Snapshots From Fall Community Events

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Viraj Wanigasekera and Laurel Jamathematician in Oliver Park on Community League Day (Sept. 17/16)

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Roberto and Elisse Moreno of Home Tribe at The Yards’ Great Arena Debate (Sept. 29/16)

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Maysoon and Abdul Esboul in Oliver Park on Community League Day (Sept. 17/16)

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Writers Jyllian Park and Kalyna Hennig at The Yards’ Great Arena Debate (Sept. 29/16)

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The scene from DECL’s Urban Kids Family Night (Oct. 21/16)

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DECL’s Urban Kids group (and their urban parents) trick-or-treat at the Mayor’s Office (Oct. 31/16)

Tessah Clark of Punchcard Systems and Karishma Singh of the Stollery Foundation at The Yards’ Great Arena Debate (Sept. 29/16)

Tessah Clark of Punchcard Systems and Karishma Singh of the Stollery Foundation at The Yards’ Great Arena Debate (Sept. 29/16)

Nick Browett of Enbridge with Colliers staff Rick Argue, Marty Pawlina and Mike Hoffert at The Yards’ Great Arena Debate Presented by Colliers International (Sept. 29/16)

Nick Browett of Enbridge with Colliers staff Rick Argue, Marty Pawlina and Mike Hoffert at The Yards’ Great Arena Debate Presented by Colliers International (Sept. 29/16)

Snapshots From Summer Community Events

 

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The streets were filled with mirth during the Oliver Community Festival block party, hosted by Robertson Wesley United Church and sponsored by the OCL and 124 St. Business Association (May 28/16)

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From left: DECL president Chris Buyze, Mayor Don Iveson, and Ward 6 councillor Scot McKeen plant the first garden of Alex Decoteau Park (June 10/16)

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Jennifer Chaput and Devin Pope at The Yards Summer Salon (June 16/16)

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Jeff Burwash and El Niven at The Yards Summer Salon (June 16/16)

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Smokehouse BBQ owner Terry Sept serving up pulled pork at The Yards Summer Salon (June 16/16)

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Jason Gold finds some “gold” at the OCL Rummage Sale (June 18/16)

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Shafraaz Kaba at The Yards Summer Salon (June 16/16)

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Sasha Harding with Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault at OCL Canada Day Pancake Breakfast (July 1/16)

New Life for the Gibson Block

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On April 26, a fire at the Gibson Block—one of Edmonton’s most iconic buildings—displaced 66 homeless women. Over its 103-year life, it was a boarding house for German immigrants, a bathhouse and numerous private businesses, but in recent years it housed the Women’s Emergency Accommodation Centre (WEAC)—a 24/7, 365 days a year operation. That is, until the fire.

The sprinkler system did the most harm. “It nearly made this big ’ol boat float away,” says WEAC director Tanya Tellier. Water damaged half of the building. “Ceilings were falling down from the third floor all the way into the basement.”

Now with the Gibson in the repair stages, the program, which hopes to re-open its doors in the fall, sees the crisis as opportunity. “We’ll increase access to our elders and our community, as well as events that are going on, and we want to partner with other organizations in the community for this to be an official place for Aboriginal ceremonies.” says Tellier. WEAC also wants to make its programming more accessible for women to come in, volunteer, or participate in groups, rec activities, clinic care or sharing meals, even if they aren’t staying in the residence. Upon opening, expect to see local art in the building’s window display, too. “Overall, what we are striving for, is to be good neighbours.”

There’s even more good news for the Gibson: in July, city hall gave its owner, E4C, permission to use the ground floor for just about any commercial, retail or food business. We may finally see this truly unique building reach its potential.

Snapshots from Spring Community Events

 

City of Edmonton’s chief planner Peter Ohm and planning director Kalen Anderson at The Yards Spring Salon (March 10/16)

City of Edmonton’s chief planner Peter Ohm and planning director Kalen Anderson at The Yards Spring Salon (March 10/16)

Journalists Andrea Ross and Otiena Ellwand at The Yards Spring Salon (March 10/16)

Journalists Andrea Ross and Otiena Ellwand at The Yards Spring Salon (March 10/16)

Event planner Caitlin McElhone, City Hall School teacher Linda Hut and blogger Mack Male at The Yards Spring Salon (March 10/16)

Event planner Caitlin McElhone, City Hall School teacher Linda Hut and blogger Mack Male at The Yards Spring Salon (March 10/16)

Special thanks to all the OCL members and friends who came out for the Spring Clean Up of Oliver Park (April 23/16)

Special thanks to all the OCL members and friends who came out for the Spring Clean Up of Oliver Park (April 23/16)

A final send-off to longtime OCL board members James Eastham, Leah Hilsenteger, Danny Hoyt, Jarrett Campbell. (April 20/16)

A final send-off to longtime OCL board members James Eastham, Leah Hilsenteger, Danny Hoyt, Jarrett Campbell. (April 20/16)

DECL parks coordinator Christie Lutsiak at the City Market Downtown (April 30/16)

DECL parks coordinator Christie Lutsiak at the City Market Downtown (April 30/16)

Thousands came out to a DECL-sponsored Pancake Breakfast fundraiser in Churchill Sq. in support of Fort McMurray evacuees (May 6/16)

Thousands came out to a DECL-sponsored Pancake Breakfast fundraiser in Churchill Sq. in support of Fort McMurray evacuees (May 6/16)

Architect Vedran Skopac and environmental planner Robyn Webb tend to urban beehives atop Manasc Isaac’s offices (May 11/16)

Architect Vedran Skopac and environmental planner Robyn Webb tend to urban beehives atop Manasc Isaac’s offices (May 11/16)

Board Game Cafes Crop Up in Oliver

BoardGame Night

Ever since the German game Settlers of Catan gained popularity in North America in the 2000s, there’s been a movement of people putting down their controllers or phones and taking up the die in an effort to test their wits and meet new people, I.R.L. A new way to foster human interaction is organically taking hold right here in Oliver where two board game cafés have opened, Table Top Café (10235 124 St.) and the Gamers’ Lodge (10459 124 St.).

Prior to their openings, the OCL hosted free, all-ages games nights every month, complete with snacks, a table of new titles like Hive—an addictive strategic game akin to chess—and the promise of making new friends. (The league has since cancelled them, now that the needs are met by new businesses.)

Mary McPhail of the OCL says it’s the human touch missing from our digital lives that’s spurring the trend. According to The Guardian, board game purchases have risen by as much as 40 per cent annually since 2010. There’s a constant flow of new games released every year— some of them selling millions of copies.

What’s behind the resurgence? Brian Flowers, owner of Table Top Café, has a theory: “When you enter a competitive atmosphere, everyone’s paying attention to the game, not their phones.” Plus, he says, “It’s a really good icebreaker.”

Flowers’ friend and self-admitted boardgame aficionado Rudy Janvier agrees. In fact it’s how he met Flowers. “It began as just a regular thing on Sundays with some friends. And then when I moved to Oliver I started going to the community league’s nights to find more people who wanted to learn about new games.”

Another reason for this revival might just be that the games are getting better. Some of the most funded Kickstarter campaigns are games dreamed up by highly creative people. Janvier also points to massive conferences, like SPIEL in Germany, that allow players to contribute to the creation process. In other words, designers have learned that we want something more engaging than crib, Chinese checkers or backgammon.

But with a constant rotation of new titles to sample at Table Top and the Gamers’ Lodge, where does one even start? If you’re really up for a challenge, Janvier recommends Pandemic Legacy, an apocalyptic campaign game giving you a chance to command an imaginary centre for disease control.

Looking for something more general? McPhail loves Dixit, a story-building card game made for the word nerds among us.

Of course, if you prefer the classics, they’re easy to come by. “I remember a retiree coming in with her Chinese checkers board,” recalls McPhail. “She kicked my butt!”

Snapshots from Winter’s Community Gatherings

Well over 100 packed Christ Church for the City of Edmonton’s Imagine Jasper workshop to help reshape the thoroughfare into a main street (Nov. 25/15)

Well over 100 packed Christ Church for the City of Edmonton’s Imagine Jasper workshop to help reshape the thoroughfare into a main street (Nov. 25/15; Photo courtesy of DIALOG)

Douglas “Dollars” and Vedran Skopac at The Yards Best in the Core party (Dec. 2/15)

Douglas “Dollars” and Vedran Skopac at The Yards Best in the Core party (Dec. 2/15)

 

The Yards marketer and event planner Sona Chavda and North 53 owner Kevin Cam at Best in the Core (Dec. 2/15)

The Yards marketer and event planner Sona Chavda and North 53 owner Kevin Cam at Best in the Core (Dec. 2/15)

Steamwhistle ambassador “Sheriff” Ben Taylor at The Yards Best in the Core (Dec. 2/15)

Steamwhistle ambassador “Sheriff” Ben Taylor at The Yards Best in the Core (Dec. 2/15)

Credo Coffee co-owner Geoff Linden, Ayaki Shiga and Ikki Izakaya owner Ayumi Ishikawa at The Yards Best in the Core (Dec.2/15)

Credo Coffee co-owner Geoff Linden, Ayaki Shiga and Ikki Izakaya owner Ayumi Yuda at The Yards Best in the Core (Dec.2/15)

Oliver residents Eric Domond and Shereen Zink (Dec. 2/15)

Oliver residents Eric Domond and Shereen Zink (Dec. 2/15)

Richard Hung and Valerie Dovell take advan- tage of Edmonton Ski Club’s free equipment rentals for OCL members (Jan. 20/16)

Richard Hung and Valerie Dovell take advan- tage of Edmonton Ski Club’s free equipment rentals for OCL members (Jan. 20/16)

Danny Hoyt and Brandon Campbell at the Oliver Pub Crawl (Feb. 18/16)

Danny Hoyt and Brandon Campbell at the Oliver Pub Crawl (Feb. 18/16)

From Left: Pia Ravi, Jenna Lee Williams and Andrea Raylor at the Oliver Pub Crawl (Feb. 18/16)

From Left: Pia Ravi, Jenna Lee Williams and Andrea Raylor at the Oliver Pub Crawl (Feb. 18/16)

Tim Querengesser and Andrew Williams at the Oliver Pub Crawl (Feb. 18/16)

Tim Querengesser and Andrew Williams at the Oliver Pub Crawl (Feb. 18/16)

Smiling Faces at What the Truck?!, CornFest and more

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Thousands packed Churchill Square for the last What the Truck?! fest of the year, cosponsored by DECL, to feast from 35 food trucks. (Sept. 11) Courtesy – Mack Male/Flickr

 

 

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What the Truck?! co-organizer Melina Kawecki shows off two of over 250 menu items from the festival. (Sept. 11) Courtesy – Mack Male/Flickr

 


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From left: Eugenia Meza Delgado, Matt Beaubien, Ethel Tungohan, Jackie Lee, Keith Andony, Garth Brunt at CornFest. (Sept. 19)

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Franka Mckague Larson and the corn husk doll she made at CornFest. (Sept. 19)

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MLA David Shepherd and Make Something Oliver director Luwam Kiflemariam at EFCL Day. (Sept. 19) Courtesy – Edmonton Shutterbugs

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All Saints Anglican Cathedral outreach coordinator Chris Pilon and OCL’s Curtis Boehm at EFCL Day. (Sept.19) Courtesy – Edmonton Shutterbugs

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Edmonton-Centre MP Randy Boissonnault and his mother Shirley Boissonnault at The Yards Federal Debate Forum. (Sept. 24)

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Louis Martyres and Tyson Mastel at The Yards Federal Election Debate Forum (Sept. 24)

 

Bistro Praha Links Old Downtown With New Downtown

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10117 101 ST.

Restaurants come and go. Even the most hyped-up eateries are lucky to live a decade, and anything past that becomes an institution. That’s what makes Bistro Praha a monument linking old downtown with new downtown.

It serves continental classics that the modern eater seems to have lost all appetite for in the era of beer-can chicken and truffle popcorn—except here, where the tartare and schnitzel is as good as it was when it opened in 1977. The continuity was interrupted for two years after a fire destroyed its former home in the Kelly Ramsey Building on Rice Howard Way.

This photo, taken on a chilly night shortly after it reopened in 2011, shows how not just the decor but the mood was reassembled two blocks away, down to the mural that’s an exact replica of the one that perished in the fire. Even the chairs, tables and antique lamps are nearly the same. It’s still the late-night sanctuary for the opera and theatre crowd, too. And the classical music hasn’t waned.

Sometimes, things are just as good the second time around.

The Studio 54 of the Prairies

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53.54° N, 113.49° W | 10330 104 ST.

Shutting down a street is hard. But an alley? So long as you’ve got a van to block it off and a couple of rowdy queens on guard you’re set. At least that was the thinking during the days of Flashback—a gay bar considered one of the hottest clubs in Edmonton if not Canada in the 1980s. Some even called it “Studio 54 of the Prairies.”

For one weekend every summer the alley alongside the warehouse on 104 St.—which was later converted into the Excelsior Luxury Lofts—hosted the Drag Races, a ritual marking the end of one Ms. Flashback’s reign and the crowning of another. Spectators, mostly gay men, crowded the loading docks or stood amidst garbage bins for a view of the gravel strip where young men challenged each other to tug-of-war fights and three-legged races, and drag queens stumbled and clambered in their heels (the libations didn’t help).

It was great summer fun. But much more than that, it was a public show of support and defiance.

How the Bay Building Was Built to Last

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53.53° N, 113.52° W | 10230 Jasper Ave.

The “Bay” building, as it’s affectionately known, tells a story just by looking at it. It’s the finest example of moderne architecture in Edmonton, with architectural “clues” that define the period as well as the prominence and power that the Hudson’s Bay Company had in 1939. The streamlined details—curved corner details and horizontal lines—evoke the speed of the Machine Age and reflect austere economic times.

Look at the materials: The base is polished black granite, also known as Cambrian Granite, one of the few Canadian granites quarried, mostly in Ontario, for decades. Tyndall stone, from Manitoba stands above it. Trims around windows and door frames, all original, are of fine stainless steel. Main floor windows were designed for elaborate store displays, attracting pedestrians who animated the street and enjoyed the intriguing merchandise.

The engraved images above each entrance tells the story of how the First Nations people on the Prairies came into contact with the company’s exclusive fur traders, and ultimately transformed the economy into an agrarian focus. The words “Pro, Pelle, Cutem” mean “a skin for a skin.” Edmonton was recovering from the depression when it was constructed.

Few buildings were completed between 1914 and 1950. By contrast, the Winnipeg architectural firm Moody and Moore’s design was extraordinarily refined, and therefore optimistic about the city.