— The List —

4 Best in the Core, circa 2022

An Edmonton dreamer imagines what we need next

What could be ‘Best of the Core’ winners in five years, and why? We talked with Edmonton starchitect Michael Zabinski to find out.

Michael Zabinski co-designed the new funicular and the Regenerating Rossdale proposal.

1. A Re-Imagined Best Buy

Having a Best Buy downtown is “pretty awesome,” Zabinski says. But the current, parking-focused design at 104 Avenue and 109 Street needs a rethink. To make it a 2022 Best-Of winner, Zabinksi recommends pushing the parking underground, putting small-scale retail on the ground floor to animate the street — including along the Railtown Park connection at back — and moving the Best Buy upstairs, just like you see in dense downtowns like Vancouver. Above it all? Residential units to serve MacEwan students and professionals.

2. Life in the Laneways

Zabinski thinks the laneways running between streets and behind buildings on 104 Street and Rice Howard Way have big potential. The laneways have historically been lanes for service vehicles, but today they’re also used as pedestrian-first shortcuts. Zabinski imagines small retail tucked into them, as well as lighting features, hidden art or other items of interest to give pedestrians reasons to stay in the lanes.

3. Digging Discovery

Zabinski says we need to look at downtown’s under-used spaces — underground. “The most interesting cities I’ve visited provide unique opportunities for discovery. Some of the greatest restaurants, bars and galleries are hidden from view, either tucked away in a forgotten basement or up on a secret rooftop.” Take the old Fanny’s Fabrics, underneath Dialog Architecture’s office on 104 Street: The mostly-vacant subterranean space has glass-enclosed bays that could be an underground marketplace or makerspace, he says.

4. Grandin Junction

In October 2017, Zabinski and others released a project proposal called the High Level Line. One of its most ambitious parts was called Grandin Junction.
The proposal: Connect the legislature grounds to Ezio Faraone Park “with a sweeping greenspace bridging above the traffic,” Zabinski says. “This expanded park would integrate into the existing LRT network, and bring pedestrians, cyclists, and streetcar users to a stunning vantage point overlooking the North Saskatchewan river valley, providing a wide range of uses through all seasons.”