As the summer sun sets, the crowds that blossomed in Churchill Square blow their seeds west, to an L-shaped strip that comes alive every fall with the vast majority of downtown’s 30,000 students. Following the marketing trend of “district-ifying” downtown (Ice District, Warehouse District, etc.), Norquest College, one of 10 post-secondaries within this region, has nick-named it the Education District.
But you don’t need official demarcation to see this district take shape. These colleges are quickly developing new campuses, parks, student housing and parking garages to accommodate a student population set to grow by nearly 40 per cent, according to the Downtown Business Association.
What’s this mean for the future of our neighbourhoods? Find out on p. 19, where recent MacEwan graduate and VICE Media writer Mack Lamoureux investigates. As a bonus, he shares with the next cohort of Oliver and Downtown pupils what he knows about finding cheap rides, food and beer.
Even if your keg-stand days are over, it’s never too late to pursue some form of learning. This fall begins the lengthy process of remodelling the Oliver side of Jasper Ave. and potentially transforming it from a seven-lane thoroughfare to a pleasant promenade. I say potentially, because it depends on what residents want. Our cover story (p. 14) looks into the problems and possible solutions for our main street.
Maybe civics isn’t your cup of higher education. What about whiskey tasting and printmaking? I doubt you’ll snooze through the list of casual classes assembled for you on p. 8. It’s written by Brittany Nugent, who, like Lamoureux, is a MacEwan talent and downtown neighbour. Same goes for Jyllian Park (“Man About Downtown”; p. 7) and Allison Voisin (“The Human Touch”; p. 12). These four writers—pulled to our neighbourhood for an education, now helping us see it differently—show how making Downtown and Oliver a student destination could enrich it for everybody.
That’s probably not what comes to mind when you think of the students next door. One’s more likely to wince at the late-night revelry and fast-food restaurants that will follow—and no doubt they will, and already have. But I, for one, welcome the next generation to our core neighbourhoods. Not just because they’ll offer much needed vivacity to our public streets at night, but because they may also be the next generation of Edmontonians.
Maybe by immersing themselves in the city centre, instead of being segregated in a traditional university campus, they’ll see Edmonton’s inner-workings, grow attached, and stick around. In a world where cities compete amongst each other for global talent, creating an environment in which they want to hang up their hats—and degrees—could be to all of Edmonton’s advantage.