As budget day dawned last November, central Edmonton residents, avid cyclists and community league representatives arrived to council chambers prepared to defend the long-overdue and eagerly anticipated 102 Avenue bike lane. They should have slept in.
Not only did it pass unanimously (?!) at a generous cost of $8.8 million, it was one of several strongly supported investments in our core neighbourhoods. Just check out these 2015-2018 Capital Budget items: $18.9 million to renovate (not re-do) west Jasper Ave.; $16.3 million for the Green and Walkable Downtown project; $7 million for a new community rink; $4.8 million to reactivate a near-by fire station; $4.3 million for forthcoming Alex Decoteau park; $43.2 million (up from $3.9 mil-lion) for phase two of the Quarters revitalization; $78.2 million for the Capital City Downtown Plan, going beyond 2019; $61.5 million for a Stanley Milner Library facelift.
I’ll stop. Just run a search for the word “downtown” in the last three capital budgets and you’ll count eight mentions in 2009-2011 (215 pages), nine mentions in 2012-2014 (39 pages) and 42 mentions in 2015-2018 (73 pages).
You can thank the community revitalization levy for that. Without this tool that funnels some new and grow-ing property tax revenues into downtown, the core would probably be underfunded. If the CRL doesn’t perform as well as hoped, future councillors will have to look to different, more innovative financing tools.
Regardless, there’s a lot coming down the pike. This took a lot of hard lobbying. Many don’t realize how much of a role community leagues have had in this. People often think of playgroups and barbecues when they imagine their leagues, not their efforts in city planning, which comes with a host of complications. (Read about the challenges and triumphs in “Community By Design.”)
David Staples of the Edmonton Journal described the downtown budget focus as Council’s efforts to please “Yeddies” (Young Edmonton Downtown Dwellers). We were hoping “Yardies” would catch on because, as our list of family activities show, the demographics are more varied. But that’s beside the point. Both Yeddies and Yardies are getting some much needed love.
But we also need to spread that love to the surrounding mature neighbourhoods that make up the downtown ecosystem. When condo dwellers in the core outgrow their homes, they’re often forced to move far away to an affordable house. They become detached from downtown. The convenient lifestyle vanishes.
Should we have to give that up just because we want a family or yard?