Open Streets

It’s a question some cities have pondered, only to arrive at a similar answer: streets are open when they’re for people, and closed when they’re exclusively for moving vehicles. While many European cities now aim to open their streets by closing their downtowns to private vehicles in the near future, we aren’t even close to that here in the car-crazed Americas. But Edmonton could still learn a thing or two from other cities in our own backyard.

CITY Bogota APPROACH Cyclovia

Imagine 1.7-million people showing up for anything. Next, imagine this happening every Sunday. That’s the success of Cyclovia, the world’s most popular public recreation event. It all started in 1974, when Bogota did that most basic of things and opened streets to people and closed them to automobiles. Today, 122 kilometres of streets are returned each Sunday to a staggering 1.7-million (a quarter of the city population) walkers, cyclists, joggers, strollers, crawlers, rollerbladers, dancers … well, you get the point.

CITY Ottawa APPROACH Bike days

Ottawa’s Sunday Bikedays see Colonel By Drive—which meanders its way to the footsteps of Parliament Hill—closed to anyone who isn’t using active transportation. And this has been happening since 1970. Today, each Sunday, more than 50 kilometres of roadway in Ottawa is opened to anyone but those in automobiles. And it’s become a centrepiece of the city. “The Sunday Bikeday program is the National Capital Commission’s longest standing program, a staple in the quality of life for local residents,” says Jean Wolff, a spokesperson with the NCC.

CITY Montreal APPROACH Pedestrian only

Montreal has a staggering 56 streets that are pedestrian only during the summer months to increase its already mesmerizing street vibrancy. Streets and businesses are competing to be added to the tally. The latest are in The Plateau, Saint-Laurent and La Petite-Patrie. One of the originals, on Saint Catherine in the Gay Village, has helped revitalize the area and has become iconic, with the Rainbow Ball art installation that hangs above it becoming known internationally as “Montreal.”


Family Trees

What makes a heritage plant? And who decides it’s a heritage plant in the first place?

Before I answer that, allow me to tell a few stories.

In the early 1920s, Walter Holowash fell in love with Vienna’s chestnut trees. He was in the Austrian city studying violin. Walter then smuggled at least one seed in his luggage when he returned home to Edmonton. His father, Sam, planted it in their backyard.

While the Holowash family home is now long gone, Walter’s chestnut seedling stands 40 feet tall and wide, in an alley just off of Jasper Avenue and 106 Street. Its chestnuts are not edible. Still, the Holowash chestnut is an uncommon sight in Edmonton — especially placed between downtown office towers.

East of the Holowash chestnut, at the funicular, you can see another tree that came from elsewhere: wild goji berries. These trees cover the north slopes of the valley. Edmonton’s wild goji berries are
believed to be the holdouts of at least one of 15 Chinese market gardens that dotted the river valley in the early twentieth century. Goji, a Chinese culinary plant, whose berries and leaves often end up in soups, were brought to Edmonton by early Chinese immigrants wanting to grow familiar fruit and vegetables.

The plants now cover large portions of the core — the funicular, Hotel MacDonald, the Shaw Conference Centre, Louise McKinney Park and Riverdale all have goji patches.

But while Holowash’s chestnut is a recognized heritage tree, there is there little recognition of the historical and cultural value of the city’s wild goji.

So back to the question: what makes one a heritage plant and the other not?

From what I can tell, four things give a plant heritage status and protection in Edmonton. Novelty. Historical reference. Time. And, as cliché as it sounds, love.

Most importantly, somebody needs to care enough about a plant to advocate on its behalf. Somebody needs to say, “I think this is worth acknowledging, preserving, and knowing about.”

The Holowash chestnut had that. To quote Heritage Trees of Alberta, a 2008 book published by the Heritage Tree Foundation of Canada: “A developer proposed to clear all the trees for a parking lot, but agreed to save the chestnut when Earl Andrusiak, a bank official, authorized a purchase loan contingent on the tree’s survival.”

Andrusiak cared. Developers, city planners, citizens — and in this case, bankers — won’t preserve what they don’t care about. But why care at all? Are plants that important to downtown Edmonton?

I think they are.

According to estimates by, each year, Edmonton’s downtown trees save half a million kilowatt-hours of energy needed for heating and cooling. They suck up 1.7 million gallons of water, remove 12,000 pounds of air pollution, and remove half a million pounds of carbon from the atmosphere. Trees moderate temperature extremes, calm the wind and make urban streets welcoming for humans.

Trees are living monuments whose lives span human generations. Heritage trees, offer a simultaneous connection to our past and future. Heritage plants nod to the people and cultures that planted them.

Twenty feet down from a goji patch, sandwiched between the Shaw and the Courtyard Hotel, stands a mature native balsam poplar tree, dated 1932. While it is old by Edmonton standards and undeniably beautiful, I know nothing of its backstory. Other than that someone cared about it.

I recently contacted the City’s Historic Resource department who primarily deal with the built environment. While they confirmed that heritage trees are in the City’s heritage inventory there doesn’t presently exist a clear path forward for nominating new plants.

I would love to see this change. And I would like to work with the community to identify tomorrow’s heritage plants. So, if you love a tree and think that it’s worth acknowledging and preserving, be in touch.

Dustin Bajer is passionate about integrating nature into cities. He is an educator, beekeeper and urban tree farmer. Send him an email at

Creative Awareness

ON THE STREET, MEN HAVE YELLED AT me, touched me, trapped me to talk to me and tried to get me into their cars. My stories are upsetting but common. Street harassment is the reality for women, non-binary, Trans, and queer people in the core.

Indeed, downtown Edmonton has a street-harassment problem. I live here, and it’s impossible to go through a summer week without someone yelling at me or invading my personal space to try to force an interaction. And while this isn’t a new phenomenon, the way downtown is being developed means it’s growing. New developments are drawing more people downtown, and shifting some of the party culture away from Strathcona and into the core.

What we need to do now is to get creative to find ways to increase awareness around how common this all is. Thankfully, we are starting to do just that.

Locally, small efforts have been made, like the Transit safety campaign, which displays ads encouraging riders to look out for one another. But my favourite project so far is the This is What it Feels Like exhibit, at MacEwan University, which invited participants to step inside a dimly-lit booth while comments women hear yelled at them are played back to them.

Sitting in the booth, you’ll hear: “You’re pretty — for a native girl,” and “You’re beautiful — smile for me.”

And every once in a while, on some downtown construction board or a light post, I spot a stencil from artist Tatyana Fazlalizadah, wheat-pasted to a street light or construction barrier. It will feature a woman of colour looking regal and serious above the words, “Stop telling women to smile” or “Respect women.”

These kinds of projects give me hope. They let people know about the issue. Art is uniquely able to help us experience what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes.

Still, moments experiencing street-harassment can limit a woman’s life. They can dictate what we wear, where we go. It used to be that you had to expect this: Men are awful, we’re told, and it’s our responsibility as women to deal with that. Cover up. Don’t go out at night. Be a good girl.

We have to do better than that for future generations. We have to because street harassment is more than just words, and it will take more than the government to solve our problems.

When I tell men my stories of street harassment, the common refrain is that they have never seen anyone being harassed. Sometimes they have their own stories of dealing with drunk and boorish men and women. Sometimes, they say, they wish people would also yell ‘compliments’ at them the way I apparently get them. Sometimes, they ask what I was wearing.

It is tough to have your experiences dismissed. That needs to change. It’s up to people to change their culture. Women are speaking out in historic numbers about sexual violence. It is up to all of us to listen.

Baby Bumps

Many years ago, when my youngest niece was a baby, I took her out and about to give her mom — my sister — a break. It was then I learned how difficult it is to move around Edmonton with a young child.

We had the contraption where you strap the baby to your front torso and step out into the world as though you are a kookum out hunting moose (mine’s never hunted moose, by the way). But when my back couldn’t take it anymore I would bundle my niece up in a stroller. And then came the lessons.

Have you ever tried to take a baby in a stroller on an ETS bus? It is awful. People roll their eyes before (or if) they make room. Even worse, just getting to the bus stop can be difficult because you have to navigate puddles, people and deteriorating sidewalks.

So, between the clunky stroller barely fitting our often narrow, often poorly-lit sidewalks, the bus challenges and the cat calls — yes even while pushing a baby stroller — I came to realize that Edmonton is not designed with all women, mothers or caregivers in mind.

But who are cities like ours made for, then? It helps to look at who it works best for.

Mo Bot, an urbanist who works as a planner for the City of Edmonton, is passionate about the concept of universal design. Bot says different groups use city infrastructure differently. Take the bus, for example. “Studies [have] found that men tend to take the bus twice a day — to and from work,” she says.

Women, on the other hand, tend to use public transit with far more variance, and tend to make more trips on foot, too. Bot says they do something called “trip chaining,” which essentially means they often make multiple stops while riding the bus between home and work. You know, to pick up the dry cleaning, then the kids from school or the doctor, and then the groceries.

What matters here is whose life you make harder if you design, say, a transit system that works only for your city’s purely work commuters (a majority of whom, in this case, are men) and not its many other users.

I can already hear the “But-what-about-the-men?!” cries. Yes, parenting can be done by any gender, and there are more than two binaries to consider when discussing universal design. But the point is if you make a city accessible to everyone you’ll make it better for everyone.

The question is how. And this was Kalen Anderson’s point for her recent Pecha Kucha presentation on urban design.

Anderson is director of planning coordination for the City of Edmonton. She started her presentation with a quote from urbanist Gil Penalosa, that the best way to evaluate a city is to ask how well it treats the most vulnerable people — “The children, the older adults and the poor.”

She says core neighborhoods are the most important places in the city. “They need to provide holistic opportunities for people to live.” But, Anderson says, Edmonton’s core is not doing that well enough at the moment. “If you want to see how a community works look no further than the way it welcomes children,” she says — noting the core could well improve on that front.

My trips with my niece taught me about the importance of bus seating, wide sidewalks in good repair, better lighting. City design should serve those caring for children, or those with different abilities or of different ages, just as equally as everyone else.

Why Kids Belong Downtown

Anti-child discrimination in housing comes into focus as group forms to fight it


Should our downtown and core neighbourhoods welcome kids and families? It’s a question that’s about to get messier than a playpen in Alberta.

As you may have read or experienced, in Alberta a landlord can still refuse to rent to tenants with children, and a condominium board can still evict an owner (yes, an owner) or resident who contravenes an adult-only building bylaw by having the audacity to get pregnant.

Ouch, right? Well, it depends who you ask.

Many Albertans opine that kids disrupt what’s apparently guaranteed to be a placid condo lifestyle — or so social media commentary suggests. And as these commenters often add, what parent would choose to raise their child in a downtown apartment or condo, when we have perfectly nice suburbs, exurbs and bedroom communities for that?

The conversation about where kids and families belong in Edmonton became heated this spring when, in April, the Child Friendly Housing Coalition of Alberta (CFHCA) launched a campaign to end age based discrimination in housing. The group had its eye firmly on areas like Oliver and downtown, which see large amounts of multi-unit apartment and condominium housing and often, child-blocking age restrictions applied to that housing.

The group has been spurred to act by a January 2017 high court decision that, by next year, will see Alberta become the last Canadian province to add age as a prohibited ground of discrimination. The province also has until next year to decide which age discriminations it will uphold (think needing to be 16 to drive, 18 to drink, and so on).

Some developers and industry advocates are hoping the government keeps adult-only housing as one form of legal age discrimination.

Aside from the laws, however, what many seem unable to grasp is the choice bit. Some of us choose to live downtown or in Oliver because we prefer that to other options. We’re not just saving up for the ‘burbs, and we might also want to have children while living here.


But when it comes to choice, there’s often little of it in downtown and Oliver for housing that’s usable for a family (three bedroom apartments, condos or townhomes) in Edmonton.


Raj Dhunna, CEO of Regency Developments, told the National Post in April that the cost to build townhouse units—for example, three bedroom, multi-unit housing—puts their price uncomfortably close to what a buyer can find a single-detached home selling for in a greenfield suburb. Dhunna said that made these units hard to sell, and that’s why he and other developers don’t really build them.

As a 30-something millennial who’s lived in an apartment her entire adult life, I’m always perplexed by arguments like Dhunna’s. They assume all consumers make housing choices based solely on economic factors, rather than a web of social, economic, transportation and lifestyle preferences.

They also assume we will always choose the suburbs in lieu of the urban life that we love, if they’re cheaper. Such comments also plunge me into selfdoubt. By still living in an apartment, am I pathetically trying to extend my youth? Do I lack the gene that allows other adults to enjoy lawn care?

Hard to say, but I don’t seem to be an outlier.

The City of Edmonton’s 2015 Growth Monitoring Report states that, “vibrant and attractive urban cores have begun to change the way in which we plan. Millennials’ […] movement into urban centres has helped shift investment from the suburbs, and developers and businesses have begun to follow, by building condominiums and locating businesses in these urban areas in an attempt to capitalize on this generation’s desired lifestyle.”

A shift to investment in urban areas like downtown and Oliver can only work if people of all ages are welcome. That must include parents, kids and families.

If you agree and want to end discrimination against children in housing, there’s now a group you can add your voice to.

Chelsey Jersak lives in one of downtown’s kid-friendly condos. She’s the founder and principal of Situate, a municipal planning and placemaking firm, and a founding member of CFHCA. For more information, see

Will the City of Edmonton Get Real on Sidewalk Hoarding?

At times, as you walk along those wooden pathways reminiscent of old-timey boardwalks, downtown Edmonton feels like Fort Edmonton. Construction hoarding—especially those dead ends with bright orange “Sidewalk Closed” barriers—permeate the core. The list of downtown sidewalks that have become adventures in detouring is too long to name, but a few stand out: the 7th Street Annex, whose glacial construction on 104 Ave. has frustrated MacEwan students from junior year to graduation; or the City of Edmonton’s own new office tower which hogged the sidewalk for most of its construction, forcing pedestrians to criss-cross through the Ice District or (illegally) walk with traffic. But with more people living downtown—and intent on using their feet—the City is finally ready for change. A proposed policy in 2015 could force builders to keep sidewalks open or relocate them in the streets, whenever possible. It’s the first attempt to balance pedestrian needs with traffic flow and construction work.

hoardingPrior to the proposal, and amidst the downtown construction boom and residential resurgence, hoarding became a major issue. The Fox Towers on 104 St. were the breaking point for residents. Construction consumed one of two laneways, but also made it impossible for people to walk along what’s supposed to be a key downtown attraction. “When you see a sidewalk that you use all the time disappear, you’re more likely to raise a fuss about it,” says Ward 6 Coun. Scott McKeen. In the summer of 2014, McKeen, on request of his constituents, asked administration to investigate a better way.

Up to that point the city had no policy on how sidewalk hoarding affected pedestrians—only on how it affected traffic. “It’s a symptom of regulations that don’t fully consider people,” Max Amerongen from Paths for People, an advocacy group for active transportation, explains of the policy currently on the books. The closed sidewalks aren’t just an inconvenience but evidence of a disconnect between the pursuit of walkability and the reality on the ground. Instead of squeezing a lane of trafc to open a pedestrian path, it’s been easier for the city to shut down the sidewalk. “[The policy] was a fairly small decision to say we have to look at ways to ensure there are still safe sidewalk areas for people,” says McKeen. The investigation into practices revealed an internal communications failure. Project approvals require numerous departments in the process. Building permits in sustainable development evaluate the developer’s need for space and ensures the permit works with Alberta Safety Codes standards, while transportation evaluates access for pedestrians and vehicles. Yet the two didn’t communicate effectively, so as construction plans were approved by sustainable development, there was little opportunity for other departments to include pedestrian and transit access. Hoarding would obstruct sidewalks and bus stops. The main result of the 2015 policy proposal is that it would make departments aware they had to talk to one another and, hopefully, do better.

“We recognized that we need to circulate [information] to a lot of areas—parks and rec, overhead power lines, transit,” says Roger Clemens, who oversees building  permits in sustainable development. Previously, his department would overlook how construction affected a bus stop or alternate walking routes. Now there is some advance communication to prevent some of these oversights.

It’s still hard to detect real change because many of the construction boom’s developments were approved before 2015. Soon, however, we’ll see much more consideration given to the pedestrian experience, as builders are now encouraged to consider pedestrians more. It’s the best the City can do until policy approval, but the proposed laws could go further. In cities such as Toronto, developers are required to use vertical space, building space up instead of out, to hold construction equipment and worker space. Edmonton’s future doesn’t encourage this option, nor does it charge a fee structure that would penalize contractors using sidewalk space, a major incentive to overlook pedestrians. There is also no way to measure if a balance between pedestrian needs and traffic is being met.

Brad Vanderhoek, with traffic control, says that as the City emphasizes walkability in more planning processes, the solutions to sidewalk obstruction could become easier. Initiatives such as the recently passed minimum grid for bike lanes and Vision Zero (a pedestrian safety initiative) will begin to integrate pedestrian and cyclist access everyday, he says.

But for hoarding specifically, design requirements could set minimum standards for pedestrian-friendly detours and could lessen the amount of public space that’s hoarded. Perhaps most effectively, a fee structure that charges companies more for using sidewalk space as much as it does roads would help to keep companies accountable. One suggestion made in the early stages of the development of the 2015 policy was to discount fees for companies who created visually appealing hoarding.

McKeen is skeptical that the fee structure in place is adequate. The problem, he argues, is largely an issue of cars being prioritized for so long. “As a community we’ve put cars, in a hierarchy, [to be] much more important than the pedestrian. We’re at a stage of maturation that other cities probably went through far earlier.”

Will Edmonton Seriously Enforce Noise Bylaws Against Loud Motorbikes?


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.

How Community Groups Can Help Refugees Settle

church 4

Over 1,400 Syrian refugees have moved to Edmonton since November and at least 1,000 more are to come. To help them settle, community-based groups like DECL and All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral are pitching in. “In dire times, we’re called to help [anyone] regardless of race, religion or anything,” says Chris Pilon, community engagement coordinator of All Saints’.

All Saints’ will soon assist one Syrian family. The church formed a sponsorship steering committee, and has raised about $45,000 to sponsor the family for a year. Equally valuable are the dozens of volunteers ready to greet them, arrange medical appointments, help with job hunting and so on. DECL also informally approached the church in fall 2015 about its planned response to the Syrian crisis; it’s committed to participating in any suitable capacity.

The chief concern for arriving refugees isn’t integration but navigation, says Pilon. Understanding housing, utilities, transportation, banking and schools in Canada’s comparatively bureaucratic society is complex. These hurdles can overwhelm anyone, and immigrants often have a limited grasp of English, which makes navigation harder. Even after short-term necessities are managed, refugees face ongoing challenges. They may worry about how to support their families after the sponsorship ends.

Pilon, who is also a DECL board member, says community leagues play a vital role in assisting refugees because their members are naturally passionate about their communities and want to share them with newcomers, whether from Syria or St. John’s. They also have connections to organizations, business owners and other resources that make them valuable sources of knowledge.

Leagues can also waive membership fees, supply information on their services and programs, and provide a liaison to connect families to programs directly. “If there are cultural issues happening, [leagues] could help to explain things to the families in a non-confrontational way,” says Elizabeth Nash. She recently formed the Refugee Response Group with members of the North Glenora Community League and Robertson- Wesley United Church. “These families come from very close-knit communities, and feeling welcome in their new neighbourhoods is very important for their integration.”

The North Glenora-sponsored family is a multi-generational family from Aleppo— four adults, three teenagers and six young children. They lived in a Lebanese camp for over two years after fleeing Syria in 2013, following an explosion outside their home. Laws restricted the adults from working, so the young boys took to selling paper on the street to support their extended family. They arrived in Edmonton in February, but the eldest daughter, her husband and their two children remain in Lebanon. Nash’s group is working with another community-based group in Glenora to reunite them. To show their appreciation, the family recently bought, butchered and cooked a goat for a thank-you dinner.

Pilon looks forward to the day he can see All Saints’ sponsored family comfortable, confident and beginning to feel at home in Edmonton. He hopes to meet them at a local event, not as refugees that the church sponsored, but as “fellow Edmontonians” who ventured out independently to enjoy their community.

Grey Area

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Source: Wikipedia Commons

(Editor’s Note: In March 2016, Greyhound officially announced that it would move alongside Via Rail’s northwest station.)

After two failed attempts at securing a new home, Greyhound is attempting to lease space from Via Rail’s northwest location, an area without transit service. As the city has increased its focus on accessible transit, the relocation of central Edmonton’s intercity transport hub has some thinking that it’s a move in the opposite direction.

“I’m worried about people who would be stranded,” says Coun. Bev Esslinger. Greyhound customer surveys show that 40 per cent of riders have daily access to cars, and the same percentage of riders are from households with an income under $25,000. The Via Rail site would leave passengers with cabs or Uber as their only options.

“When you move it away from major bus routes, of course you make it a lot more difficult for people to catch the bus,” says Boyle Street Community Services outreach worker, Colin Inglis, who has worked in the core for five years. He says the lack of intercity transit affects people’s ability to access treatment centres outside the city and for low-income people in rural areas to access services such as health specialists, or to simply visit family.

Downtown Business Association executive director Jim Taylor agrees that the biggest hit to moving the station is to riders in need of service, but not surrounding businesses, who could take advantage of transportation or courier services. “It’s going to be a difficult thing for Greyhound riders to facilitate the kind of connection they need once they get in the city,” says Taylor, who says most business people travel on Red Arrow.

The move is in line with an overall redesign of the neighbourhood’s demographics, says Taylor. “Even if the Greyhound station were going to stay there, the stuff that’s being built—the residential and commercial—would change the nature of the street anyway.”

“It’s going to be a difficult thing for Greyhound riders to facilitate the kind of connection they need once they get in the city.” —Downtown Business Association executive director Jim Taylor

Greyhound itself would prefer to stay downtown. But increasing rent and the required footprint makes it impossible, says Peter Hamel, Greyhound regional vice president.

The company sees its Winnipeg location as a model in creating a “downtown touch point.” It maintained a satellite passenger drop-off point downtown since moving the station to the inter-national airport, seven kilometers away.

Esslinger says any new location should have a downtown shuttle service. But right now there’s no consideration for public transit. Esslinger says the city can’t prioritize it over other projects. “We have a whole long list of people in new neighbourhoods waiting for transit sites,” she says.

Inglis hopes the city plays a role in improving intercity transport access. “As a society, we have to think about how we cover those bases for folks when it’s no longer commercially viable for Greyhound to run them.”

Greyhound is currently dedicated to partnering with Via Rail on location, says Hamel, as well as with the City on downtown kiosks or drop-off locations.

(Editor’s Note: In March 2016, Greyhound officially announced that it would move alongside Via Rail’s northwest station.)

Editor’s Note: Textbook Scenario

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.