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.

The 102 Ave. Bike Lane’s Long Journey

A downtown Vancouver bike lane (Paul Krueger/Flickr)

A downtown Vancouver bike lane (Paul Krueger/Flickr)

Edmontonians have been asking for a bike-friendly core since the ’80s. This summer brings dream closer to reality.

Expect to see construction start on the Glenora section of the 102 Ave. Bike Lane, which stretches from 136 St. to Connaught Dr. It will become a “shared-use path” (a widened sidewalk with one lane for cyclists and one for pedestrians). Disruption to vehicular and foot traffic will be minimal and during off-peak hours.

The Oliver section, from Connaught Dr. to 111 St., will see the lane transition into a cycle track on the north side (a two-way painted road that’s separated from both cars and pedestrians) that continues through the “City Centre” portion of Downtown from 107 St. to 96 St.

Construction on the Oliver section begins in 2017; the City Centre track is to be completed alongside the new Valley Line LRT, which is at least four years away.

A completed bike network in 2022? That’s longer than many are hoping to wait. “Oliver has one of the highest percentages of bicycle commuters in the city,” says Dustin Martin, civics director for the OCL, which has advocated for it for years.

He would like to see delays remedied with temporary solutions such as plastic bollards or moveable concrete barriers. “[They] can be constructed quickly and cheaply and this has been done in cities across North America including Calgary.”

Go to Edmonton.ca/cycling for further updates.

Grey Gardens: Trouble Grows on the Living Bridge

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Photo by Paula Kirman / flickr.com/photos/raisemyvoice

Standing alone on the Living Bridge, an abandoned railway turned garden on 97 St., I noticed few things out of place beside the kale and tomato planters: dirty discarded jeans, filthy tees, empty creamers and food wrappers. I poked at an empty chip bag with my foot; it folded in on itself and revealed a bloodied syringe underneath. There was no one around, but there were signs of human life everywhere.

It was an overcast fall day. I’d just climbed the skeletal metal staircase to the bridge, a place I’d only previously seen from the smudged bus window. It was conceived by artists and designers Chelsea Boos, Carmen Douville and Erin Ross in 2013 as an urban intervention to beautify an “unused” space by transforming it into a community hub/edible garden. Though privately owned by Qualico Communities, the Living Bridge is otherwise a very public space.

Community gardens are often built on the ideals of accessible space and public ownership. The Living Bridge is fully maintained by volunteers who lay no personal claim to anything planted, but collectively keep the garden alive. The bridge’s website states its purpose “is to foster pride and community engagement for the Downtown Edmonton, McCauley and Boyle Street neighbourhoods that intersect its borders.” Set about halfway through Chinatown—right on the corners of these three distinct neighbourhoods—it acts as a nexus, at least in a geographical sense.

While Downtown holds a lot of business-class wealth, Boyle Street and McCauley tend to be remembered for crime, prostitution, drugs and homelessness. Seldom are these two neighbourhoods recalled for their diversity; the area is also home to a large Aboriginal, East Asian and African population, as well as an artistic community. Long-time resident Timothy Anderson belongs to the latter. The author and MacEwan University instructor recognizes that the garden’s traces of poverty make some residents uncomfortable—the syringes, abandoned wardrobes, hollow remand jail towering above—but he reminded me that “ownership” is a fluid concept, and the ways we express pride over anything, whether spaces or objects, are subjective.

Surrounding the garbage—or perhaps tucked between it—the Living Bridge is divided into 24 planting beds made of temporary twine planters with a mix of flowers, brush and edibles. The local food movement was trendy when the garden started up, but no one really eats the produce, explains garden coordinator Stephanie Bailey. Like several urban DIY fads and movements, it’s a marker of self-sustaining communities and liberal identity. But ultimately, small urban gardens like this just aren’t a viable form of food security on their own. Bailey (who has since left the coordinator role) is more hopeful about the bridge’s potential to unite communities. “As opposed to other urban community gardens where you would pay for your plot, this was everyone’s garden,” she said. “So you can help garden whatever plot you want.”

When she started managing the project in 2014, she wanted to preserve its initial “by and for the community” ethos. The garden was planted by volunteers, primarily from a young and professional creative class, who didn’t all live in the area and couldn’t necessarily speak for its residents. So with the support of Boos, Douville and Ross, Bailey recruited 65 community members from Boyle Street, McCauley and Downtown to tend to the garden. The result was a mix of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, but Bailey still wondered if so many different types of people would be meaningfully engaged to take collective ownership over a single project.

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Photo by Paula Kirman / flickr.com/photos/raisemyvoice

Almost as quickly as a garden went up, so too did a camp; people started staying overnight. And the City of Edmonton, which helped get the project off the ground by supplying fertilized water, decided to retract its involvement with the Living Bridge last year.

Nearby, Mary Burlie Park was already known for violence, one City representative indicated to Bailey, and administrators took issue with the garden’s potential to attract “loiterers” and extend these issues. “I never once had any problems with people from Mary Burlie who were spending time on the bridge,” says Bailey, but she doesn’t deny the risky activities that occur on the bridge. (The city employee who worked closely with the Living Bridge organizers was unavailable for an interview.)

She recalls an organized volunteer cleanup that turned up hundreds of needles under a big water barrel. Clearing the bio-waste is obviously necessary, but she says it is also important that Edmontonians are exposed to the area’s realities of poverty and addiction. One businesswoman, Bailey recalls, had never seen a drug needle before. “[She] had no idea this was happening here,” says Bailey.

No one wants to see dirty needles on their footpaths—and that includes the people who use them. But the City’s concern with safety seems to adhere to a very particular definition of “safe.” What activities, what kinds of people, count as unsafe? And whose safety and sensibilities are top priority?

“Where do you want people to go?” asks Timothy Anderson, who is still bothered by the City’s decision to remove drinking water sources used by the homeless community from Giovanni Caboto Park a decade ago. He tried to remedy the situation by keeping one of his outdoor hoses out for the homeless, but his neighbours weren’t fans of the crowds it drew. “Most of the time they’re just hanging out, laughing, joking, finding what fun they can in their lives. They’re not quiet, but why do people find that so offensive? If I saw two or three of the students from MacEwan on the sidewalk in exactly the same position as a clump of homeless people, would I feel that that was something that shouldn’t be there? The answer is ‘no.’ So why do people find that so threatening?” Ironically, it seems that the street-entrenched communities of Edmonton are forced to live in the shadows while existing in the spotlight.


Months after my first visit last fall, I returned on a sun-drenched spring day. Again, I found myself alone, but I ventured past the freshly sown seeds into Mary Burlie Park and met a couple of people sitting under a tree.

They asked me if I had the time, and I asked them what they thought of the bridge. One man, who has been homeless for a year, called it “awesome.” He added, “It’s a crosswalk for the homeless. It’s history,” and he’d hate to see it torn down, which he thought was inevitable.

He was talking about the bridge itself, and not necessarily the newly added gardens, decorative planters and seating. Those are benchmarks of revitalization, which he had mixed feelings about. Pointing to the Ice District and future Rogers Place, he said it will expose many middle-class Edmontonians to homelessness and poverty, and, ultimately, increase prejudices, particularly against aboriginal people.

Edmonton, he believes, is trying too hard to make itself perfect, or at least look that way, covering up its economic disparity and pushing the people pegged as “problems” further into the peripheries. Given all the redevelopment, he said it’s hard for him to care about the Living Bridge, since he considers it temporary anyway—like a placeholder until it’s sold.

The other person in the park, however, felt differently about the bridge. “I’m homeless and Aboriginal,” she stated, “and I love this garden.” She told me that she camped on the bridge for a whole year—weeding, watering and planting in the garden whenever she could during the growing season. One group of gardeners had brought flower bunches but only planted half of them—and never returned. “I couldn’t stand to see [the plants] die,” she said. So she tended to them herself. Gardening is “spiritual and therapeutic,” she said. “It helps me think less about my plights.”


Bailey acknowledged the irony of the Living Bridge to me: Some people, including City administrators, object to people using the bridge to camp, yet harbour no qualms about artists—many non-residents—coming in and altering the old rail-yard to their whims. Nobody had a problem with her reimagining the site because “I’m just a middle class, white kid,” Bailey stated matter-of-factly.

What people forget about “urban interventionism,” Bailey explained, is that one rarely reimagines an “unused” or “neutral” space; someone has probably already been using that land. Before they were flowerbeds, they were human beds. Though street-entrenched people are seldom credited or even acknowledged for building their own definition of community, the Living Bridge offers a space that allows them, and others, to cultivate a unique sense of pride in their own neighbourhood.

She recalled one late night when she’d biked by the bridge and noticed a knocked over water barrel. Bailey struggled to lift the heavy container until three men camping in the garden came to help. Then, as she left the bridge, someone walked over to the barrel, and she heard the men tell the person not to play with it. “It was like 24-hour surveillance.”

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.)

Ten Summer Events From the Oliver Community League

 

Green Shack Program
JUL 4–AUG 25: The City of Edmonton’s popular drop-in program for children sets up next to the OCL Hall again this year. (10am – 1:30pm, Oliver Park, 10326 118 St.)

Civics Committee
JUN 13, JUL 11, AUG 8: This fully engaged committee meets on the second Monday of the month to discuss developments in Oliver. (7pm, OCL Hall, 10326 118 St.)

Events and Programs Committee
JUN 15, JUL 20, AUG 17: If you like event planning, this is the committee for you. Join the committee and help make a difference in Oliver. (6:30pm, OCL Hall, 10326 118 St.)

Walking Pub Crawl of Oliver
JUN 17: Meet with new and old friends at the hall on every third Friday of each month, before walking to pre-determined locations to enjoy the Oliver nightlife. (This is the last crawl of the season, until it returns again in September.) (8pm, starts at OCL Hall, 10326 118 St.)

Annual Rummage Sale
JUN 18: On the success of last year’s sale, we once again invite you to find treasures you didn’t know you needed. (9am–3pm, OCL Hall, 10326 118 St.)

Ollie’s Treehouse Inclusive Playgroup
JUN 19: Every third Sunday, come to the hall to let your little ones run wild and play with friends. Ollie’s is a great place for parents to make friends of their own. (This is the last playgroup of the season, until it returns again in September.) (4pm, OCL Hall, 10326 118 St.)

Annual Canada Day Pancake Breakfast
JUL 1: Nothing says Canada Day like maple syrup on pancakes with friends and neighbours. Join us for a tasty breakfast! (9am–11am, OCL Hall, 10326 118 St.)

OCL Casino Fundraiser
JUL 19, JUL 20: Are you able to help us with our biennial casino fundraiser to support our operations? Contact us at info@olivercommunity.com. (11am–3:30am, Baccarat Casino, 10128 104 Ave.)

Oliver Community Daycamp
AUG 2–5: Hosted by the City of Edmonton, children ages 8 to 13 are invited to this “paint, plaster and play camp.” Register online at ereg.edmonton.ca or through 311. (9am–4pm, OCL Hall, 10326 118 St.)

BoardGame Night (7.2)

Gaming Afternoon
AUG 29
: A fun afternoon of games—both traditional and digital—hosted by the Edmonton Public Library. (1:30pm–4:30pm, OCL Hall, 10326 118 St.)

Four Fresh-Air Affairs in Downtown Edmonton

JUN 17
Mercer Summer Super Party
One of Edmonton’s coolest cultural hubs, the Mercer Warehouse, opens its doors to a closed 104 St. for one supersized block party. Explore all it has to offer inside—Mexican food, artisans and fashion designers—while outside music, art, food and dance awaits. (5pm-10pm, Mercer Warehouse, 10359 104 St., tinyurl.com/MercerSuperParty)

JUL 8
Meals on Wheels at Edmonton Prospects vs. Medicine Hat Mavericks
Step up to the plate and buy a 50/50 ticket in support of Meals on Wheels. Watch Edmonton’s minor league baseball team the Prospects take on the Medicine Hat Mavericks and help this meal subsidy program continue to hit home runs to those who are in need. (7pm, Telus Field, 10233 96 Ave., mealsonwheelsedmonton.org)

 

JUL 21–30
Taste of Edmonton
Look who’s turning the big 3-0! Celebrate the legendary festival’s milestones with great eats from your favourite—and maybe undiscovered—bistros, bakeries and bars, plus live music and refreshing beer and wine gardens. (Churchill Square, tasteofedm.ca)

 

 

 

AUG 2, 9, 16 & 23
Movies on the Square
Set up camp in Churchill Square with lawn chairs, snacks and (just in case) blankets to enjoy outdoor screenings of family movies on a three-storey high inflatable screen. Come early for pre-movie entertainment like group games and short films. (7pm, Churchill Sq., Edmonton.ca/attractions)

Four Summer Socials for Edmonton Seniors

JUN 16, 23, 30, JUL 7 & 14
GeriActors Summer School
The seniors’ theatre group’s first-ever summer session offers an introduction to storytelling, acting and improvisation. Don’t worry about learning lines; just have fun in this stress-free environment and enjoy the laughs. No experience is necessary and all are welcome. Tickets $20. (1pm–3pm, SAGE, 15 Churchill Sq., geriactors.ualberta.ca)

 

 

JUN 18
Golden Girls Tribute Show
Take another adventure with Dorothy, Sophia, Blanche and Rose in this tribute to a TV classic. Get your ticket and enjoy the show along with hot drinks, snacks and a silent art auction. Tickets available at the Edmonton Seniors Centre. (6:30pm, Edmonton Seniors Centre, 11111 Jasper Ave., edmontonseniorscentre.ca)

 

JUN 30
“Canada Day” Bus Trip to Wabamun Lake
Take a bus out to Wabamun for a day of lakeside fun, delicious food and a memorable Canada Day celebration! Meet at Edmonton Seniors Centre, join friends on the bus and play bingo until you arrive at the water. (10am–3pm, Meet at Edmonton Seniors Centre, edmontonseniorcentre.ca)

JUL 13
Pioneer Pancake Breakfast
Don’t be afraid to pile up the pancakes at Edmonton Senior Centre’s famous $5 breakfast. Mingle with your fellow Oliver residents over some syrupy goodness and live entertainers, and start the day off right. (9–11am, Edmonton Seniors Centre, 11111 Jasper Ave., edmontonseniorcentre.ca)

Three Must-See Summer Shows in and Around Downtown

JUN 15–25
Improvaganza Festival
Rapid Fire Theatre’s 16th annual comedy festival features some of the world’s best improvisers. After 10 days of stand-up, Theatresports and social events your abs will be sore from laughter. (Citadel Theatre, 9828 101a Ave., rapidfiretheatre.com)

JUN 15, JUL 20, AUG 17
Story Slam
Tell your best tale and see how it stacks up against your fellow storytellers at this competitive story-telling event. Sign up at 7pm and get a chance to take home some cash—but remember to keep your story contained to five minutes. (7:30pm, Mercury Room, 10575 114 St., edmontonstoryslam.com)

JUN 22
Tiger Army
The Berkeley, Cali., “psychobilly” legends bring their 20th anniversary tour to Edmonton—itself once a punk rock hotbed—with openers The Bellfuries and Pine Hill Haints. (Starlite Room, 10030 102 St., starliteroom.ca)

Four Creative Exhibits to Explore in the Core

UNTIL JUN 11
Sean Caulfield
The local printmaker and mixed media artist uses traditional woodcut and linocut techniques to ponder how machines have changed our environment and bodies. By blurring the biological and technological into his work, Caulfield challenges the viewer to consider what happens when they merge. (DC3 Art Projects, 10567 111 St., dc3artprojects.com)

Sarah Norquay albertacraft.ab.ca

Sarah Norquay albertacraft.ab.ca

 

UNTIL JUL. 2
#ABCRAFT
This exhibit shows viewers how digital technology is transforming Alberta’s fine craft artists, featuring 14 artists using digital technology in various forms—research, prototyping, production, etc.—to enhance their craft. (Alberta Craft Council, 10186 106 St., albertacraft.ab.ca)

 

AUG. 25–OCT. 8
Juan Ortiz-Apuy’s the Garden of Earthy Delights
The Montreal artist’s installations use juxtaposition, assemblage and collage to connect and combine specific moments in time. He describes his work as an encyclopaedia that draws on literature, theory, pop culture, design, history and more. (SNAP Gallery, 10123 121 St., snapartists.com)

JUN. 3–AUG. 28
Echo to Artifact
Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla’s film, sculpture, sound pieces and performances use artifacts and antiques, plus pieces based on Western Canada’s prehistoric history, to create beautiful reminders of the past in harmony with the present. (AGA, 2 Churchill Sq., youraga.ca/exhibitions)