Safety issues in the core

Reports of people feeling unsafe while walking downtown have been shared anecdotally among friends and colleagues in the past few months, reported to the Downtown Edmonton Community League and other organizations, and also to the police as the stats below will show. Lockdown measures, working from home, and generally less people out and about in the core has led to an uptick in reports of crimes of opportunity on the one hand, and on the other hand, there is increased visibility of those suffering mental health crises, addictions and opioid use, and a lack of sustainable housing and shelter for the most vulnerable.

Fardoussa Omar has been Safety Chair of DECL for three years and says they’ve always had complaints about safety in the core but agrees that COVID is exacerbating things for those who live and work downtown. She is also concerned about those who are dealing with addictions and mental health issues experiencing targeted crime.

Photo by Alex Pugliese

“The folks who live and work downtown are coming into contact with the unhoused and then also the unhoused are coming into more volatility of just being on the street. I think when everybody’s mandated to work from home or when businesses are mandated to shut down, you really notice who doesn’t have a home and who doesn’t have a space to be and some of the challenges they have to cope with,” Omar says.

“I was walking down my alleyway and I noticed one of our unhoused neighbours in a lot of pain and he was screaming out for help. I called 211 and they said I have to call the police because it looks like he’s in a medical crisis and will need an ambulance. So I ended up doing that and after the incident was resolved the police officer called back and said my unhoused neighbour was bear sprayed by someone walking by.”

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee talked about concerns with safety in downtown on Facebook Live on October 7 and said there are two major issues happening that require different strategies: crime and social disorder.

“They’re not the same conversation. We’re going to need to change how we deploy downtown to get some better outcomes,” McFee said.“We need to rethink the whole approach downtown. And let me just contextualize what I mean by that. We have focused as a city, and not just as a police service, on housing. Housing is an important ingredient [but housing] isn’t the ultimate solution, it’s the destination. We’re dealing with a major addictions problem. A major, major addictions problem.”

Photo by Brandon Erlinger

Year-to-date the number of safety occurrences Edmonton Police have dealt with downtown has increased 3%, while citywide they’ve actually decreased 4.3%. There’s been an increase of 14.4% of assault overall: 9.7% increase of assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, 12.9% increase in aggravated assault, 27.3% of assault. These numbers have actually decreased in other parts of the city. Family violence, street disorder, and mental health issues have also increased.

These numbers are significant and need to be addressed. Working as a community, the hope is that solutions can be found to make folks feel safe being downtown, while also putting essential services in place to separate those who are committing crime from those who are in a tough spot and need help with addictions, housing, and mental health.

Sharing a magnificent, historic structure

A call for proposals to transform McDougall United Church

Acrobats, jugglers, aerialists—not what you’d usually find inside a church. But that could change as churches across Canada adapt to handle the growing cost of maintaining older spaces and the loss of rental revenue due to COVID-19.

McDougall United Church, one of Downtown’s most beautiful historic buildings, is no exception. The church is actively seeking proposals for partnerships that could see the building become a community hub while continuing to host a sanctuary for worship.

It’s long been a dream of McDougall members to use the space for more than just Sunday services.

“Our congregation has had ideas and visions of doing something with the building since the 1970s,” said Larry Derkach, chair of the church council. “What we realized is that we have a really valuable resource in the building. It is already very well used as a concert venue, particularly for choral music, but it’s an enormous building to manage. It needs a lot of work to bring it up to code and to develop it in a way that makes it suitable.”

It’s what’s known as social purpose real estate—buildings such as churches, museums, hospitals, and schools that have enough room and resources to become a place for other community groups to gather. New tenants invigorate the space while also bringing in crucial revenue. Churches, in particular historic ones like McDougall United, require ongoing upkeep.

The 111-year-old brick church takes up one-third of a parcel of land measuring 3,274 square metres. The site, located on MacDonald Drive, also includes an annex, and a large parking lot, which the church shares with MacEwan University. Before COVID, the parking lot generated a large portion of the church’s revenue, and McDougall also rented out the venue for events.

But transforming the space is about more than just bringing in additional revenue. It’s also an opportunity to engage with the community. “This whole notion of developing the church in this way fits our philosophy or value system that the church is not meant to be a standalone. We belong as a partner in the community,” said Derkach.

“The church has always been recognized for its ability to gather people. It’s a magnificent structure. People are always thrilled to get a chance to look inside,” added Paul Conway, a member of the committee.

In order to make that transformation happen smoothly, McDougall is working with Trinity Centres Foundation (TCF), a Montreal- based secular charity that aims to assist 100 churches across Canada in transitioning their property into spaces that will benefit the surrounding communities. TCF estimates that one-third of Canada’s churches will close permanently in the next 10 years.

Derkach and Conway were inspired by TCF’s pilot project with St. Jax Church in Montreal. Now referred to as St. Jax Centre, the church has partnered with more than 50 organizations, including Cirque Le Monastare. The 30,000 square foot building’s high ceilings make it ideal for indoor circus performances.

Other possibilities for the McDougall space include an indoor trampoline park, a multi-faith venue or a performance space. The congregation remains a major stakeholder in what happens to the building, as is the United Church of Canada. The committee responsible for the church’s future is open to all ideas, meaning the sky’s the limit for what the building and land could become. “Yes, there are restrictions but it’s amazing how much flexibility there is. We are hoping that the historical aspect will be preserved,” said Derkach.

McDougall is actively seeking development partners and will be reviewing proposals at the end of September. Anyone interested in submitting a proposal can contact Steven Pearson at Remax or visit the McDougall Development Opportunity Listing here.

The Future of 104 Street

Stakeholders discuss what a closure of the street could look like

If you’ve seen the chatter about 104 Street on social media recently, you may have noted many voices are calling for the promenade-style street to become pedestrian-only.

The street is unique in the downtown; as part of the warehouse district, it retains a vintage feel. It also has many restaurants and retail businesses at grade as the city redid the streetscaping in 1998. The lack of curbs helps create more space for sauntering.

The Downtown Farmers Market was a longtime patron but in 2019 moved to 97 Street. In the summer of 2020 the Al Fresco on 4th Summer Series began as an outdoor market. 104 Street has held many weekend events including A Taste of Al Fresco this March.

Now folks are asking: what if the street was closed all the time? Restaurants are allowed to extend their patios when the street is closed to traffic, and during COVID, we’ve all come to realize how important open-air dining is.

Two of 104 Street’s stakeholders weighed in with their hopes and concerns about the future of the street. Jimmy Shewchuk, owner of Say Uncle, a southern bbq restaurant, and Ed Fong, owner of deVine Wines & Spirits. Fong was also the past chair of the 104 Street Committee.

“The extended patios in the past year have proven themselves in terms of the business case and the vibrancy for the street, so I think the weekend closure— looking at a Friday evening to a Sunday evening—makes a lot of sense to me,” Shewchuk said.

Al Fresco and two other weekend closures in April for Downtown Dining Week drove a lot of business to 104 Street. Shewchuk said it was a bump in revenue that was really needed at this time and believes weekend closures will continue to help struggling businesses bring in more customers. But he recognizes there needs to be a discussion with all stakeholders.

“I think we need to take a long hard look at what we want 104 Street to be,” Shewchuk said. “We have a mixed-use street and that makes it really difficult to make all parties happy all the time. So I think we just really need to create an exciting vision for the street and really establish it as an asset for Edmonton and for downtown and start to design that.”

In a downtown that tends to empty out after 5 o’clock, 104 Street is unique as an area that has a lot of residents.

“We’ve always believed, as a community, that the street could be a very interesting and vibrant venue if it was programmed effectively,” Fong said. “What we were never in favour of was closing the street just for closing the street every weekend without programming and the only type of programming would be that bars and restaurants can extend their patios.”

With so many businesses and residents involved in the discussion, it could be hard to get consensus on permanent street closures or weekend street closures, but hopefully once all stakeholders get involved in the discussion, a vision will begin to form.

Making downtown a destination

An interview with DBA’s Puneeta McBryan

For Puneeta McBryan, the gulf separating her new job as head of the Downtown Business Association and her previous jobs in the world of marketing and communications isn’t as wide as it might seem.

“I really view the role as: I’m here to serve our business community downtown, in a sort of similar way to how I always have, except that I’m not running individual campaigns for each business,” McBryan said. “But we’re really trying to think about downtown as this destination— your own destination to live and work and invest in.”

Leaving her role at ZGM Modern Marketing Partners, McBryan joined DBA in December as its new executive director. Her decision to make the jump from advertising to an advocacy role came while she was on maternity leave, which gave her additional time to reflect on this career change.

“I was communications director for the mayor’s re-election campaign in 2015, so working with Don [Iveson] kind of gave me a front-row seat to what it can look like to be directly engaged in helping build the city that I want to live in, and that I want next generations to live in,” McBryan said.

Downtown businesses are still grappling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and while COVID-19 has had varying impacts across different sectors, such as on bars and restaurants, McBryan said she’s thinking of how to better downtown as a whole.

“I think our job is to think about downtown as an ecosystem,” McBryan said. “Each of these types of businesses, and all of the residents, and all the visitors who come downtown for bars and restaurants and shopping, all of these individual groups are a part of this ecosystem. And I think the best way that we can serve any of our members is to think of that big picture.”

Inclusion is another one of McBryan’s focuses, an issue that returned to public attention when a video surfaced of police officers kicking homeless people out of an LRT station this winter. McBryan said one of the ways DBA is committed to furthering inclusivity is by supporting other organizations already tackling the issue.

“I don’t think DBA ever wants to be or should be the main character in any of this kind of work,” McBryan said. “It’s more just recognizing where there are community grassroots organizations serving racialized communities downtown and our vulnerable population downtown, and doing whatever we can both with our dollars and our audience and our influence to support that work.”

As for the months ahead, with vaccinations proceeding and public health restrictions possibly lifting, McBryan said the plan is to get people back to the core in a safe manner through community events and other festivals, albeit with modifications.

“Those of us involved in downtown vibrancy are betting big on the most positive possible outcome,” McBryan said. “It’s gonna feel different, it’s gonna be different, there won’t be big crowds, but it’ll be some form of recovery as soon as possible.”

Making a Winter City

Downtown businesses warming up to winter

The temperature may be taking a dip, but that doesn’t mean the downtown economy has to.

For several years, the City of Edmonton has been encouraging businesses and the community to embrace winter with their Winter City Strategy. Those adaptations are even more important this year with COVID-19. 

“Businesses are going to embrace a lot of the principles in the winter city strategy,” said Chris Buyze, president of the Downtown Edmonton Community League. “Unfortunately it’s taken COVID to do that. Maybe there’s a silver lining that we may have a bit more vibrancy in the winter months than we have had in the past on the street.”

Businesses have had to adapt to changing regulations and safety precautions to deal with COVID-19. Restaurants and bars looked to patios and outdoor dining during the summer months, which are considered to be safer with a lower likelihood of COVID-19 transmission. Plummeting temperatures would normally push patrons back indoors, but in the middle of a pandemic, businesses may look to keep their patios open and keep patrons coming back. 

The temporary patio program with a streamlined approval process has been extended until at least March 31, 2021. The city is evaluating each proposal to ensure it works with snow removal and pedestrian safety.

“The city has been flexible in allowing people to keep their patio through the winter. It’s now up to businesses to embrace it and make it comfortable for patrons to be there, including heaters and blankets,” Buyze said. “There’s a lot of time in January where it can be 0 and -5 where it can be perfectly comfortable.”

Beyond patios, there is other work being done downtown to bring some joy to the winter months. The Downtown Business Association has extended their Downtown Live program, a grant program that helps bring local artists to different venues in the core.

“The intent is to draw energy and excitement to our business areas,” said Nick Lilley, the interim executive director of the Downtown Business Association. “We want to do that in a safe and manageable way.”

Foot traffic downtown has suffered through the pandemic. Businesses have had to find new ways of attracting clients and keep in touch with those who may not be travelling through the core during the pandemic.

“Agility has become a higher competency for so many different businesses. They need to adapt and be innovative. Everything from expanding digital presence to compliment the brick and mortar approach to knocking down the odd wall to create additional space for social distancing on site,” said Lilley. “We have seen so many rise to that challenge.”

Waiting for the LRT

Downtown LRT construction continues to cause frustration for area businesses and residents

As Valley Line LRT construction and utility relocation continues to disrupt a large stretch of 102 Avenue, some in the area are frustrated by the impact it has had on their bottom line.

Catherine Medak, owner of children’s clothing store Alligator Pie, located in Manulife Place, estimates she has seen a 30 percent drop in business since the road was closed in January 2018. Medak’s frustration also stems from periods where construction seems to sit idle for several months at a time.

“You try to give [customers] a heads up before they’re coming and sometimes, they’re willing to venture out and find their way to you,” Medak says. “But in many instances, they hear ‘construction’ and they don’t even want to come.”

“I would say many businesses are suffering like we are in Manulife [Place],” she added.

Downtown Edmonton Community League president Chris Buyze shares some of these concerns. In addition to being bad for traffic and bad for businesses, he takes issue with how such a large stretch of 102 Avenue— from 96 to 103 Street—had to be closed all at once. He feels the impact could have been reduced if materials were brought over as needed as opposed to using parts of 102 Avenue as a laydown area for storage.

Buyze also questions the lack of wood hoarding, as he says the chain link fencing being used to fence off the area “is just not appropriate for the downtown core.”

“There are a lot of creative things that could be done around a site like this that has the potential to be there for several years,” Buyze says. “It’s such a large project to the city that it needs to look as attractive as possible […] so that businesses in the area do not suffer as a consequence of what it looks like and the amount of street area and stuff that is closed off.”

“Overall, everyone supports the LRT.” he added. “It’s just can we do it a little bit better moving forward.”

TransEd spokesman Dallas Lindskoog says while he understands how taking up such a large amount of space could appear detrimental to the neighborhood, construction would have taken longer if they had less space to work with.

“You try to give [customers] a heads up before they’re coming and sometimes, they’re willing to venture out and find their way to you. But in many instances, they hear ‘construction’ and they don’t even want to come.”

Catherine Medak, owner, Alligator Pie

“To an extent, I’m not surprised people are starting to question, ‘aren’t you done yet,’” he says. “People are getting tired and we’re doing our best to make it easy and as less impactful to the public as we can.”

City spokesman Quinn Nicholson added that the use of chain link fencing as opposed to wood hoarding helps keep the area visible for pedestrians, and that it also helps reduce crime on construction sites.

Lindskoog says that LRT construction on 102 Avenue is expected to finish sometime this year as scheduled. However, he says the area may still need to be closed to traffic beyond the end of 2020 as they need to do electrical work and testing once construction is complete.

When completed, the Valley Line LRT will run from 102 Street and 102 Avenue to Mill Woods, with an interchange at Churchill to connect to Capital and Metro lines.

Summer festivals postpone return to Churchill Square

This summer was supposed to mark the return of festivals to Sir Winston Churchill Square, the premier outdoor space in the heart of the city. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced the province to cancel all major gatherings while organizers reconsider their plans for summer 2020, postponing the return of summer fun to the famous city square.

Festivals were unable to use Sir Winston Churchill Square for almost two years, starting in summer 2018, when construction of the Valley Line LRT forced the square to close. The Edmonton International Street Performers Festival, Taste of Edmonton and other festivals were forced to relocate other venues.

Taste of Edmonton (2017)

The Street Performers found a temporary venue just north of Whyte Avenue, while the Taste of Edmonton relocated to Capital Plaza, north of the Alberta Legislature. This summer was meant to mark a return to their traditional home.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, festivals and events that previously called Sir Winston Churchill Square home were all planning to return to the square in 2020. Each of these festivals is now weighing their options within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and will make decisions related to their 2020 event in the coming weeks and months,” said Karen McDonnell, a spokesperson for the City of Edmonton.

Restrictions on gatherings of more than 15 people were still in place in early May, with the expectation that these restrictions will likely continue throughout the summer. The city’s civic events and festivals section was not accepting new event applications as of late April.

While large gatherings at Sir Winston Churchill Square are prohibited, organizers are looking at ways of moving forward while abiding by provincial restrictions.

“We are not cancelling the good that can come from the festival,” said Shelley Switzer, the festival producer for the Street Performers Festival. “We are going to adapt to still provide the fun, the connection, the ways to find some laughter and smiles to continue to be kind and good and find a little bit of good through this time.”

“We are not cancelling the good that can come from the festival.”

– Shelley Switzer Producer, Street Performers Festival

Switzer didn’t have specifics about what may come, but said they will be making announcements on their website,

The Taste of Edmonton has also postponed their 2020 festival, looking to return stronger in 2021. After two years at the Alberta Legislature, Events Edmonton General Manager Donovan Vienneau said they were excited to make the return to Churchill Square.

It was supposed to be an exciting year implementing learnings after two years away from their traditional location, trying some new layouts back at the square. Unfortunately, Vienneau said they will have to postpone Taste of Edmonton until 2021.

“We are open-minded to try to do something [online], but with us being a non-profit organization, we have to be fiscally responsible,” said Vienneau. “It would need to be very strategically implemented for us.”

Best of The Yards

Omar Mouallem was the founding editor of The Yards magazine–he worked with the initial team to create and put in place many of our magazine’s well-known features: Best in the Core, Front Yards, and our focus on accessible urbanism.

Omar Mouallem

Since his days with The Yards, Mouallem has been busy. He has edited numerous magazines in Alberta while contributing stories to The Guardian, WIRED, and while co-authoring the national bestseller. As editor, Mouallem brought to The Yards his vision for what a magazine covering life in central Edmonton could become and what stories it could tell.

I met with Mouallem in the sleek new JW Marriott hotel lobby in the heart of Ice District. Five years ago this was a construction site sitting on top of a recently demolished Staples big-box retail store and its surface level parking lot. As Edmonton’s media has evolved over time, so has the city landscape that we cover.

Mouallem told me how his vision for the magazine was conceptually birthed from an article he wrote for Vue Weekly about the controversy surrounding the Brewery District development. The community’s push for a higher-density, transit-oriented urban development seemed to be running up against an immovable wall.

“It was kind of the first Yards piece, in a way,” Mouallem explained. “That story showed people in Oliver what they were up against, because here was something that seemed like a slam dunk – neighbours, residents were all for it one way, and pushing for it one way, and yet that formula for how we develop in Edmonton which was created and set into motion 20 years or so ago was too strong.”

“Administration went out of their way to demote the opinions of high-density urbanists and promote the opinions of the status quo.”

There was a clear need for a new voice to speak out on behalf of core residents. Mouallem explained how he set out to ensure every issue of the fledgling publication had an article exploring an urban issue issue impacting our neighbourhoods, bringing accessible urban planning discussions to residents for developments like the Brewery District.

“That article, I think it showed the kind of voice that the community can have in journalism if the time is taken to write it,” Mouallem explained.

“The Edmonton Journal cannot justify putting one journalist on that story for one week to investigate and interview, the stakes aren’t high enough. But a publication whose only stakeholders work and live in that area can and should.”

Mouallem noted with approval that there has been a consistency in the magazine’s structure, yet a gradual change in focus since Winter 2014, responding to shifts in both local and global trends.

“It’s cool to have been a part of inventing, with the team, institutions such as Best in The Core – but the essence of the stories now have become more human focused and less about architecture, design and urbanism, and more about things that people are concerned about today, post 2016,” Mouallem said, highlighting some of the issues that he felt really resonated with the current socio-political climate.

He noted a number of articles managed to take larger issues and localize them – the Frank Oliver article as a story on reconciliation and about rethinking our icons, an article on Me Too in the core, a historical story about racial segregation. Mouallem pointed out that the power of a hyper-local magazine can be seen in how you tackle these large issues, such as with the climate change article in Fall 2019, and make them relevant to people in their communities.

“I think it is the kind of story that you really need to publish in 2020 to keep people interested. That’s what people are thinking about, and there’s this anxiety and dread about the future of the planet. Even though it’s this hyperlocal magazine, you can take those global issues and localize them – and you should, because then it makes these really big and abstract, intangible issues suddenly concrete and in front of you and maybe even resolvable, manageable.”

In naming this magazine, the moniker had to advocate for those living here, while speaking to Edmontonians from every corner of our exploding city that rely on the city centre for work or leisure. It had to portray the positive changes and the new faces of downtown, without abandoning the inner city’s seniors, families, working poor and homeless. It had to look ahead, but it couldn’t ignore the past. That’s how we landed on “The Yards.” It harkens back to the old Canadian National rail yards along 104 Avenue, while symbolizing what downtown is to us: a place that you invite people into, but also must protect and maintain.

Omar Mouallem, Winter 2014 Issue

Building on history

Historically-themed social media accounts with names like @Provincial Archives of Alberta and @ Friends of Royal Museum of Alberta Society aren’t typically what you’d expect the under-40 crowd to retweet and regram. And yet, retro #yeg posts have been making waves lately. To dive into this trend, just take a look at the profile pics of who’s sharing out old photos of Edmonton’s core.

Thirty-something Ester Malzahn says, “Old postcards are one of my favourite things to share because it shows how we present ourselves to outsiders.” Malzahn uses Peel’s Prairie Postcards as an online resource.

Heritage Forward’s Dawn Valentine says events like Heart Bombs get attention. “There are young people in their 20s and 30s that care about these old, decrepit buildings from way before their time. Social media is easy and immediate when you want to share with others your awe and/or disdain of old buildings we’ve demolished like the Court House and the Post Office.”

The outpouring of love for the doomed downtown El Mirador building on the Valentine’s Day weekend underscores that younger people are beginning to feel proprietary about Downtown’s dwindling heritage inventory.

Valentine says she’s noticed younger people have an affinity with old buildings as gathering places because of the warmth and history and feel of the space. “Plus old retro buildings just look fabulous in the background of your selfie!”

Dan Rose, (@the_rosbif) who co-founded Heritage Forward in 2015, has been actively using social media to raise awareness of historic buildings, going so far as to pose his dog Dot in front of heritage buildings so they can be shared out on Insta:

Heritage building enthusiast Dane Ryksen has been building his Insta account @_ citizen_dane_ for a couple of years and has a solid following for his shares of photos and stories of the city’s heritage buildings.

“To me, there’s no better place to share the city’s history than online – the amount of engagement you get is unrivalled,” says Ryksen. “It’s easier now than ever to spread these interesting and frankly really fascinating stories about Edmonton’s past, and people seem to enjoy that. Nearly every post I do, I’ll get comments going, “I walk by there every day and have always wondered about it,” or “I didn’t even know that building was there.” A recent post from Ryksen about the soon-to-be torn down Roosevelt Apartments generated lots of discussion, with sympathy for the argument that buildings should be saved or repurposed instead of simply being demolished.

This intentional shift towards reducing our personal and collective footprints by reusing instead of buying new, includes consideration of the worth of our existing building stock.

Historian Shirley Lowe says there’s no way of measuring interest of a new generation, but adds, “New ideas need old buildings.” She adds, “People just starting out can see the value of smaller, older, buildings.” She says they’re “bumping places,” places you can go to meet people.

“We lost too many beautiful, monumental buildings in Edmonton area to demo during an era when people didn’t bat an eye to full building demo (60s 70s). It was devastating to out heritage architecture landscape. Full building demo should never be normalized.” via Twitter

Graeme Matichuk: @kilograeme

Ryksen notes it bridges generations. He says when he shares on social media he gets feedback from people who have experienced the buildings themselves “back in the day.” Mahlzan says younger people “are interested in exploring the past, because history and place are so fundamental to our sense of identity.”

Follow and share using the #yegheritage and #yeghistory hashtags.

Foraging for food in the concrete jungle

Greens, eggs and ham in #yegdt

For the 12,000 people living in the downtown core, a quick trip to the grocery store for fresh tomatoes, eggs or bacon for breakfast can be a challenge. We’re all looking forward to the 2020 opening of the new Loblaws CityMarket, under construction now at 103 Avenue and 103 Street. Until then, let’s explore some of the options core-dwellers have to replenish their pantries this winter.

Farmers and produce markets

The Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market’s new indoor location on 97 Street and 103 Avenue brings everything from fresh eggs, local produce, vegan cheese, keto meals, and ocean seafood. It’s a great weekend option.

Winter access tip – The market is half a block from the Royal Alberta Museum LRT/ pedway exit.

On Wednesday afternoons from 2-4 p.m., All Saints Cathedral, 10035 103 St, runs a fresh produce market at wholesale prices. Vicar Quinn Strikwerda describes the downtown grocery situation as a “food swamp”–a term describing areas where groceries are of questionable nutritional value. He says, “having enough fresh fruit to eat is not a privilege, it’s a human right.” The market is open to everyone.

Convenience stores

There are about a dozen chain convenience stores and mo–and–pop shops downtown. Most carry canned and packaged foods with The Dollar Store in City Centre Mall offering the largest selection. Drug marts Shoppers and Rexall both have limited fresh and frozen groceries, with the two-story Shoppers in the east end of City Centre Mall carrying eggs, frozen vegetables, fruits and meals, fresh bread, and lots of packaged foods. The several 7-11s and Circle Ks downtown also carry milk, butter, eggs and bread. The chains all have competitive prices. The family-owned convenience stores have higher prices but are willing to carry what you’re willing to buy on a regular basis; most have eggs, milk and butter, and sometimes bacon.

Grocery stores near Downtown

To the east of Downtown at 95 street on 102A Avenue is United Grocers, a fabulous Asian grocery store that carries fresh western and Asian foods, many staples, and treats. Pocky anyone? On the western edge across 109 Street at 102 Avenue is the full-service Save-On Foods.

Winter access tip: Find your nearest 1, 2, or 5 bus stop – these buses will take you to either store.

Grocery stores farther for transit users

The No. 5 bus will also take you to the Italian district and Spinelli’s Italian Centre. Or take the LRT east to the 82 St. Save-On at the Stadium stop, or to Southgate’s Safeway. You can also take a bus to the Oliver Square Safeway, or the Superstore on Kingsway.

Winter tip: Acquire a fold-up grocery cart (try the luggage stores in the mall) and you’ll be surprised at how much easier it makes grocery shopping by transit.

Ready-made meals

Olly Fresco’s (107 Street and 100 Avenue, and in City Centre Mall) and Sunterra Market (Commerce Place) both have a wide selection of ready-made fresh take- home meals. 7-11 has a limited selection of ready-made salads, fruit, and sandwiches.

Winter tip: Both Olly Fresco’s and Sunterra have shops in the mall, and you can order a full meal or even Christmas dinner for pick-up from Sunterra.

Specialty foods

Evoolution sells olive oils just north of Jasper Avenue on 104 Street and a little further along, Cavern sells cheese and charcuterie. Venture north of the core to 107 Avenue or east to Chinatown you will find a vast selection of African, Halal and Asian markets.

Winter tip – Cavern will sell you a subscription cheese/charcuterie selection and they’ll even deliver!

Delivery options

Our local produce delivery service, The Organic Box, has been joined by Vancouver-based Spud and both serve the core. Save-On also delivers but it can be tricky to set up the website order – choose the “Mayfield” store with time slots from 7-9 a.m. or between 5 and 10 p.m.