by hiring several artists- in-residence in the areas of media arts, photography, film, and physical theatre or dance—and, yes, that might include clowns.

There aren’t many young parents in Central Edmonton, but you wouldn’t know it from the energy on the “YEG Downtown Moms” Facebook Group. Its mere 60 members have been very active, sharing tips, worries and questions about how to bring up baby in the core. It’s a great place for young moms to connect in the virtual space, as well as the physical, when they meet regularly at Café Tiramisu and the DECL Community Space.

The museum’s new downtown home won’t be finished for another year, but you can get involved now by joining the board of the Friends of Royal Alberta Museum Society. Established in 1982, it supports the RAM through fundraising and runs programs like “Go!” so low-income Albertans can access the museum with ease. Email Peggi to apply.

Want to share central Edmonton gossip? Got some news to spread? Give us a shout at editor@theyardsyeg.ca.

Four Central Edmonton Events That Put Community First

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SEPT. 10
Welcome Back BBQ
Join All Saints’ Cathedral and the DECL in welcoming back the community from summer. All are welcome to this free barbecue with activities, entertainment and good company. (12:30–3pm, All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral, 10035 103 St., allsaintscathedral.com)

NOV. 26
Rummage Sale
Pop in to Memorial Hall and find everything you never knew you needed at this annual rummage sale. Browse the treasures and the bargains and find jewellery, linens, housewares, appliances, home decor, art, gardening items, electronics, toys, sporting goods, hardware, games, craft supplies … The discoveries are endless! (9am–3pm, Robertson-Wesley United Church, 10209 123 St., rwuc.org)

SEPT. 7, OCT. 5, NOV. 2
Green Drinks
Presented by the Local Good, these are monthly themed events for environmental and social do-gooders to enjoy a relaxed evening of networking and conversation over pints of craft beer brewed in the same room. Come help our community discover more ways to be sustainable and green.
 (7–10pm, Yellowhead Brewery, 10229 105 St., thelocalgood.ca)

SEPT. 29
The Yards Magazine Presents: The Great Arena District Debate
Don’t miss this showdown between a prominent supporter (DECL development chair Ian O’Donnell) and opposer (Professor Jay Scherer) of the billion-dollar Ice District, as they debate on whether or not it will improve downtowners’ quality of life. The debate is moderated by editor Omar Mouallem. (6pm, EPCOR Tower, 16th Fl., 10423 101 St., picatic.com/fallyards)

Snapshots From Summer Community Events



The streets were filled with mirth during the Oliver Community Festival block party, hosted by Robertson Wesley United Church and sponsored by the OCL and 124 St. Business Association (May 28/16)



From left: DECL president Chris Buyze, Mayor Don Iveson, and Ward 6 councillor Scot McKeen plant the first garden of Alex Decoteau Park (June 10/16)


Jennifer Chaput and Devin Pope at The Yards Summer Salon (June 16/16)


Jeff Burwash and El Niven at The Yards Summer Salon (June 16/16)


Smokehouse BBQ owner Terry Sept serving up pulled pork at The Yards Summer Salon (June 16/16)


Jason Gold finds some “gold” at the OCL Rummage Sale (June 18/16)


Shafraaz Kaba at The Yards Summer Salon (June 16/16)


Sasha Harding with Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault at OCL Canada Day Pancake Breakfast (July 1/16)

Four Downtown Foodie Events This Fall

Photo courtesy of jeffreyw/Flickr

Photo courtesy of jeffreyw/Flickr

SEPT. 24
Italian Dinner
Have a taste of Italy at Robertson-Wesley United Church and savour locally famous spaghetti, a surprise dessert and wine bar. In case you need one more reason to say yes, all proceeds go to supporting its community programs. ($20, 5pm, Robertson-Wesley United Church, 10209 123 St., rwuc.org)

Sides for Thanksgiving:
 Express Demo Class
Want to bring more flavour and colour to your Thanksgiving table this year? Chef Gail Hall leads this quick cooking demo to teach you how to spice up your holiday meal. Learn how to perfect your stuffing or take this as an opportunity to learn how to amp up the competition on Gran’s famous cranberry sauce. Reserve a spot by emailing gail@seasonedsolutions.ca. (6:30–8:30pm, Seasoned Solutions, seasonedsolutions.ca)

NOV. 4
Chili Cook Off
Kick off Rodeo Week with Edmonton’s 26th Annual Chili Cook Off. Taste the varieties and vote for your faves from some of the city’s nest restaurants, as well as some talented hobbyists. (Churchill Sq., edmonton.ca/rodeoweek)

NOV. 24
Trendy Appetizers: Hands-On Class
Sign up for this hands-on cooking class with Chef Gail Hall and cook the day away with a glass of wine in hand. Learn how to create memorable appies for this holiday season that will have your guests talking. To register, email gail@seasonedsolutions.ca. (11am-4pm, Seasoned Solutions, seasonedsolutions.ca)

Three Spooky Halloween Events in Downtown Edmonton This Fall

Photo courtesy of aboyandhisbike/flickr

Photo courtesy of aboyandhisbike/flickr

SEPT. 30–NOV 5
Face your fears at Deadmonton Haunted House and scream your way through this year’s all-too-real experience inside the bowels of an old cinema house. See website for details on daily operating hours. ($20-40, Paramount Theatre, 10233 Jasper Ave., deadmontonhouse.com)

OCT. 28
Spooky Organ Recital
This mysterious atmosphere will be full of ghouls while you snack on Halloween treats and enjoy Robertson-Wesley United Church’s organist play out some creepy tunes in the spirit of Halloween. Admission is $15 at the door. (11pm, Robertson-Wesley United Church, 10209 123 St.)

OCT. 31
Scare on the Square
Get the kids and yourself into your costumes and join this spook-tacular event. You’ll get lost in the hay-bale maze, enjoy a wagon ride and watch in horror as some of Edmonton’s scariest magicians and illusionists show off their trippy tricks. There’s also jack-o-lantern carving and trick-or-treating at the City Market Downtown. (12–4pm,Churchill Sq., edmontonarts.ca)

New Life for the Gibson Block


On April 26, a fire at the Gibson Block—one of Edmonton’s most iconic buildings—displaced 66 homeless women. Over its 103-year life, it was a boarding house for German immigrants, a bathhouse and numerous private businesses, but in recent years it housed the Women’s Emergency Accommodation Centre (WEAC)—a 24/7, 365 days a year operation. That is, until the fire.

The sprinkler system did the most harm. “It nearly made this big ’ol boat float away,” says WEAC director Tanya Tellier. Water damaged half of the building. “Ceilings were falling down from the third floor all the way into the basement.”

Now with the Gibson in the repair stages, the program, which hopes to re-open its doors in the fall, sees the crisis as opportunity. “We’ll increase access to our elders and our community, as well as events that are going on, and we want to partner with other organizations in the community for this to be an official place for Aboriginal ceremonies.” says Tellier. WEAC also wants to make its programming more accessible for women to come in, volunteer, or participate in groups, rec activities, clinic care or sharing meals, even if they aren’t staying in the residence. Upon opening, expect to see local art in the building’s window display, too. “Overall, what we are striving for, is to be good neighbours.”

There’s even more good news for the Gibson: in July, city hall gave its owner, E4C, permission to use the ground floor for just about any commercial, retail or food business. We may finally see this truly unique building reach its potential.

The Condo Board Survival Guide


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.

The Yards Guide to Navigating Condo Ownership

The Five Personalities of Every Board
Glossary of Terms
What To Do When Disaster Strikes
Just Say ‘No’ to Reply All
What to Expect When You’re Inspecting

Seven Ways to Meet Your Downtown Neighbours This Fall

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SEPT. 3, OCT. 1
Membership Table at the City Market Downtown
Come get your new 2016/17 memberships for $5 and get free access to the Don Wheaton YMCA Sunday afternoons. • (9am–3pm, 104th St. and Jasper Ave)

SEPT. 10
CornFest 2016
Drop by to renew your membership, grab some free corn-on-the-cob and check out the debut of our Urban Agricultural Fair! Balcony in Blooms winners will also be announced. (11am–3pm, Beaverhills House Park, 105 St. and Jasper Ave.)

SEPT. 28
Downtown Docs
The first of the film series, where we feature local films by local directors, feature’s Anti-Social Limited by Rosie Drensfeld, who’ll be in attendance. (7pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

Up + Downtown Music Festival @ DECL
We are proud to be a festival venue partner again this year. Concerts at DECL feature Jody Glenham and the Dreamers, Lucette and more. (Full festival details at updt.ca. DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

NOV. 17
Fall Regular General Meeting for Members
Here’s an opportunity for members to meet the board, ask questions and find out what’s going on in their community, plus hear from an insightful guest speaker. (7pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

Urban Kids Playgroup
Meet other parents and kids ages 0–5 Downtown. We’ve had so much interest, playground is now every Monday.  (10–11:30am, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

SEPT. 16, OCT. 21 AND NOV. 18
Urban Kids Family Night
Our monthly children’s game night is where kids—and parents—can play, explore and make friends in their neighbourhood. (6–8:30pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

What is a Community League and Why Should You Care?


Community League Day is again upon us. This day, every third Saturday of September, is set aside to celebrate neighbourhood associations. Sometimes we get asked what exactly is a community league and why should we care?

An explanation of these inclusive organizations is printed on this page every issue (see sidebar), but it’s important to remember that although leagues are similar in that they are volunteer-run and volunteer-driven, they each have their individual nuances. Some leagues, like Oliver’s, represent tens of thousands of people (19,000 to be specific); others only represent a couple of thousand. While property development may be a priority for some leagues, kids soccer and day care are priorities for others. Leagues are reflections of the communities themselves.

In Edmonton, community leagues are connected by an organization called the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues and supported by the City of Edmonton. While the notion of community may seem old-fashioned, it’s a highly valued concept in Edmonton.

As for why should you care? The OCL helps shape our community. The league believes in the power of neighbours knowing neighbours; the requirement of building developers respecting our community’s needs; the importance of recreation, walkability, ease and safety of movement in Oliver; and the significance of inclusion of its residents. This is why you should care. More importantly, this is why you should become involved.

Attend an event, join a committee, or read the magazine—it all adds up and creates this great place we call home, this great place called Oliver. Some fun events to participate in are coming up, including Community League Day. This year we are very excited to have Planet Organic – Jasper Ave. proudly sponsoring Oliver’s Community League Day celebrations. Join us on September 17 to learn more about our league and to meet your neighbours and have some fun. And later in September, be sure to check out the Main Street installation and programming on Jasper Ave., meant to spark conversation on what Oliver’s main street was meant to be.

OCL board of directors: Lisa Brown (President), Craig Lidstone (Vice- president), Simon Yackulic (Secretary), Mary McPhail (Treasurer), Anika Gee, Marjorie Henderson, Justin Keats, Rowan Kunitz, Luwam Kiemariam, Tim Mallandaine, Angelika Matson, Marija Petrovic, Erin Wright and Hossein Zahiri.

Email OCL, visit its website, or call 780-454-2450 for more information.