Around the Core: Fall 2018

EARWORMS & EYE CANDY

SYMPHONY UNDER THE SKY /// August 30 – September 2

From classics by Beethoven and Dvořák to the modern hits of Hollywood, hear beautiful music in the great outdoors. At each pleasant, relaxing evening in the park, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra will skillfully perform each musical treasure as the sky slowly turns to twilight as the backdrop. Hawrelak Park, 9330 Groat Road, winspearcentre.com

NUIT BLANCHE /// September 29, 7pm – 7am

Explore the downtown core in an animated and re-imagined way with interactive art installations at this all-night contemporary art party! Bring a curious mind and a good pair of walking shoes as you wander and join in the revelry from dusk til dawn. Visit the website for a complete list of activities and participating artists. Various venues, nuitblancheedmonton.ca

UP & DOWNTOWN MUSIC FESTIVAL /// October 5 – 7

Watch as downtown venues transform into intimate concert halls. The festival plays host to some of the best independent music in a diversity of styles, from electronic and psychedelic rock to folk and reggae. Headliners include throat-singer Tanya Tagaq, musical Afrobeat collective Antibalas, local soul singer Nuela Charles and indie rockers The Velveteins. Various downtown venues, including DECL community space, updt.ca

FALL GALLERY WALK /// September 22 – 23

Eight galleries open their doors wide for this special afternoon celebration of artistic diversity in the city. Stroll from gallery to gallery to enjoy light refreshments, live music, artist talks and more as you view contemporary, abstract, and traditional styles of painting, crafting and sculpture work. 124 Street between 103 Avenue and 107 Avenue, 124street.ca

FOR STORY LOVERS

GOTTA MINUTE FILM FESTIVAL /// September 24 – 30

While you wait for the LRT in late September, you won’t need a book or your phone to entertain you. One-minute silent films from local filmmakers will light up screens on train platform with clever and strange stories. Visit the Edmonton Public Library’s MakersSpace at Enterprise Square (10212 Jasper Avenue) any time during the festival to view all the films at once. Various transit platforms, gottaminutefilmfestival.com

EDMONTON INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL /// September 27 – October 6

Add some entertainment to your lunch hour by feasting on some short films during this welcoming festival’s Lunchbox Shorts. Or, doll yourself up and attend one of the gala after-parties, where you can mingle with the visiting actors and directors. There’s a film for any taste as EIFF brings in many of the highly anticipated films from independent and international studios. Landmark Cinemas 9 City Centre, 3rd Floor, 10200 102 Avenue, edmontonfilmfest.com

LITFEST: EDMONTON’S NONFICTION FESTIVAL /// October 11 – 21

Get up from your reading chair and experience that new and hot nonfiction title you’re dog-earing live, with author talks, walking tours and other activities. Feature authors include Polaris Prize-winning, Inuk artist Tanya Tagaq—who will be performing in partnership with UP+DT Fest—and columnist and best- selling author Elizabeth Renzetti, whose book Shrewed takes a hilarious and heartbreaking look at the political lives of women. Various venues (including downtown), litfestalberta.org

LET’S EAT

124 GRAND MARKET / CITY MARKET /// Through October 6

Snack on what’s ripe or grab fresh-baked fall treats—and connect with your neighbours. Stock up just before October 8, when the City Market will return to its indoor location at City Hall. The 124 Street market closes October 4. Thursdays 4 – 8 pm, 108 Avenue between 123 and 124 Street, 124grandmarket.com & Saturdays from 9 am – 3 pm, 104 Street between Jasper Avenue and 103 Avenue, city-market.ca

ROCKY MOUNTAIN WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL /// October 19 – 20

Sip and savour dozens of distinguished wines, premium spirits and craft beers at this gourmet event. You’ll also be able to taste treats from some of Edmonton’s best restaurants that will pair perfectly with whatever you’re drinking. View the full menu on the website. Shaw Conference Centre, 9797 Jasper Avenue, Rockymountainwine.com

BIG TO-DOS

GREY CUP FESTIVAL /// November 21 – 25

Start getting amped up for the Grey Cup game with celebratory events throughout the week downtown. Festivities begin with a kick-off party along Jasper Avenue on the Wednesday, a FREE all-day street festival throughout the week and a lively parade at noon before the main event. Visit the website for more details and a map of the festival grounds. Various venues, greycupfestival.ca

ALL IS BRIGHT /// November 10, 4 pm – 8 pm

Join businesses on 124 Street to kick off the winter season at this light festival, a perennial crowd favourite. Keep warm with hot beverages, sizzling entertainment and cozy fires. 124 Street and 108 Avenue, Helen Nolan Park, 124street.ca

A Valley Between Them

There is no middle ground when it comes to gondolas in Edmonton. There’s just the Great Gondola Debate.

Ever since Edmonton first heard of the proposal to build a gondola that would run from a main station downtown, to Rossdale and ultimately Strathcona, the debate has raged. The idea originated in March as the winning pitch from The Edmonton Project, a development industry competition to build a new local landmark. (Other pitches: the world’s largest treehouse; a food- truck Ferris wheel.) In April, the Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board sent the debate into overdrive when it said a gondola could be a “fast … and cost-effective” option to connect downtown and Strathcona.

That divided urbanists, transit lovers and downtown advocates who normally find themselves on the same team. And Robert Summers is not surprised.

Summers, the associate director of urban and regional planning at the University of Alberta, says gondolas are often regarded as a novelty or tourist attraction in North America. And transit proponents in Edmonton, he says, seem to see the proposal as taking attention away from more necessary projects.

“For some people, the gondola discussion is a distraction from the goals they have been working towards, which is high-quality LRT connectivity throughout the city,” Summers says. “Every moment spent discussing gondolas is a distraction from what they see as a more meaningful discussion on LRT, bike lanes or other proven transit options.”

How about people who think a gondola is an interesting idea? “Those who are supportive of continuing to discuss the gondola further have seen the relatively low cost and low timelines for the possible implementation of the gondola, as well as the numbers of people it can move,” Summers says. These types are “intrigued enough to continue the discussion.”

But what about the problem itself— transit connections between downtown and Strathcona? And questions of who will pay if we build a gondola?

Currently, residents of Oliver and downtown can ride transit to Strathcona (but not really Rossdale) by taking a series of infrequent and meandering buses. Or they can walk, bike or take a bus to LRT to cross the river—and then take a bus to Strathcona. Or they can just walk or bike. Or take the High Level Bridge Street Car.

In short, connections between the city’s two main urban areas are laughable.

The matter of who pays has also yet to be settled. In June, council’s urban planning committee voted to investigate the gondola, including its potential costs. City officials are determining how much a feasibility study itself would cost and whether the private sector would really pay for the project. The Edmonton Project founders have said the private sector would pay for everything. Some remain unconvinced of that.

One thing is certain: the Great Gondola Debate is not over.

Finding Lulu

On May 12, 1922, Lulu Anderson tried to buy a ticket to ‘The Lion and The Mouse’ at the former Metropolitan Theatre on Jasper Avenue. Lulu was 36 and a member of the Black community. She enjoyed the theatre and had visited the Metropolitan many times with her friends. But May 12 was different. The theatre staff denied Lulu entry. Worse, they “assaulted” her, according to a column in the Edmonton Journal.

Lulu decided to stand up.

Few Edmonton residents know Lulu’s story. And to understand what happened to her downtown that night, in 1922, we need to back up a bit. For starters, despite many who still believe the opposite, Alberta was home to anti-black racism. Minstrel shows were extremely common in theatres; indeed, actors of the era routinely performed in blackface. In 1920, a minstrel parade was even held downtown. Segregation was also common across the city. From 1910 to 1950, Black Edmontonians were denied entry into theatres, swimming pools, bars and even hospitals. One more well-known example is from 1938, when a Black nurse was denied entry into nursing training at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Lulu’s story has long intrigued me. I first came across small scraps of it in a headline I found in archives of the Edmonton Bulletin: “Colored Woman Sued Theatre.” It was a story I’d never heard before. The article was sparse on details, so I kept digging. Next, I found references to Lulu elsewhere, such as a Bulletin article noting her place in a choir performance for Nellie McClung, as well as a story noting she’d sold 100 tickets for her church choir

“Colored Woman Sued Theatre.” It was a story I’d never heard before.

I grew up in Edmonton. As a young Black child, all of my schooling was here, and during all those years at school, I was never taught about someone like Lulu or our city’s Black history. I grew up thinking Black people were relatively new here. Schools taught me the white version of history. But reading Lulu’s story and learning about Black history made me realize that people like me helped build this province.

It became my goal to find out more about Lulu. Her actions are unbelievably courageous. She stood up for racial justice 40 years before the civil rights movement hit its peak, at a time when lynching and violence were common. Her bravery is one reason I became determined to learn about her life. My journey took me to the Provincial Archives of Alberta, the City of Edmonton Archives and the legal archives at the Provincial Court of Alberta.

My first quest was to find Lulu’s original case file. This, I believed, would help for a couple reasons. First, it would give me access to her examination, where I would be able to read what happened in her own words. Second, it would have important details about her life, such as other family members and her past occupations, and these would give me more leads to follow-up on. But no luck. An archivist informed me that all case files for the period of 1921 to 1949 were destroyed in 1971.

Confused, I decided to reach out to Edmonton’s historian laureate, Marlena Wyman, to find out why. “These decisions were not made by archivists,” she told me. “Rather, it was government that decided when documents would be destroyed.” Wyman added that Alberta didn’t have the same resources devoted to archivists back then as it does now. “For example, we now have a master’s program for archivists, but back then we didn’t.”

Nevertheless, I believed a copy of Lulu’s lawsuit case must exist somewhere. My next stop was the Law Courts, to see if the case was reported in legal publications at the time. Again, I had limited luck. I discovered the docket sheet for Lulu’s case and found it

“These decisions were not made by archivists. Rather, it was government that decided when documents would be destroyed.”

lasted from May 26 to November 3, 1922, when Judge Lucien Dubuc made his decision. Thankfully, the decision was summarized in the Edmonton Bulletin. Dubuc ruled against Lulu, arguing the theatre was justified removing her. “[M]anagement could refuse admission to anyone upon the refunding the price of the ticket,” he reportedly said in his ruling.

I was not surprised by this ruling thanks to my work learning about Black history in Edmonton. During Lulu’s time, Black Edmontonians were well used to discrimination. And many stood up to fight it. In 1924, a group of Black mothers protested segregation at the Borden Park swimming pool by lobbying City Hall. Another group of Black Edmontonians formed civil rights organizations, like the Alberta Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (AAACP). And of course, on May 26, 1922, Lulu sued the Metropolitan Theatre for barring her entry for being Black.

Emmanuel African Methodist Church congregation, early 1920s, Edmonton. Glenbow Archives ND-3-1199

This protest was part of a tradition that spans the whole province. Examples include Charles Daniels, who in 1914 was similarly denied entry into the Sherman Grand Theatre, in Calgary, due to the colour of his skin. The unique thing about the Daniels’ case is that he won—eight years prior to Lulu, in 1914. There was also Ted King, who was the president of the AAACP and sued a Calgary motel for refusing Black patrons.

But back to Lulu. The Edmonton Journal reported she hired lawyer Samuel Wallace for her lawsuit. Wallace belonged to the law firm Joseph A. Clarke and Company, and Clarke would later go on to become mayor of Edmonton. Interestingly, the firm’s office was on the second floor of the McLeod building. This means Lulu must have visited this building to prepare her case—a building that was one block away from the Ku Klux Klan’s future headquarters, which was behind the current Westin Hotel.

The name of the case was Lulu Anderson vs. The Brown Investment Company (which owned the Metropolitan Theatre). Despite the frustrations at the Law Courts, my search for Lulu continued. Perhaps the most personal and one of the most important pieces of information I found was from a column in the Edmonton Journal, called “Our Negro Citizens.” The column was written by Black Edmontonians and provided “stories of interest” for the city’s Black community. After spending hours scanning the columns, I was able to confirm Lulu was active in the Black community and a member of the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church— one of the two all-Black churches in Edmonton, the other being the Shiloh Baptist Church.

“[M]anagement could refuse admission to anyone upon the refunding the price of the ticket.” – Judge Lucien Dubuc, as reported in the Edmonton Bulletin.

Lulu was an active member of the church choir with numerous articles specifically noting her when reporting on concerts. As already noted, Lulu performed for Nellie McClung—a member of the Famous Five and an Alberta MLA. In addition, it seems Lulu was friends with Mrs. Poston who, in 1923, challenged segregation at the Borden Park pool.

The most important document I came across on ancestry.ca was an immigration slip from one of her visits to the United States. From this slip I determined Lulu was born in Atlanta City, New Jersey, in 1885. At some point, the immigration slip suggests, she came into Canada and settled in Edmonton. She lived at 9609 105 Avenue, near what is today the Bissell Centre. She was 36 years old at the time of the court case and had a sister named Bernice White, who lived in Los Angeles. She was also married to Cornwallis Anderson. It’s unclear if they had children.

Aside from this, I wasn’t able to find anything else about Lulu’s life. But I was determined to find a photo of her.

Civil rights cases in Canada are often void of a personal connection. We rarely have images that show Canada’s segregation in images and those who fought against it. Contrast this with the United States, where we have vivid photos of segregation and intimate profiles of those who stood to fight against it. Finding a photo of Lulu was deeply important.

Thankfully, her connection to the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church provided me with my first lead. I looked for all possible references to the church in the city and provincial archives but came up with nothing. But I came across a photo when reading an article by Jennifer Kelly – a Black University of Alberta professor. At the top of the article was a photo of a congregation, with a description that read, “Emmanuel African Methodist Church Congregation, early 1920s, Edmonton.”

The bottom right of the photo has the tag, “McDermid Studios.” My hope was the original photo would have a more specific description, so I went through the McDermid collections at the Glenbow Museum. I found that the photograph was taken in 1921. Lulu was active in the church in 1921.

I was left with one conclusion: Lulu was in this photo.

I don’t remember how long I stared at the photograph but it was a long time. I scanned every face, looking at the emotions and weight each expression carried. I couldn’t help but become emotional. Until now, I only read about the experiences of these Black Edmontonians. But for now I was seeing their faces for the first time and felt a more personal connection. These were the Black Edmontonians who came before me and paved the way for my own civil rights. These were people who, for now, history has forgotten and whose stories deserve to be told.

“I don’t remember how long I stared at the photograph but it was a long time. I scanned every face, looking at the emotions and weight each expression carried.”

Unfortunately, the photo included no detailed information. I was unable to find where Lulu was. It’s a strange feeling, having gotten this close. Lulu is someone I spent days researching. I ended with this photo. She is there but I don’t know exactly where.

Still, knowing she is somewhere in the photo is humbling. I look around the group and, even though I don’t know who exactly she is, I know she is there, surrounded by community. Every face in that photo represents a friend who she sang with or who stood by her when she fought against racial discrimination. In many ways the photo represents her case. She fought against racial discrimination with others. Lulu may have been one person but had a community behind her.

Lulu lost her case but her stand was significant. She stood for racial justice 20 years before Viola Desmond stood up, after similarly being denied entry into a theatre in Halifax. Viola is now being honoured on our $10 bill. And Lulu stood up 30 years before Rosa Parks, who fought against segregated buses in the United States. Today we know about Viola and Rosa. But still little about Lulu.

It saddens me there are no memorials to Edmonton’s heroes in this fight, or that their history is not taught in our classrooms. I believe this is all part of the consistent whitewashing of Edmonton’s history. A sign on the wall of the Gibson Block building downtown, which said, ‘White Help Only,’ was literally painted over at some point with white paint. And Frank Oliver, who aggressively worked against black immigration, is nevertheless honoured with a neighbourhood named after him.

Perhaps we can use Lulu’s case as an example to challenge or begin undoing this white washing. Perhaps we can take action as downtown residents and celebrate our very own hero in Lulu Anderson.

She should be a major historical figure in Edmonton. I’m glad I finally found her.

BASHIR MOHAMED works for the provincial government. In his free time he researches and writes at www.bashirmohamed.com/blog

Losing Independence

My friend told me a story that left us both in tears.

An elderly man—who spent his career working in our community—had come into the medical clinic where she works to be assessed for his ability to keep his driver’s licence. Prior to his appointment, he told my friend how his career had been worked on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, that he feared losing his licence and that his wife’s health was failing. She sincerely wished him luck as he walked down the hall into the examination room.

Some time later, she knew the news the clinician gave him wasn’t what he wanted to hear. She could hear shouting, things being thrown, the man threatening to end his own life.

As she recounted the experience, we both wept.

This man’s story has stuck with me and has kept me thinking about how we plan our cities, communities and lives. Sure, this man may have chosen to live somewhere where driving was his only option for mobility, as many have done and continue to do, but it’s our collective responsibility to ask for better designed communities that enable multiple modes of transportation. It’s a question of resilience.

In Oliver, we have multiple seniors residences. Our neighbourhood is built for a relatively resilient life; we have access to public transit, new bike infrastructure and lovely tree-lined streets that are a joy to walk along. Our residential neighbourhood has a number of services within it.

But if you live in one of these facilities— Manoir St. Joachim, Kiwanis, Ansgar, or Our Parents’ Home—you will often find you have to cross Jasper or 104 Avenue. Both are seven-lane roads with drivers that are prone to speeding.

Research shows this can be a barrier that keeps people trapped at home.

We are gaining a better understanding of how social isolation can severely impact our mental and physical health. People who lose their ability to drive often lose their independence. They can lose their social connections. And then they may lose their health. Urban design and transportation planning have far reaching impacts on our lives, some of which we may not realize until we are facing a driver’s licence suspension.

If you could no longer drive—maybe ever again—how much would your life change? Would you be able to meet all your needs? It’s an interesting thought experiment. Try it. And then advocate for a better community for all.

Lisa Brown

President, Oliver Community League

Downtown’s Future Is (Still) Residential

Our fall issue delves into the history of community leagues. But if we look ahead into the future of our own league and downtown community, it’s clear there will simply be far more residents living here.

DECL is responding to an unprecedented number of new development applications. Many of these proposals are developments that will house hundreds, if not thousands of new residents. Many boosters talk about “20,000 in 2020,” and if these new proposals go ahead, we will be a little behind but not far off from those numbers. Urban planning experts say these are the sort of population numbers necessary for downtown to be sustainable, to encourage walkable retail and to retain offices and workers.

The first significant push for new residential housing downtown was in the form of the new Capital City Downtown Plan, in 1997. An update to that plan, in 2010, saw a confirmation that a significant future for our downtown was having people live here. Since that first plan, we saw an approximate doubling of our population, from 6300 in 1997 to about 13,000 people today. Downtown Edmonton has been one of the fastest growing neighbourhoods during that time.

Much of proposed development for the future comes from a new confidence in downtown due to recent investment, both public and private. New residential towers combined with public money flowing into parks and streetscaping are spurring results. The most significant ‘catalyst’ project downtown, Rogers Place, is now being augmented by western Canada’s tallest towers. Alex Decoteau Park has given residents a place to meet neighbours and be proud of the place we call home.

Some of the new proposed residential towers are pushing westward, into the warehouse area west of 104 Street. These proposals are a direct result of the proposed ‘Central Park’ planned for 106 Street to 107 Street, on vacant land between Jasper Avenue and 102 Avenue, an area at least four times larger than Alex Decoteau Park, which would serve the recreational needs of much of our neighbourhood.

The city is actively working with landowners in the area to purchase land, and developers are hedging their bets that this new catalyst will bring new opportunities and life into what is currently mostly gravel parking lots.

But this revitalization could stall. It will require Edmonton City Council to continue to invest in our downtown, particularly to make the development of this park and other important catalyst projects like streetscaping a priority in the upcoming fall budget. Continued momentum in both public and private investment downtown requires us all to work together and come to consensus on the type of community we want to see.

If you want to learn more about how our downtown is changing, what’s proposed, and share what you’d like to see develop, our development committee we would love to hear from you. Get in touch with us at info@decl.org.

Chris Buyze

President, Downtown Edmonton Community League

DECL Fall Events

CornFest 2018 | September 15, 11 – 3pm

Join us again this year at Alex Decoteau Park for free corn-on-the-cob, kids activities, community-garden tours and more!

 

Urban Kids Playgroup | Fridays starting September 21, 10 – 11:30am

Our playgroup meets weekly for parents and tots up to 5. Coffee and snacks provided!

 

Sunday Yoga | September 9 to October 28, 11am

Register at declyoga@yahoo.com. Free for DECL members, $10 for others.

 

DECL SOCIALS

Meet other DECL members, meet your neighbours!

September 20Pub crawl | locations to be determined, stay tuned!

October 19, 6 – 9pm | All ages board games night | DECL HQ.

November 15 Pool night | All abilities welcome, Metro Billiards, 10250 106 Street. Details TBD

 

As of September 1, DECL Memberships are FREE. Yes, FREE! Join once and that’s it! Sign up at one of our events or visit us at the City Market on 104 Street on September 22 for more info.

OCL Fall Events

Oliver Bike Club Wednesdays for September, 6pm

You have one more month to enjoy this popular OCL program! Destinations and themes vary each week. All levels of riders encouraged! Meet at Oliver Park, 118 Street and 103 Avenue

Picnic in the Park Thursdays for September, 6-8pm

Weekly picnics roving to each of our parks. Stop by for some lemonade, games, OCL membership and to meet your neighbours. Bring your family, friends, pets and snacks. Parks in Oliver – see social media

Oliver Reads September 17, 6pm

Our first book club meeting will discuss “Birdie” by Tracey Linberg. Get your free membership to the Edmonton Public Library for a hard copy or e-book version. Stay tuned for details on book two! MEC com- munity room, 11904 104 Avenue

Community League Day September 15, 12-4pm

Join the OCL as we participate in the city-wide celebration of community leagues. A beer garden, barbecue and games in our beautiful park round out the day. Kitchener Park, 114 Street at 103 Avenue

Walking Pub Crawl of Oliver September 21, Oct 19, & Nov 16, 8pm
Join your neighbours, meet with new and old friends and explore some local pubs. Locations TBD; please check up on OCL’s Facebook page. Meet at Oliver Park, 118 Street and 103 Avenue

Oliver Halloween Trick or Treat | October 31

OCL helps bring trick or treating to our high density neighbourhood. Keep an eye out on OCL’s Facebook page and newsletter to learn more about how you can participate.

Program and Events Committee | September 25, October 23, & November 27, 7pm

Come volunteer with the OCL and help plan events for the community. BRU, 11965 Jasper Avenue

Civics Committee September 10, October 9*, November 13*, 7pm

This highly engaged committee meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. *Tuesday. Grace Lutheran Church, 9907 114 Street

5 Cheap Tips for Keeping Cool This Summer

1 Icy Fan

You’ve probably watched the MacGyver re-boot or remember the (far better) original with Richard Dean Anderson. Either way, this trick is pure MacGyver. Take a bowl, fill it with ice, angle it slightly, then take your cheap fan and have it blow across the bowl and the ice. Get it right and it can create an icy mist. You’re welcome.

2 Close Your Curtains

Do your windows face any direction but north? If so, the easiest strategy to keep your place cool is to keep the direct sunlight out.

You can significantly cool an apartment using this strategy alone, especially when you’re out at work or otherwise not needing the curtains open. Indeed, blackout curtains are capable of cooling a room as much as 30 per cent.

3 Cook Later

To keep super cool you need to limit the heat your cooking is contributing. So cook later, when the ambient temperature has dropped.

4 Buckwheat Pillow

Not to get all science-y on you, but buckwheat hulls have natural air gaps between them so they don’t absorb your heat as readily as other materials. That means they’re cooler to rest your head upon at night. And let’s be honest — being too hot at night is the absolute hardest time to take it. So get some sleep, buckwheat.

5 Turn On Your Exhaust Fans

This one is less obvious but works. That exhaust fan in your bathroom that evacuates steam as you shower? It also can pull out heat if you leave it running. Same thing goes with the fan above your kitchen stove. If your house is scorching, employ any and all methods to get that heat outta there.

Losing Green

A developer’s intentions to erect a tower beside one of the core’s most spectacular historic buildings has put the future of a beloved green space in question. Toronto-based development company Great Gulf and Calgary-based ProCura have jointly applied for a re-zoning permit to build a 55-storey, mixed-use building — equal in height to the current JW Marriott — on what’s currently Frank Oliver Park, just north of Hotel MacDonald.

The application leaves the future of the small but much-liked green space uncertain. According to a letter provided by engineering firm Stantec, on Green Gulf’s behalf, “[t]he proposed development will… still [retain] publicly accessible open space on the south portion of the site.”

Chris Buyze, president of DECL, said the land the park currently occupies is privately owned and was sold by the owners of Hotel MacDonald. Still, he said, many who live downtown feel a connection to it. “We have a lot of residents who have concerns about [Frank Oliver Park] being developed,” Buyze said. “I do think that any new development has to be better than what it’s replacing.”

Despite this, Buyze said DECL has not taken a formal stance on the potential development or sought community feedback. The proposed tower raises questions about the future of Frank Oliver Park — a park whose name has been controversial in some communities for decades but has come to be known by the mainstream to be problematic in recent years, too.

Some see this as an opportunity, however.

Jennifer Ward, an Umpqua-Algonquin woman and a sessional instructor in education at the University of Alberta, said the park’s name is a colonial artifact. “Frank Oliver, as we know, historically, he was a major player in the reason why the Papaschase First Nation lost their territory,” Ward said.

But Ward also said she sees redevelopment of the park as an opportunity for reconciliation.

“I think development is good. And I think there can be some positives with development and looking at, ‘How do we develop space that’s conducive to the land? And not just art. Art is one thing and art is beautiful, but I think we need to move beyond that.

I just think participation by Indigenous peoples and communities go a long way.”

Stantec and ProCura did not respond to requests for comment.

Holding Station

A station for the westward expansion of the Valley Line LRT at 124 Street has some concerned but others cautioning to remain engaged and find solutions.

When City Council approved the LRT Valley Line expansion westward, from 102 Street to Lewis Farms Transit station, many residents and business owners along the route in the core expressed concerns, mostly with the 124 Street station.

The layout seemed to cut into space for cyclists and people on their feet.

“It’ll be more convenient,” said Wesley Tang, a 21-year-old downtown resident, “but I want to make sure that it’s safe for pedestrians as well.”

The proposed location and design of the station also seemed to mark a date with a wrecking ball for 13 homes and more than 20 businesses, including Western Cycle and the United Way.

Some business owners were not impressed. “I feel a little bitter about the whole thing,” said Wade Church, manager of National Audio Video on 124 Street, in an interview with the Edmonton Journal.

But others in the business community say it’s best to remain calm as the LRT discussion continues.

Jeff McLaren, executive director of the 124 Street Business Association, said he recognizes the challenges with the proposed station but ultimately feels that it will be a net positive. He also suggests to wait until all decisions are finalized before reacting.

“We support (the Valley Line). We see it as a great benefit to the area. We’re hoping it will alleviate some of the reliance on a vehicle, as well as relieve some congestion and the parking issues in the area,” McLaren said. “My first meeting [with the city on the LRT expansion] goes back to 2010. We’ve voiced our concerns and they’ve come back with whether they can address them or not. There’s no sense in getting all up in arms over something until we know exactly what’s happening.”

Coun. Scott McKeen, who oversees Ward 6 with downtown and Oliver within it, said he has been a strong supporter of protecting as many businesses and homes as possible, especially Western Cycle.

“I’ve met with Mr. Pahall, the owner of Western Cycle, and we’ve talked about a couple of options, whether he could find a temporary space during construction, and then reopen in an altered building, or a rebuilt building,” McKeen said.

As for the concerns surrounding bicycle paths and pedestrian crossings, McKeen said council’s priority was to make transit more convenient, not more difficult.

“Ideally, we want people walking and biking and taking transit,” McKeen said. “That is a clear priority for this council. But when you’re putting an industrial scale project through a community, there will be impact, and you try to lessen it as much as you can.”

McKeen also recommended following McLaren’s wait and see approach, and encouraged the community to remain engaged as the development continues.

“We are building an LRT for the next 100 years,” he said. “But we are only able to look at it from this time period. When we see it going through these areas, we only see the negative impacts and we can’t see, as the decades unfold, the revitalization that by all accounts will occur.”

PHOTO BY IAN SCOTT