Making Our City More Vibrant for the Next Generation

imageThe construction is underway. It sometimes comes with headaches for drivers and aggravating detours for pedestrians.

The changes are long overdue and the investment to improve our Downtown—to turn it from an auto-focused daytime place to a 24/7 entertainment and residential enclave—are finally here. But the showy Downtown condos still only represent a small percentage of the residential growth in Edmonton. All core neighbourhoods—not just ours—have to do better jobs of encouraging residential infill, good urban design, pedestrian-oriented amenities and active transportation if our city is going to be vibrant and financially sustainable for the next generation.

This neighbourhood that we call home is improving slowly to meet the needs of residents. This June we celebrate the long-anticipated ground-breaking and construction of Alex Decoteau Park. This amenity is to support the thousands of residents who’ve made the “Warehouse Campus” home, who provided a catalyst for further residences in the area. The park is 10 years in the making, so we couldn’t be more excited.

Our community league continues to evolve to meet the needs of residents. Recently we welcomed our first families to our regular Urban Kids Playgroup. But as some things change, some stay the same: We’re hosting our annual Toonie Pancake Breakfast this June but with an added twist—a parking lot sale! Just another great way to support our community. We hope you enjoy this construction season. It won’t be one of the last.

Remembering Patrick Cardinal: “DJ Cardinal,” or Pat as he was known to friends, passed away this April after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Pat will always be known as a great supporter of DECL through his volunteerism as a board member (2010–2014), his help with events, his can-do attitude, and not to mention his good tunes. Pat was a radio industry guru who managed major stations across North America, including Power 92 in the 1990s. On the day before he died, Pat learned that he would be inducted into the Canadian Broadcasters Hall of Fame on May 5.

DECL board of directors: Chris Buyze (President), Ian O’Donnell (VP), Milap Petigara (Treasurer), Jillian Gamez (Secretary), Phil Anhorn, Erin Duebel, Yvonne Epp, Laurissa Kalinowsky, Christie Lutsiak, Alena Manera, Jarrett Mykytiuk, Chris Pilon and Scott Winder.

Email DECL or visit its website for more information.

Seven Summer Events from Your Downtown Community League

Alex Decoteau Park Ground- Breaking Ceremony
JUN 10: Join Mayor Don Iveson, Coun. Scott McKeen, community members and descendants of Alex Decoteau for this milestone almost 10 years in the making. After the ceremony, stick around for activities and speakers on the park’s design. (1pm, 105 St. and 102 Ave.)

Urban Kids Board Game Night
JUN 17: Our monthly children’s board game night is where kids can play, explore and make friends in their neighbourhood. This is the last game night of the season until the fall.  (6–9pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

Annual Toonie Pancake Breakfast and Parking Lot Sale
JUN 18: This year we’re adding a rummage sale, sponsored by Impark. It’s free to register for DECL members, $15 for everyone else. Proceeds support our programming efforts. Email info@decl.org. (Breakfast from 9–11am; Rummage sale 9am–2pm, Freemasons Hall, 10318 100 Ave.)

DECL at the City Market Downtown
AUG 13, SEPT 3, OCT  1: Pick up your $5 2016–2017 league membership from the DECL table at the outdoor market on select days. (9am–3pm, 4th Street Promenade)

Urban Kids Gardening
TUESDAYS (JUL & AUG): Show your little ones how to sow and grow, then busy them with pretty craft-making to adorn your home. (10am–11:30am, Urban Eden Community Garden, 9836 Bellamy Hill)

IMG_0277Urban Kids Playgroup
JUN 13, JUN 27, JUL 11, AUG 15, AUG 29: It’s where downtown children (0–5) play together and their caregivers meet. (10:30am, DECL Space, 10042 103 St.)

NEW! Summer Patio Pub Crawl
AUG 27: Get a taste of the Downtown Edmonton bar scene when neighbours gather at the hall, then sets out on a sun-soaked social adventure. (4–8pm, starts at DECL Space, 10042 103 St.)

Here’s How We Can Make Downtown More Liveable

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Strides have been made to turn Edmonton into a terrific, people-friendly city year-round, like Nuit Blanche, the Winter City strategy and guidelines, and in just a few years a segregated bike network will transform Downtown transportation. There’s so much happening right now to make our neighbourhood more livable than ever. Here are just a few:

1. Spring is always primetime for shaking off the winter grit, so if you want to help DECL “clean slate” be a part of our Annual Spring Cleanup on May 1. However, shouldn’t year-round cleanliness be a priority? That’s why we’re insisting the City provide street cleaning around Downtown and on main arteries during winters, too. Businesses, building-owners and residents can do their part by keeping the exteriors of their spaces as attractive as their interiors.

2. Green spaces are great for gathering. They’re also a bit of an oasis for us urban folk—our “living room,” if you will. This summer will see the long-anticipated construction of Alex Decotea Park begin in the Warehouse Campus Area. It’ll be a much-needed respite and socializing space for this historic part of our Downtown.

3. The current jay walking restrictions penalize pedestrians for walking. This needs to change if we want to encourage residents to adopt active lifestyles. Allowing walkers to cross when it’s safe to do so is already allowed on Rice Howard Way, but we’re advocating for it to be expanded to other spaces like 104 St., or Downtown as a whole.

4. This month’s feature story embraces the notion that “small is big” when it comes to encouraging independent and diverse retail on our streets. BuzzFeed Canada and The Walrus contributor Nikki Wiart examines the cross-section of good urban design and healthy local economies.

5. Encouraging families to live Downtown means having residences that permit all ages. If you’ve had issues finding a home because you’re too young or have children, we want to hear from you! Be part of our initiative to encourage Alberta to change the rules allowing adult-only buildings.

6. DECL is doing its part to create a sense of community for young families. In addition to our regular Urban Kids Board Game Night, Our Urban Kids Playgroup for parents and tots ages 0–5 launches on March 7 at our community space. Drop by to meet other families living Downtown (click here for more information).

7. Meet your neighbours and create community by joining your Downtown Edmonton Community League. Our Annual General Meeting will be held on May 10. It’s the perfect time to learn more about what we do, how you can get involved and how you can help decide the future of our neighbourhood (click here for more information).

DECL board of directors: Chris Buyze (President); Ian O’Donnell (VP); Milap Petigara (Treasurer); Jillian Gamez (Secretary); Erin Duebel; Laurissa Kalinowsky; Christie Lutsiak; Jarrett Mykytiuk; Lindsey Trufyn; and Chris Wudarck.

Email DECL or visit its website for more information.

Four Spring Events From the Downtown Community League

DECLlogoUrban Kids Board Game Night
MAR 18, APR 15, MAY 20:
Our monthly children’s board game night is where kids can play, explore and make friends in their neighbourhood. (6–9pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

Urban Kids Playgroup
MAR 7, MAR 28, APR 4, APR 18, MAY 2, MAY 16, MAY 30:
It’s where downtown children (0–5) play together and their caregivers meet. (10:30am, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

Spring Clean-Up
MAY 1:
Our annual tidying, part of the Capital City Clean-Up and River Valley Clean-Up programs, is a great way to help beautify the neighbourhood and enjoy the outdoors! Bring your “get dirty” clothes and gloves; we’ll provide cleaning supplies. (10am, Meet at DECL Space, 10042 103 St.)

Annual General Meeting
MAY 10:
We’ll discuss downtown issues and the business of the league, and hear updates from some of our committees and partners, with special presentations. DECL memberships will be available at the door for $5.  (6:45pm registration/7pm start, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

In Praise of Small Independent Retail

What would it take to have vibrant street retail Downtown? In the world’s many cities, small retailers scattered throughout their cores create streets with vivid sights, sounds and even smells. Downtowns are often pedestrian-scaled because buildings were built in a time before cars, when people walked from store to store for their daily needs. The benefits of well-designed urban centres are palpable as you walk along interesting main streets lined with small businesses.

Edmonton’s Downtown is recovering from a time when we cared more about how to park our cars than how to live and work together. But 104 St. is a prime example of collaboration by concerned citizens and the City toward improving a street with policies mandating good design. Those include main-floor commercial bays in new residential towers; wide, clean, well-lit sidewalks with generous street-scaping and greenery; transparent glazing, welcoming signage; and patios and planters that complement cafes and small grocers. Ultimately it all adds up to a better pedestrian experience.

A street lined with small retail bays is about more than creating vibrancy and convenience. It offers us an opportunity to support independent businesses, interact with our neighbours and contribute to the health and economy of our community.

Over the years, DECL has worked hard to ensure that our neighbourhood’s newest developments take vibrant, interactive and safe streets seriously. We encouraged provisions for recent proposals, such as a rental tower and student housing on the former sites of Augustana Church and Healy Ford, to include small commercial bays at-grade. Theoretically it would encourage small businesses to open; five hundred square feet or less could be the difference between a local entrepreneur taking the risk of starting up Downtown’s next shop or service—or not.

As we recognize some of our favourite businesses in “Best of the Core”, let’s remember to support small, independent street retail with our holiday shopping. Let’s also continue to insist small retail be included in future developments Downtown. Our city’s core will be a more exciting, pleasing, interesting and sustainable place for it.

Speaking of which, we’d like to invite you to the DECL Community Space—our own contribution to small and vibrant street retail—for our annual Christmas mixer on Dec. 10. Look for the “I Heart Yegdt” neon sign proudly shining for passersby. We’re also hiring a volunteer chair for our programming committee. Email us to apply.

DECL board of directors: Chris Buyze (President); Ian O’Donnell (VP); Milap Petigara (Treasurer); Jillian Gamez (Secretary); Erin Duebel; Laurissa Kalinowsky; Christie Lutsiak; Jarrett Mykytiuk; Lindsey Trufyn; and Chris Wudarck.

Email DECL or visit its website for more information.

Autumn Opportunities

Most people don’t realize it, but just as the fall is an important time for students, it’s also a significant season for most of Edmonton’s 157 community leagues.

That’s because September is membership renewal time. It’s when we, the Downtown Edmonton Community League, ask you, the residents, to continue your support. Downtown, being the unique community it is, here in the heart of our city, welcomes residents, visitors, local organizations and many other would-be league members to join our ranks and benefit from what DECL has to offer.

Your 13-member board of directors works hard to bring programming and events to you all season long. The fall of 2015 is no exception.

We celebrate being part of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues Day with CornFest 2015 on September 19. This annual tradition in Beaverhills House Park (Jasper and 105 St.) is the site for roast corn, kids activities, music and the chance to meet new neighbours. It is our biggest membership drive and renewal opportunity.

Hallowe’en conveniently falls on a Saturday this year, and so does the return of our Spooktacular Scavenger Hunt. Last year’s inaugural event had a great turnout with members enjoying a well-crafted scavenger hunt throughout the downtown core. Best costume wins a prize, of course. Hopefully your costume idea can beat the Darth Vadar who joined us last year!

As the season hastens and the first snow-flakes hits the ground, we like to meet up with our membership and provide an update on the latest news and issues facing our neighbourhood. Look for a regular general meeting November 19 at 7pm.

For a complete list of DECL events, check out our website, follow us on social media or flip to page 9. Your neighbourhood and community is what you make of it. And just as they were 98 years ago, when they first emerged in this city, your community leagues are a way for you to discuss ideas, address issues and socialize with follow residents.

If you have a programming idea for Downtown Edmonton, an issue to raise, or if you just want to find out more about DECL, please email us. We hope you’ll help us make the next 12 months our best yet.

For information or to learn how you can volunteer with the DECL, visit decl.org or email my_decl@telus.net.

Downtown Edmonton Community League Events

Sept. 18—Urban kids board games night. (6–9pm, Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

Sept. 19—OCL and DECL co-host the neighbourhoods’ chapter of Edmonton Federation of Community League’s Community League Day, a fun-filled afternoon for families to relish in park games and barbecue, before heading to the beer garden for the evening. (2pm–12am, Oliver Park, 10326 118 St.)

Sept. 19—DECL’s annual CornFest. Enjoy free corn on the cob, crafts for kids and bands. (11am–3pm, Beaverhills House Park, 10440 Jasper Ave.)

Oct. 31—Spooktacular Scavenger Hunt around downtown, prizes for the winning team and best costume. (7pm, Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

The Downtown Edmonton Community League board is: Chris Buyze (President); Ian O’Donnell (VP); Milap Petigara (Treasurer); Jillian Gamez (Secretary); Erin Duebel; Laurissa Kalinowsky; Christie Lutsiak; Jarrett Mykytiuk; Lindsey Trufyn; Vikki Wiercinski; and Chris Wudarck.

Tidying the City’s Living Room

As the weather warms and people turn out in droves, we’re faced with one of our great challenges: cleanliness. Especially after winter. The amount of garbage, sand, and debris left behind from the “big melt”can be discouraging. Add to that a short but sudden injection of festivals and outdoor activities and you’ve got the recipe for a mess.

In Downtown Edmonton, where a large number of us walk, this mess detracts from the liveability of the neighbourhood. Equally unpleasant is the airborne sand and gravel kicked up from the roadside curb by passing vehicles and busses, and thrown into our eyes. Although we organize a spring cleanup that sees dozens of volunteers dedicating hours to the cause, a single day just isn’t enough.

Let’s do better to ensure it’s cleaned faster, kept at a higher standard of tidiness and presentable year-round. Here are a few ways to do that.

Year-Round Street Sweeping

The amount of concrete and asphalt Downtown causes winter snowfalls to melt quickly, and the sand and gravel applied for ice control erodes to street side within days of application. And that’s where it remains for half the year. It’s filthy. That’s why we’re advocating to sweep our core streets on a year-round basis, instead of only in the late spring and summer, as we’re doing now.

Prioritize Pedestrian Areas

Edmonton has few areas where people are just as likely to walk as drive, and Downtown is one of them. Let’s all work together to improve the level of cleanliness on our main streets, along high-use transit corridors, near bus stops and everywhere else where people congregate. Pedestrians don’t have the benefit of being sheltered by their vehicles. So in order to make the city walkable, we have to prioritize street and sidewalk cleaning in pedestrian areas.

If You See Litter, Pick It Up

A little bit of effort here and there can go a long way to improve Downtown cleanliness. If you see a piece of litter don’t walk over it, don’t ignore it; take a second to pick it up. It’s a simple act that goes a long way to improving the Downtown experience for everyone.

As of May 12 the DECL board is: Chris Buyze (President); Ian O’Donnell (VP); Milap Petigara (Treasurer); Erin Duebel; Jillian Gamez; Laurissa Kalinowsky; Christie Lutsiak; Jarrett Mykytiuk; Lindsey Trufyn; Vikki Wiercinski; Scott Winder and Chris Wudarck.

Downtown Edmonton Community League Events

June 11 & Aug. 13 — Monthly board meeting. (7 pm, Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

June 19 — Urban Kids Board Game Night. (6 pm, Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

July 9 — Barbecue social. (6 pm, Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

Aug. 22 — Annual pancake breakfast before Al Fresco festivities. (9 am. Community Space, 10042 103 St.)

5 Ways You Can Better Downtown

As Edmonton thaws from winter’s grip we’re greeted with a new reality: construction season.

Downtown is seeing unprecedented investment and renewal projects, both big and small, that were years in the making. With budgets in place to realize our downtown vision and much of the work well underway, we should focus on the “fine grain” elements that will really make it a place where people want to be and that visitors will remember.

1. A safe core is a clean core.

Safety is part reality, part perception. Having eyes on the street and identifying problem spots helps us work to address these concerns with downtown’s beat cops. But, least of all, keeping downtown streets clean makes for a place that’s attractive to many and, therefore, feels safer.

2. A clean core is a friendly core.

Most of us downtowners walk. When we do, we’re more likely to notice litter. The City, businesses and residents must all do their part to keep streets and buildings tidy. And not just on the inside, but the outside too, as they are part of our “outdoor living room.” A clean downtown isn’t just expected, it’s necessary.

3. Plant more trees and greenery.

While Edmontonians have started understanding the necessity and value of investing in street-scaping, we have a long way to go. A healthy, mature tree canopy on a pedestrian street has real health benefits to its citizens. Plus, it’s good for private investment (104 St. for example) and it’s the kind of amenity you want in a dense urban core.

4. Offer more retail opportunities.

We need more small retail bays at the base of new and existing buildings. As you travel to other cities with vibrant urban cores, you quickly realize the value of small retail. On a street with few existing shop, developers might not understand the potential. But small street-facing spaces of 500 square feet or less give entrepreneurial Edmontonians a place to experiment with new businesses and meet a demand I believe is untapped.

5. Remember the long-term gain.

We all knew it was coming — closed roads, construction headaches, painful commutes. Downtown is increasingly a maze of barricades, construction hoarding and temporary signage. The City is forming a strategy to communicate that Downtown is still “open for business.” Citizens, however, can also be ambassadors. After all, we wanted this change, so now it’s time to remind people of the long-term vision. But let’s minimize inconveniences for pedestrians and drivers. We all have to work together to minimize the impact on our existing downtown as we look to build for the future.

DOWNTOWN EDMONTON COMMUNITY LEAGUE EVENTS

MAR. 12 — General meeting, featuring the finalized Alex Decoteau Park design, update on the capital budget by Councillor McKeen and more.   7 pm, DECL Community Space, 10042 103 St.

MAY 3 — Spring Clean-Up at “Gazebo Park.” Bring work clothes and gloves. The community league provides the rest.   10 am, starting in Dick Mather Park (“Gazebo Park”)

MAY 12 — Downtown Edmonton Community League’s annual general meeting with guest speakers from the Edmonton Galleria project.   7 pm, Community Space, 10042 103 St.

Evolving Needs

A news magazine for Central Edmonton is long overdue. I’ve seen our neighbourhood transform since becoming president of the Downtown Edmonton Community League (DECL) in 2007. Having celebrated our 10th anniversary as a league last year, The Yards is part of DECL’s evolution in that it underscores the growing desire to live downtown. A more vibrant downtown.

This new partnership with our sister league to the west, Oliver, is a chance for us to express and explore issues in our communities. A news magazine gives us the opportunity to showcase why living centrally is not only possible but favourable— and not just for students and young people, but for all walks of life. It also focuses on why the successes of Downtown and Oliver are vital to the prosperity of our city as a whole.

It has and continues to be one of the fastest growing neighbourhoods in the city. Living downtown in the late 1990s as an “urban pioneer,” I was proud of my early and continued contribution to the revitalization efforts on my street of old warehouses. As our community grows, so too do the efforts of DECL.

Last year the opening of our first community room, an inviting and previously under-utilized retail space in a parkade, was a major milestone. We adapted the traditional idea of a community hall for our urban reality, created a hub and helped animate the street.

In the years to come, we hope to celebrate the building of a new community park for the Warehouse Campus Area, a project DECL has been advocating for five years.

Alex Decoteau Park is named after Canada’s first aboriginal police officer, Olympic athlete and First World War soldier. He walked the “beat” in the very area the park will soon exist, on the northwest corner of 105 St. and 102 Ave. Located directly north of a future LRT stop, it will be home to many amenities serving residents’ needs with plenty of grass and seating, a community garden, water feature and fenced dog area.

So much of what is now being built are projects and issues we’ve had the privilege (and often frustration) of working hard to realize. Whether we’re talking about the Edmonton Arena District or The Yards, there is a lot of exciting changes coming. That’s why I continue volunteering with DECL.

The Yards staff and editorial board are just as committed to Edmonton’s core as we are. This is our way to connect with residents, businesses, civic leaders and regular Edmontonians about the special place we call “home.”