MONDAYS (EXCEPT MAY 22) Urban Kids Playgroup
Meet other parents and kids ages 0–5.
No registration required. Just drop-in! 10–11:30am, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St
MARCH 1, 15 DECL Book Club
Our first book Happy City was so good,
we’re on to our second! Follow us on
Facebook.com/DECLORG to find out what
we’re reading next. Don’t forget to show
your DECL membership at Audrey’s Books
and receive a free Audrey’s Book Club
membership. 7pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.
MARCH 8 & 29 Learn to Play Ukulele
Dust off your ukulele and learn to play with
Dylan Ella. Free for DECL members. $10
for non-members. 6:30–7:30pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.
MARCH 17, APRIL 21, MAY 19 Urban Kids Family Night
Our monthly family night is where kids—and
parents—can play, explore and make friends
in their neighbourhood. 6–8:30pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.
APRIL 27 DECL Annual General Meeting
Find out what your league is all about, volunteer
for board positions and get the low-down
on what’s happening in the community. Light
refreshments provided, cash bar. 6:30pm Registration, 7:00pm meeting start, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.
MARCH 14, 28, APRIL 11 & 25 Programs Committee
Join us every second Tuesday of the
month to help organize programs and
events. Bring your ideas! 7–8pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.
APRIL 18 Open Mic Night
Got something funny to say or a poem
you’ve wanted to read? A guitar tune
to play? Share your artistic talents with
Downtown neighbours. Join us for our first
Open Mic Night. 7pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.
JUNE 10 DECL Annual Block Party
Join us for our annual pancake breakfast.
Our garage sale is also back for a
second year. Details to be announced
TUESDAYS Drop-In Basketball
Enjoy a pickup game or just shoot some hoops at this regular basketball drop-in open to the Oliver community. 7–9 pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 St.
MAR. 4 Community Potluck
Bring your fave food dish to share with friends and neighbours. This is a licensed event, but of course, children are welcome. 5–8pm, Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.
MAR. 13, APR. 10, MAY. 8 Civics Committee
This fully engaged committee meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. 7 pm, Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.
MAR. 19, APR. 16, MAY 21 Ollie’s Treehouse
Inclusive Playgroup – Your little ones will have fun at the hall with our toys, books and activities while you hang with other parents. 4–6pm, Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.
MAR. 15, APR. 19, MAY 17 Events and Programs Committee
If you like event planning, this is the
committee for you. 6:30pm, Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.
MAR. 10, APR. 21, MAY 19 Walking Pub Crawl
Meet with new and old friends at the hall
every month, before walking to pre-determined
locations to enjoy the Oliver nightlife. 8pm, meet at the Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.
APRIL 19 Annual General Meeting
Review financials, vote in new directors,
learn more about OCL and what we’re up
to. Mix and mingle with neighbours. 6pm registration, 7pm start, Oliver Community Hall, 10326-118 St.
WEDNESDAYS, MAY 3-JUNE 14 Walking Group
Join your neighbours for some fresh air and
exercise. This is a gentle approach to walking
with a focus on enjoyment and meeting neighbours. 6pm, meet at the Oliver Community Hall, 10326-118 St.
JUNE 10 Rummage Sale
Find trinkets and treasures at our Third
Annual Rummage Sale. 9:30am–2:30pm, Oliver Community Hall, 10326-118 St.
DEC. 16, JAN. 20, FEB. 17
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.
MONDAYS (EXCEPT DEC. 26 & JAN. 2) Urban Kids Playgroup Meet other parents and kids ages 0–5 Downtown. No registration required. Just drop-in! 10–11:30am, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.
JAN. 18, FEB. 1, 15, MAR. 1, 15, 29 DECL Book Club
We’re reading Happy City by Charles Montgomery and discussing two chapters each meeting. Show your DECL membership at Audrey’s Books and receive a free Audrey’s Book Club membership. 7pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.
DEC. 15 DECL Christmas Mixer
Celebrate the season with your downtown neighbours. Bring some baking to share, but don’t worry about drinks—there’s a cash bar and light refreshments. 7pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.
DEC. 3, MAR. 4
Community Potlucks Celebrate the Holiday Season at the hall—then again in the spring—with a community potluck. Bring your favourite holiday food dish to share with friends and neighbours. These are licensed events but, of course, children are welcome. 5–8pm, Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.
TUESDAYS (WINTER) Drop-In Basketball Enjoy a pickup game, or just shoot some hoops, at this regular drop-in basketball event open to the whole community. 7–9 pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 St.
DEC. 12, JAN. 9, FEB. 13
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.
DEC. 18, JAN. 15, FEB. 19
Ollie’s Treehouse Inclusive Playgroup Your little ones will have fun at the hall with our toys, books and activities while you hang with other parents. 4–6pm, Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.
DEC. 21, JAN. 18, FEB.15
Events and Programs Committee If you like event planning, this is the committee for you. 6:30pm, Oliver Community Hall, 10326 118 St.
JAN. 20, FEB. 17, MAR. 10
Walking Pub Crawl 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.
On Monday, May 2, technology consultant Jas Panesar heard, like everyone else in Canada, that Wood Buffalo was under mandatory evacuation. The first thought to run through his head was, “Fort McMurray is coming to Edmonton.” When the downtown resident arrived at his 104 St. office, he turned to Sam Jenkins, who works from the Unit B Co-Working Space with Panesar, for help with what was to come. “Well,” replied Jenkins, “what do we do?”
Determined to be of some value to the emergency response eforts, they started sifting through their networks. For three days, they pestered Northlands—the central emergency shelter for the tens of thousands of evacuees—but kept getting the same response: they weren’t needed. Anywhere. Astonished and discouraged, the young professionals felt stuck. That’s when they saw a problem with the relief effort itself: The system lacked the organization to effectively use the resources available to it. Ever the IT guys, they set out to fix it.
It dawned on Panesar first. Walking home one evening, he noticed a barbecue on the typically empty sidewalk outside of the Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society (EERSS) headquarters. An insufficient meal was being grilled for the relief effort volunteers inside. Prior to then, Panesar had hardly acknowledged EERSS, just two blocks north of his office, and thought it was just a tiny thrift shop. The door, after all, was always shut. Now, for the first time, it was open and he saw that it was filled to the doorway with bags and boxes of donations. It buzzed with people run of their feet. We can feed the volunteers, realized Panesar, peering inside.
He offered this service to EERSS volunteer Lloyd Skinner and was taken up on it. But when Panesar and Jenkins met Skinner, there was a change of plans. Skinner explained, “We just got the keys to an airplane hangar at the International Airport and people are working there 24/7.” In a matter of two days, the EERSS had grown from five part-time staff to 1,500 volunteers.
With a $17,000 operating budget funded by a single grant, plus modest revenue from its 104 St. thrift shop, the EERSS was built for small disasters. If a family’s house burns down, for instance, they can depend on the EERSS for toothbrushes, clean clothes and pillows. The 30-year-old charity was a big help on Black Friday, in 1987, when Canada’s deadliest tornado caused $330 million in Edmonton property damage, and again after the Slave Lake Fire in 2011. But those paled in comparison to the Fort Mac wildfires, which displaced 88,000 people. Still, EERSS was determined not to turn away a single one.
By Saturday, May 7, Panesar and Jenkins entered a hangar filled with thousands of boxes, hundreds of people and utter chaos. Nobody was in charge and it was completely self-organized. Everyone was a stranger to everyone. “We have to find food. And lots of it,” Panesar told his friend and colleague. They made one call to a pizzeria and 50 free pies were on their way. Subway soon became involved too. Another call to the Sikh Temple in Millwoods—which had an industrial-sized kitchen—and they were feeding over 1,500 people a dozen donuts at a time. But that was one day. Skinner asked them to commit to seven more days of coordinating meals for volunteers. The partners looked at each other and with little more than a nod agreed to put their companies on hold. (They each operate separate startups; Jenkins is co-founder of Wellnext Inc. and Panesar the CEO of NewEngage.)
New EERSS relief sites were popping up daily: a south-side warehouse filled with donations within eight hours, as did the Sikh temple and an old and emptied Target at Kingsway Mall. At each venue, donations of clothing, bedding, toiletries and more had to be received, organized, re-palletized and sent out. Every individual truck had to be loaded and unloaded by hand. “People were showing up and saying, ‘Just put me to work,’” recalls Panesar. And they all had to be fed. After two weeks, over 6,000 volunteers were working for the EERSS at a time, and over 20,000 meals—all donated through the young entrepreneurs’ contacts—had been served.
“It was unbelievable,” says Panesar. “Food was way beyond the scope of what I had imagined, and at times we felt like we weren’t doing enough. But we quickly recognized that armies march on their stomachs.” Jenkins adds, “In order to keep people going we needed to keep them fed.”
As it were, coordinating food was just the beginning. The charity didn’t have the funds for an operation of that size. While the donation reception and distribution tried to run smoothly, food had to be supplied, delivered, disposed of due to lack of refrigeration and replenished. Panesar and Jenkins made the latter possible but call it a “small contribution” compared to the bigger story. Before the first dollar arrived to support its ballooning efforts, the EERSS had already catalogued and served over 57,000 evacuees.
Imagine 57,000 toothbrushes in a room. Now picture 57,000 of everything else you would need if you were forced to flee your home. That’s how many donations it took, that’s how many items had to be coordinated. Working as efficiently as possible, volunteers listed requests for specific donations, like diapers and pillows, on a poster board with a sharpie, photographed it and posted the image on Facebook. And to run the equivalent of a 24-hour business, with 6,000 rotating employees and little to no permanent management or scheduling, the IT friends used WhatsApp and 10 strategically-shared tablets that were donated to them by Microsoft on request. “
We witnessed the purest form of humanity during that time,” says Jenkins.
“Edmonton, as the integrated and whole community I know it to be, was completely represented through this,” adds Panesar. Sadly, despite the Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society’s valiant efforts, it’s struggling to survive. Its lease expired on Oct. 31 and the provincially owned building, now up for sale, was deemed “at the end of its life” by the Alberta Infrastructure Minister. Though the agency can stay put until there’s a “sold” sticker on the For Lease sign, the organization that helped thousands of Fort McMurrians who lost their homes could have its roles reversed and be homeless itself.
In the two years he’s lived in Oliver, Leslie Bush has had an impressively large fingerprint on the community. He has promoted sustainable living as treasurer for the Local Good, cofounded the Edmonton Tool Library so that no downtowner goes hammerless and he’s become an integral part of the Secret Alley Gallery project by imbuing unexpected places with exciting artworks. He began his city-building efforts as a 14-year-old with the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society, where he worked as a volunteer mechanic. His work has continued to expand throughout Edmonton. “Once you start volunteering you always get asked to volunteer,” he jokes. Somehow he’s made time for municipal and provincial politics, door-knocking and fundraising for parties big and small, to contribute to what he thinks is right. “I want to make Edmonton the best city it can be,” he says. “The only way to do that is to get involved and get people to do the same.”
If you spend much time at farmers’ markets and community events around downtown, odds are you have witnessed Kirsta Franke’s hard work firsthand. The Rossdale resident has played an indispensable role in planning the All is Bright Festival, Nuit Blanche and the Winter City Shake-up—major events that get people interacting in the core at street-level. Ditto for the 124 St. Grand Market—the Thursday night summer event Franke founded has activated a chunk of Oliver and celebrates local artisans. Her company Wildheart Collective has operated out of Westmount for six years. A proponent of the farm-to-fork movement, Franke spreads the philosophy of local sustainability to kids through an educational program called Little Beans, where she teaches them how to be discerning consumers and make informed choices about food in our city. She admits to a time when she wanted to ditch Edmonton for a city that already exemplified the qualities and attractions she’s now fostering here. Luckily for us, she decided to stay and focus on life in the core. “That’s why I live and work downtown,” she says. “There is definitely some magic happening.” —RF
Best Citizen on Four Legs
Fergy of the Wee Book Inn
FERGY AT WEE BOOK INN Hemingway, Burroughs and Twain all counted cats amongst their muses, so what better animal-in-residence for a bookstore than a regal feline? You’ll find Fergy in the shop’s window, curled in bookshelf corners or grooming her luscious, apricot-hued coat atop a stack of paperbacks. Not averse to play, she’ll expect you to toss around one of her plush mice on your next visit. 10332 Jasper Ave., weebookinn.com
Smudge at the Hotel MacDonald The Canine Ambassador of Fairmont’s stately hotel is a welcome sight for weary travellers. Home-sick guests can request to take the Yellow Lab for walks as they explore the core. 10065 100 St., fairmont.com/ macdonald-edmonton
Mystique at the “Rainbow House” The fluffy coat and sly smile of this gentle tabby is as much a staple to Oliver residents as the rainbow-bright fence he perches on. The Rainbow House, 99 Ave. and 112.St. —JP
Best Annual Event
CARIWEST The can’t-miss fête was once a part of the K-Days parade, but has morphed over the last three decades into a separate three-day festival, starting with a flamboyant parade that always seems to appear loudly out of nowhere. Revel in live reggae, sip some rum, feast on jerk chicken and ogle the colourful costumes at this celebration of Caribbean heritage every August. cariwest.ca
Up + Downtown Festival New to Festival City, this weekend-long, multi-genre music festival in the fall appeals to the rockers, punkers and everyone in between. With the addition of stand-up comedy and craft beer tours, it could become our own tiny SXSW. updt.ca
…Kickoff to Winter Patio Season Party (formerly Farewell to Winter Patio Party)
Let it snow—because regardless of the weather, these bars and restaurants want to remind you that every season is patio season during this annual weekend party. wintercityedmonton.ca —NW
Best Unconventional Spots for Stretching
YOGA IN THE GALLERY Awaken your chakras and escape the “busy trap” every week with yogi Tori Lunden inside the airy spaces of the Art Gallery of Alberta. Classes are inspired by the changing exhibits and are intended to not only stretch your body, but stimulate your mind as well. Sessions run for eight weeks; snag a drop-in pass for only $12. 2 Churchill Sq., youraga.ca
Gentle Hatha with Keely
Wind down with yogi Keely Scott every Tuesday evening from 6 to 7:45 p.m. at the Oliver Community League Hall. Offering affordable sessions for OCL members, this beginner hatha class will help you connect body and breath in your everyday practice. 10326 118 St., olivercommunity.com
Yoga in Churchill Square Looking to squeeze in a quick sweat session on your lunch break? Forget those lame “deskercises” and get stretched en masse on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 12:30–1:30 p.m. Churchill Square, edmontonarts.ca —BN
Best Architectural Transformation
THE FEDERAL BUILDING Despite being over budget and schedule —and that unfortunate “Skypalace” business—the once dormant Federal building’s renovation is a triumph of modern architecture. Featuring an expansive Visitor Centre, it does more than add office space for government needs: it creates a connection between the government and Albertans, offering educational films in the Pehonan theatre, an “Alberta” branded retail store and “living walls” blanketed with lush greenery. 9820 107 St.
Kelly Ramsay Block After an arson destroyed it, this historic building on the sadly underappreciated Rice Howard Way was demolished and partly recreated. The facade was rebuilt, originalbrick-by-original-brick, and topped with the 25-storey Enbridge Centre. 100A St. and Rice Howard Way
Williams Engineering Building Many protested the demolition of the 49-year old Bank of Montreal building, fearing it would be replaced by something unsightly. Instead a stunning contemporary multiuse structure, defined by its angular beauty, was put in its place—maybe going down in history itself. 200, 10065 Jasper Ave. —RF
Best Architectural Renovation
J.T. ROSS HOUSE While planning Oliver’s newest residential tower, the Hendrix, Edgar Development took the initiative to preserve the J.T. Ross house and incorporate it into its design. Reinvigorated as a boutique ofce space, the century-old house lends character to the otherwise contemporary townhouse and apartment complex. 9733 111St.
The Mountafield Residence A comprehensive process—including referencing historic photos for re-creation—and a pretty penny were required to restore one of Oliver’s earliest permanent residences, a French Second Empire style house, to its former glory. 9850 112 St.
Alberta Hotel Once considered the best hotel west of Winnipeg, architect Gene Dub gave it a second life decades after it was carefully disassembled. Now, the Calgary sandstone walls, older than the province itself, house a restaurant, venue and CKUA radio station. 9802 Jasper Ave. —RF
It’s The Yards second birthday! But, please, save the streamers and cake—or at least pass them on to these people, places and passions that we celebrate every winter in this annual tribute. Because we here at the magazine and partnering community leagues are crazy about our neighbourhood. We really believe it to be the best in the Edmonton. And that would make this year’s award winners—chosen by staff, volunteers and writers—the best of the best.
You’ve heard the grumbling—or you’ve grumbled it yourself: “Downtown parking is a major pain!” The prices seem to have skyrocketed. The stock of stalls feels like a shadow of its former self. And if things couldn’t get worse, we now have to memorize Rogers Place’s schedule if we plan to use metered parking after 6 p.m. But how much of our Downtown parking woes are warranted? What’s hyperbole and what’s myth? And to what extent does our “suffering” have to do with being spoiled with abundant and cheap parking for so long in this city?
The reality is our parking woes are blown out of proportion. Although the construction boom of the last few years has gobbled up a few parking lots, there are still 9,000 parking stalls within a five-minute walk of the Ice District—enough drivers to populate half the seats on game day—plus 9,000 more just five-minutes further. These stalls can be hard to come by at ofce hours, but during evenings and weekends the mostly sit empty. That is, until the arena opened. Now we’re seeing lots function the full day.
When it comes to prices, it’s true that the evening rate can be as high as $36, or as low as $9, according to Parking Panda (an app that lets you reserve your spot ahead). But keep in mind that it was subsidized by abundance for a long time. In 2010, according to Colliers International, Edmonton had the lowest parking rates of Canada’s six metropolises, with a median price of $14 per day (compared to Calgary’s $22 and Toronto’s $23). That’s been on a steady rise—but so has our Downtown skyline. And if people find alternative ways to get downtown then the prices around Rogers Place may soften.
Also: there’s Uber. And Pogo Carshare. And TappCar. It’s actually a great time to leave your car behind for these services. Taking all alternatives into consideration, the City of Edmonton predicts a Rogers Place event only needs about 6,000 stalls.
“But why would I trust the City after they botched the arena by not building a parkade?” you ask. There’s some truth to this: underground parking for 2,000 vehicles will gradually be made available until completion in 2019, and certainly the City did people with disabilities no favours without this. If the City is unprepared, it’s because WAM and Katz Group built Rogers Place at a staggering speed to beat the end of the Oilers lease at Rexall Place. However, the temporary gravel lot north of the arena is a proximal and temporary solution. But we should not get comfortable with it—the biggest impediment to our revitalizing core would be placating more surface parking at the expense of more retail, residences and Downtown vibrancy.
That said, street parking is important for street retail. Small businesses rely on it for turnover, which is why DECL is opposed to allowing five-hour limits during events. In a lot of ways, our parking woes are symptomatic of Downtown—and Edmonton— being very much in a “teenage” stage of development. Mass transit is not fully developed, bike lanes aren’t installed yet and ongoing construction hoarding (see p. 16) is frustrating to say the least. But it will pass, and at the other end of this is a matured Downtown that we’ll be happier to spend time in—no matter how we get there.
You’ve seen them: the green sheds that mysteriously appear in nearly every community park across Edmonton each June—bringing kids crafts, sports and good cheer—only to disappear in September. If only these “Green Shacks,” a collaboration between the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL), operated year-round. Well, that could soon be the case.
Thanks to a 2015 pilot project they’ve extended the free recreational programming of eight shacks, including Oliver’s, well into the winter months. According to Cara Rose, a municipal recreation programs manager, the winter activities come as a part of Edmonton’s long-term vision to animate local community playgrounds year-round, and encourage children to appreciate the outdoors even in the colder months. That’s why you may have noticed kids frolicking at Oliver Park during 2016’s first snowfall.
City officials who coordinate the Green Shacks Program—which boasts about 275,000 visits a year—worked with leagues to determine the best places for winter programming. They considered factors like the child population of each area, past attendance and how much access to recreational programming each neighbourhood had already. “The City works very hard to ensure we are meeting the needs in a neighbourhood and providing varied and accessible recreational opportunities for families,” explains Sheila Muxlow, a community relations coordinator with the City.
In addition to regular programming, such as free-for-all dodgeball, painting and hide-and-seek, Green Shack coordinators had the chance this year to focus on winter-based activities like tobogganing, outdoor cooking and educational games. The fun took place during those chilly, darkening afternoons, but focused on light. For instance, kids had an opportunity to enjoy stargazing and then learn about diferent constellations around a warm fire. As Oliver Green Shack coordinator Ezra Comeau puts it, “Good programming can’t be restrained by weather. Children will always find a way to play in any conditions, and this winter programming gives children a perfect outlet for activity during our longest season of the year.”
The City is currently in the second year of its three-year budget programming, ending in early 2018. Oliver’s Green Shack can be found in Oliver Park (118 St. and 103 Ave.) from June till August, then again through October and November. For hours and activities, or to find another Green Shack near you go to efcl.org/2016-green-shacks.
Churches of all denominations have played a significant role in establishing Edmonton’s earliest communities. For example, Alberta College (the antecedent to MacEwan University) was founded in 1903 by members of MacDougall’s Church board, while Robertson-Wesley United Church was instrumental in nursing sufferers of the Spanish Flu. But what about today? What larger role do they play?
Community-mindedness has never been lost amidst its religious mandates. Take, for instance, the work initiated by a handful of area pastors and reverends working, well, religiously, on projects for the neighbourhood at large—not just Sunday congregants.
Curtis Boehm started using Grace Lutheran Church as a resource for the Oliver community after joining the church in July 2014. In addition to its already well-established yearly garage sale, the pastor started organizing an indoor basketball club for the neighbourhood inside its gym every Tuesday at 7 p.m. He also led the creation of the Oliver Bike Club, which meets weekly from snowmelt to snowfall. “I’m really interested in building community activities so I can meet my neighbours,” Boehm explains, “I want to be a pastor of Oliver!”
Similarly, pastor Nick Trussell of Christ Church successfully applied for a Make Something Oliver (MSO) grant this past June to partially fund BBQ on the Block. This series of four free biweekly barbecues between July and August were well aligned with the OCL’s strategic goals, says MSO director Anika Gee. “The event welcomed all community members, not just those of the church; it made the project even more exciting.” She says Christ Church’s project let neighbourhood residents meet in person and hopefully develop lasting relationships.
Building a better community is also the theme of Robertson-Wesley’s Spirited Art Studio, which is open to creatives of every stripe Monday nights from 7 to 8:30 p.m. According to Karen Bridges, minister of congregation and community development, the free event invites people to come together and create something based on a specific theme or question. “This program is a great network which connects people’s passions and helps them find a way to offer what they have to others,” she says. The goal isn’t far from the ideals held by the Abundant Community Initiative, which Robertson-Wesley sponsored. “We provided funds through our trust fund, which are designated for community outreach.”
“The Church is there for the community,” explains Boehm. “A fellow pastor even recommended I get involved with the OCL as soon as I started.” Though Boehm recently stepped down as OCL’s volunteer director, he says that the connections he’s made have helped him understand his audience better. “Where you live, where you are, where you go,” he says, “that’s where your work is.” And that, for these generous souls, means Oliver.