Best of The Yards

Omar Mouallem was the founding editor of The Yards magazine–he worked with the initial team to create and put in place many of our magazine’s well-known features: Best in the Core, Front Yards, and our focus on accessible urbanism.

Omar Mouallem

Since his days with The Yards, Mouallem has been busy. He has edited numerous magazines in Alberta while contributing stories to The Guardian, WIRED, and NewYorker.com while co-authoring the national bestseller. As editor, Mouallem brought to The Yards his vision for what a magazine covering life in central Edmonton could become and what stories it could tell.

I met with Mouallem in the sleek new JW Marriott hotel lobby in the heart of Ice District. Five years ago this was a construction site sitting on top of a recently demolished Staples big-box retail store and its surface level parking lot. As Edmonton’s media has evolved over time, so has the city landscape that we cover.

Mouallem told me how his vision for the magazine was conceptually birthed from an article he wrote for Vue Weekly about the controversy surrounding the Brewery District development. The community’s push for a higher-density, transit-oriented urban development seemed to be running up against an immovable wall.

“It was kind of the first Yards piece, in a way,” Mouallem explained. “That story showed people in Oliver what they were up against, because here was something that seemed like a slam dunk – neighbours, residents were all for it one way, and pushing for it one way, and yet that formula for how we develop in Edmonton which was created and set into motion 20 years or so ago was too strong.”

“Administration went out of their way to demote the opinions of high-density urbanists and promote the opinions of the status quo.”

There was a clear need for a new voice to speak out on behalf of core residents. Mouallem explained how he set out to ensure every issue of the fledgling publication had an article exploring an urban issue issue impacting our neighbourhoods, bringing accessible urban planning discussions to residents for developments like the Brewery District.

“That article, I think it showed the kind of voice that the community can have in journalism if the time is taken to write it,” Mouallem explained.

“The Edmonton Journal cannot justify putting one journalist on that story for one week to investigate and interview, the stakes aren’t high enough. But a publication whose only stakeholders work and live in that area can and should.”

Mouallem noted with approval that there has been a consistency in the magazine’s structure, yet a gradual change in focus since Winter 2014, responding to shifts in both local and global trends.

“It’s cool to have been a part of inventing, with the team, institutions such as Best in The Core – but the essence of the stories now have become more human focused and less about architecture, design and urbanism, and more about things that people are concerned about today, post 2016,” Mouallem said, highlighting some of the issues that he felt really resonated with the current socio-political climate.

He noted a number of articles managed to take larger issues and localize them – the Frank Oliver article as a story on reconciliation and about rethinking our icons, an article on Me Too in the core, a historical story about racial segregation. Mouallem pointed out that the power of a hyper-local magazine can be seen in how you tackle these large issues, such as with the climate change article in Fall 2019, and make them relevant to people in their communities.

“I think it is the kind of story that you really need to publish in 2020 to keep people interested. That’s what people are thinking about, and there’s this anxiety and dread about the future of the planet. Even though it’s this hyperlocal magazine, you can take those global issues and localize them – and you should, because then it makes these really big and abstract, intangible issues suddenly concrete and in front of you and maybe even resolvable, manageable.”

In naming this magazine, the moniker had to advocate for those living here, while speaking to Edmontonians from every corner of our exploding city that rely on the city centre for work or leisure. It had to portray the positive changes and the new faces of downtown, without abandoning the inner city’s seniors, families, working poor and homeless. It had to look ahead, but it couldn’t ignore the past. That’s how we landed on “The Yards.” It harkens back to the old Canadian National rail yards along 104 Avenue, while symbolizing what downtown is to us: a place that you invite people into, but also must protect and maintain.

Omar Mouallem, Winter 2014 Issue

ZeroWaste Edmonton

To support this ambitious goal Edmonton became the first major Canadian municipality to offer curbside recycling and home to the largest municipal composting facility in North America. Investments in ‘waste-to-energy’ systems and other cutting edge technologies helped Edmonton’s integrated waste management system extend the life of the city’s only landfill by up to 20 years and put the city on track to be “the first metropolitan area to eliminate landfilling of municipal solid waste on a basis that is both economically and environmentally sound.”

In 2018, an internal city audit revealed that waste services was a dumpster fire: waste diversion rates had peaked at just under 50% in 2013 and were trending downwards. Poor asset management led to the unexpected closing of the composter due to structural issues, failure of the groundwater diversion system and the waste-to-energy biofuels plant was 8 years behind schedule. The old system did not even require multi-family residences to provide facilities for recycling. The audit concluded that spending in the waste branch was not aligned with the most basic and commonly accepted principles of waste reduction: prevention and reuse.

City Council responded to the audit with a request to administration for a new waste strategy and a stern warning for taxpayers that ‘the more ambitious the plan, the higher the cost’ as well as a promise of ‘more responsibility at the curb’ if citizens wanted to maintain the old ‘Cadillac’ system of waste management. Less than a year later ‘The Future of Waste’ strategy was adopted and reaffirmed the commitment to a 90% diversion rate but proposes a ‘zero- waste’ approach to achieving it.

Zero-waste systems focus on waste prevention rather than waste management. Prevention seems like an ideal strategy for a city that generates 1,000,000 kg of solid waste per year and needs a budget of $200M to collect, process and dispose of all of it. Due to lack of a landfill, out-of-service composter, and China shutting down nearly all imports of plastic and paper scrap all of Edmonton’s solid waste has to be stored on-site or shipped off-site for disposal.

As promised there is ‘more responsibility at the curb’ in the new strategy, residents will soon be required to separate recyclable and organic waste before setting it out along with fees for the collection of excess residential waste at the curb. The new strategy also plans to address single-use plastics through restrictions or an outright ban and implement Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) which charges companies for the waste they create, instead of allowing it to become the burden of taxpayers.

Edmonton’s strategy may seem very forward looking but we already know that the Federal Government plans to ban single-use plastics, including plastic bags, forks and straws, across Canada by the end of 2021. British Columbia has has EPR in place since the 1970s. France just passed a broad anti-waste law banning luxury goods companies from destroying unsold or returned items. In 2016, France also mandated that supermarkets donate usable expired food instead of disposing of it. The entire European Union is proposing a single standard for mobile chargers and is implementing ‘right-to-repair’ legislation which requires appliances are manufactured to be repaired and that spare parts will be made available for up to 10 years.

It is quite easy to live a modern urban life while creating very little waste. The ‘zero-waste lifestyle’ movement popularized by Bea Johnson’s Zero-Waste Home blog offers a blueprint for achieving what Johnson’s family did – fitting an entire year of household waste in a single mason jar. This ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle is predicated on the same principle as Edmonton’s municipal waste strategy: prevention. It starts with simple actions, carrying reusable bags for shopping, bringing your own containers for bulk foods, and carrying silverware for takeout meals. Once the zero-waste mentality takes hold perspectives begin to change. The choice to buy less, consume less, and create less waste become second nature.

What if every person in Edmonton adopted a ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle? Would that solve our waste woes? Unlikely. Of the million tonnes of solid waste our city generates only about one-third is residential, the remaining 660,000 kg is from the institutional, commercial, and industrial sector. If we are meant to take ‘personal responsibility’ for our waste it will be through our places of work, our institutions, and our political power. We need to support robust policies which eliminate single-use plastics, not just a few select bits, we need to support EPR which pushes producers to bear the full cost of production, including the waste which is left behind.

There will always be a cost to dealing with waste but if there were less waste altogether?

Edmonton Newcomers

Edmonton’s famous as Canada’s northernmost major city and folks from around the world and across Canada hear dread tales of our brutal, endless Prairie winters. We thought we’d ask some newcomers who live and work downtown to tell us what it’s really like, coming here to start a new life. Universally they are pleasantly surprised – especially when the days grow longer and the white landscape turns to green.

Name: MÉLISSA HAMBROOK | Age: 25

MÉLISSA HAMBROOK

Where are you from? Drummond, New Brunswick
When did you move to Edmonton? June, 2018
What do you miss most about your home? I miss mostly my family and friends. I also miss the low traffic any time of the day.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? When I first moved here in 2018, my husband and I lived in the Oliver area. I loved the area as it was very convenient for groceries, the farmers market, all the little shops on 124th Street, and I love running so it was close enough to the River Valley trails for a scenic workout.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? Starting my social life almost from scratch. I am a fairly quiet person, so it’s been a big change from what I had in my hometown surrounded by cousins and childhood friends.
Has anything about living/working in Edmonton surprised you? The cold! Coming from the East Coast, people would tell me that the “wet cold” was much worse than what we would have here… but it gets much colder than what I expected – skin burning cold!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? I had heard that Edmonton was a festival city, and that was confirmed my first summer. Taste of Edmonton, Heritage Festival, All is Bright on 124th Street, and the Deep Freeze Festival, to name a few. I would have to say that I expected the public transportation to be better than what it is in a bigger city like Edmonton.

Name: SOKHANA MFENYANA | Age: 20

SOKHANA MFENYANA

Where are you from? Pretoria, South Africa
What’s your connection to Downtown/Oliver? Attending Grant MacEwan studying Arts and Culture.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? Well the cold of course, but I was surprised people take off their shoes when they go in someone’s house. In fact I sometimes think about where I’m going and if I have to take off my shoes. I don’t want to spend an hour in a hallway tying up my shoes.
What differences have you noticed? I have noticed differences in talking to people, in stores, in government offices. In South Africa we talk. We ask “Hi, how are you?” In Edmonton it is more fast-paced. In South Africa everyone you encounter is like a sister, or an aunt, or an uncle.

Name: KELSEY SPEED | Age: 28

KELSEY SPEED

Where are you from? London, Ontario
When did you move to Edmonton? March, 2017
What do you miss most about your home? The fall season in Edmonton lasts about 2 weeks and lacks the gorgeous colours of a true Ontario fall. Being around water – growing up, everyone I knew had a pool or a cottage on a lake, and we spent most of the summer hopping between them, swimming and doing water sports.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? I live in Oliver.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? How long it takes for the city to clear the snow. I walk to work each day, and the sidewalks are always covered in snow or ice during the winter.
Has anything about living/working in Edmonton surprised you? How amazing the summers are here!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? That the winters are super long – although I love snowboarding, so it is worth it!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? That West Edmonton Mall is the only exciting place to go in Edmonton. There are so many unique and fun things to do in Edmonton that do not involve the mall.

Name: LAINIE RËHN | Age: 25

LAINIE RËHN

Where are you from? Red Deer, Alberta
When did you move to Edmonton? July, 2018
What do you miss most about your home? As cliché as it sounds, there’s a certain feeling of connection, comfort and familiarity of living in a small (to me) town that I miss; the nostalgia and safety of somewhere so familiar is really powerful.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? I recently moved to Downtown and have loved living here! I love having access to such great food, retail and fitness facilities, as well as access to some really great events!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? I sold my car when I moved to Edmonton, so I occasionally find the coverage public transportation offers a bit tricky. I’ve had to say no to some plans because it would take me 30-60 minutes to get there, and as a student, Ubering isn’t always in the budget!
Has anything about living/working in Edmonton surprised you? How much different the weather is as compared to Red Deer! The winters here are much colder, and the air is very dry. I miss experiencing Chinooks!
Did you have any preconceptions that were confirmed? That Edmonton is the place for all the good festivals, year-round. There is always something to do/see/eat! Also, living near Rogers Arena, I’ve also been able to confirm that Edmontonians truly love their Edmonton Oilers.
Did you have any preconceptions that turned out to be unfounded? That Edmonton was a boring government city with a big mall. Day in and day out it’s being proven otherwise to me.

Name: MICHAEL TAIT | Age: 31

MICHAEL TAIT

Where are you from? Edinburgh, Scotland
When did you move to Edmonton? January, 2020
What’s your connection to Downtown/Oliver? My wife and I were married and lived in Scotland for several years. During that time, she owned and rented out a condo in downtown Edmonton, so when we decided to move here, we moved into her condo.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? So far, the winter! I’m currently not working and looking after my son full-time, so when it’s really cold walking places isn’t an option. Thankfully there have not been too many really cold days! The buses are pretty good as well!
Has anything about living downtown surprised you? I’m very new living downtown but from what I’ve experienced so far I’m surprised how friendly people are and how I can enter into conversations with complete strangers. Everyone seems to have a Scottish relative!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? Although I’m very new to living here, I’ve visited many times. Over the last 7 years, I’ve experienced nothing but great food and excellent service surrounded by fun, friendly people!

Name: ABDI FETAH (NOT SHOWN) | Age: 23

Where are you from? Somalia
When did you move to Edmonton? February, 2019
What do you miss most about your home? Mostly I miss my family and friends. Before moving here, I lived in Thailand. Some of my friends moved here before me, so I did know a few people, but not many.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? I live Downtown.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? Starting from scratch. It is very difficult to learn a new way of communicating and a new culture. Also, since I have no experience working Canadian jobs, it has been difficult to find full-time work.
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? I heard you can make money easily and that life is easy and very simple. I was surprised how difficult it was to find work, and even had to learn how to apply for jobs and write a resume. I had heard that Canada is peaceful and free, and I’ve found that it is true.

Fitness in the core: Coming out of hibernation

Health is more than just being at a good weight and exercising regularly. Overall health means addressing mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Spring is the ideal time to make a fresh start and approach your health from a holistic point of view. Now that the harshness of Edmonton’s demonic winter is nearly past us (it is almost over, right? RIGHT?!), Edmontonians no longer have the same excuses we drag out every winter to avoid exercising, eating well, and getting enough fresh air and sunshine. Here’s how to improve your overall health this spring.

Find Your Exercise Groove

Sure, there are winter warriors who thrive by doing winter sports and actually look forward to the first snow. For those cold weather fitness fanatics, spring is the time to up your game and challenge your body with new and interesting workouts. Maybe you excel at running outside no matter how low the mercury drops, or perhaps you’ve learned to embrace the treadmill when it’s simply too cold out to function.

Kick it up a notch by cycling to work, or training for a marathon. Give Pilates or Spinning a try to challenge different muscles in your body. The point is to set new goals, and challenge yourself. Integration Pilates Studio (10565 114 Street) starts their spring session of courses in April.

It could be your first attempt at establishing a regular workout routine (or maybe it’s the eighth time – no judgement!). Spring represents an opportunity – you can leave the house again! – and a challenge. There will be nice days and there will be crappy days where you still feel housebound. Don’t let the weather be the barrier that stops you from getting your sweat on. Ideally, you’ll develop a routine that is flexible enough that it incorporates both indoor and outdoor activities. If your building has a gym – even a tiny one – use it! You’re already paying for it, and you don’t have to drive or go outside to get there. It’s literally the most low- maintenance workout you can do, except maybe some gentle stretching in your apartment.

If you don’t have access to a gym, sign up for classes at a studio. YEG Cycle offers daily 50-minute Spin classes taught by their team of “Motivators.” Orange Theory has multiple locations in the city and offers a workout that’s different every time, making it ideal for those who get bored easily. If you find yourself skipping workouts regularly, paying for a class or personal trainer in advance and scheduling those workouts can incentivize you to go even when you’d rather enjoy a Netflix marathon.

For social butterflies who like fresh air, try Coffee Outside, Edmonton’s outdoor coffee club. They meet every Friday between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. at Ezio Faraone Park, regardless of the weather (within reason – they’ve moved their meetings indoors occasionally when the temperature gets too close to minus 30. They’re not monsters). “We’ve been not just a community of cyclists but also people who enjoy each other’s company,” Dr. Darren Markland, the organizer of the weekly meet-up, says of the unique club. Follow @coffee_outside on Twitter for updates.

The City of Edmonton recently rolled out a new campaign called Live Active, meant to encourage citizens to learn about and use the city’s recreational facilities and numerous parks in all seasons. The new initiative launched Feb. 2 at Rundle Park, drawing hundreds of snowshoers, skaters, marshmallow roasters, and sledders. The City also created a list of 97 ways for people to be active year- round, and encourages participants to share on Twitter with the hashtag #LiveActiveYEG.

Quick Tip: Find an exercise mate. Hold each other accountable. Or post your fitness goals on your social media accounts and rely on community encouragement, or the opposite, to keep you motivated!

Stretching: Worth the time?

What the expert says: “There’s no real compelling research to show any benefit or detriment to stretching, regardless of before, after or at all in terms of health or performance. Some of the best ways to warm up prior to a workout would include doing big joint ranges of motion through compound movements such as lunges, long deep squats, push ups, and other types of active mobility that can have the benefits of moving the muscles, but also increasing the blood flow into them and make them contract to produce force for the more challenging exercises to come in the main workouts.” – Dean Somerset, CSCS, CEP, MES, Exercise Physiologist and Personal Trainer at Evolve Strength Downtown.

You Are What You Eat

Winter means we often don’t pay much attention to healthy foods. The pervasive cold doesn’t exactly spark a craving for greens, and finding fresh fruit at a decent price can be Mission Impossible. And the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas usually equals parties, drinking, deep-fried appetizers as well as sugary treats Mom only makes for the holidays.

But spring – oh, spring! Spring offers a rebirth of better eating habits. But remember, what works for someone else might not work for you. And, let’s be honest – the easier something is, the more likely we all are to do it. If, like many people, you find yourself struggling to put in the work required for healthy eating, you do have options. Like to cook but don’t have time to shop or prep? Or maybe you’re just bored with all of your usual meal staples. Sign up for a meal plan service, which takes most of the work out of eating well. MealPro is an Edmonton- based meal delivery company that allows you to customize your menu. These vacuum-sealed meals take the guesswork out of portion sizes and calorie counting. Easy As Pie is another company that delivers ready-made meals in Edmonton.

If you want to do the cooking yourself but find yourself short on time for shopping (or maybe your fruit and veggie supply keeps spoiling before you can eat them), try The Organic Box, an Edmonton owned and operated company that works with local producers to deliver boxes of fresh goodies. And, their catalogue lists where each item comes from, so you can make conscious decisions as a consumer. Another time-saving method is ordering your groceries online and having them delivered or picking them up at the store. Save-On Foods, Real Canadian Superstore, Loblaws, Spud.ca, and EdmontonGrocer.com all offer online shopping. If you prefer to pick out your potatoes and peaches in person, shop at Edmonton’s Downtown Farmers’ Market, now indoors year- round, for the freshest available fruits, vegetables, and locally-sourced goodies.

Quick Tip: Need some nutritional guidance? Book an appointment with a nutritionist or ask your doctor to refer you to your Primary Care Network. The Edmonton Oliver PCN provides free, personal nutrition counselling, plus group classes for those who could use some extra support for their weight management. (11910 111 Avenue)

April is the Cruelest Month

Our own mental health is often the first thing we throw under the bus when we get busy, or life gets stressful. But it’s an important piece of the overall health puzzle. Now, don’t automatically assume that once winter starts to crawl back into the hell-hole from whence it came, that your mood will automatically lighten. Poet T.S. Elliot once called April “the cruelest month,” because the blooming flowers and lighter days can provide a stark contrast to your actual mood.

There are various ways to keep your mental and spiritual health game on point. Just like physical fitness and healthy eating, the path towards success relies on you finding what works for you. For some, self-care means face masks and bubble baths. For others, it’s taking time for hobbies, like reading, making art, or baking. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety, depression, or simply want to talk to someone about how you feel, counselling is an option, no matter your income bracket. Edmonton Oliver Primary Care Networks offers mental health courses and workshops if you feel comfortable in a group setting. Edmonton’s Momentum Walk-in Clinic provides solution-focused counselling on a sliding-fee scale – plus, you can see someone without a long wait period. The Boyle-McCauley Health Centre has two registered provisional Psychologists on their psychological team, which provides “therapeutic support for individuals and families with multiple systemic barriers to accessing mental health services,” according to their website.

Chances are, you’ve already heard of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which focuses on changing thinking patterns. But do you know about Dialectical Behavourial Therapy? It’s a type of therapy that focuses on problem- solving and acceptance-based strategies. Redtree Psychology, located in Grandin, offers both CBT and DBT, along with many other types of therapy.

Quick Tip: Ninety minutes in a sensory deprivation tank can make a world of difference to your stress levels. You are literally forced to unplug. It’s also a good way to relax tight muscles and improve sleep. Try Modern Gravity Float Studio (10945 120 Street).

Does where you live have an impact on your overall health?

What the expert says: “We are unlikely to be successful in our quest to be healthy and fit individually if we go it alone in an unsupportive environment. We need to make collective efforts as a society to make our community environments healthier and supportive of our individual health efforts. For example, can we walk, bike and take transit regularly to get to places? Is healthy food nearby, available and affordable? Are we surrounded by less unhealthy food? Can we be less sedentary in our buildings because the stairs are available, easy to find, safe and pleasant to use? Do we have office furniture like standing desks that helps us be less sedentary throughout the day? Do our restaurants give us information like calories on menus so we can make healthier food choices since many people now eat out often?

Besides intentions to change our individual behaviours, citizens need to let our decision-makers and policy makers know they want – and expect – healthier amenities in their neighbourhoods; they need to let developers know they want healthier buildings and residential developments when they are looking for places to buy or rent; they need to let the restaurants and stores they spend money at know they want healthier food options. There are things that can be done to make our daycares and schools healthier for our kids. But these things won’t happen unless we know what’s worked in other places and then make it known that we want and expect these things too in our own communities.” – Dr. Karen Lee, MD MHSc FRCPC, Associate Professor, Division of Preventive Medicine, Dept of Medicine, University of Alberta, and author of Fit Cities. www.drkarenlee.com

Renewing the Pendennis

A row of brick buildings on Jasper Avenue and 97 Street marks the transition between Edmonton’s modern core, and the original downtown which dates back to the turn of the last century.

Students of settler development in our city will know that the Hudson’s Bay Company left a large block of reserve land – from 101 Street and running west to modern-day Glenora – which forced early retail and commercial development to the east.

Sadly, little attention has been paid to preserving this original downtown core and not much remains, except for this hopeful row of three and four story structures on the north side of Jasper Avenue, east of the Convention Centre.

The strip has long been bookended by two hopeful anchor buildings restored in the 1990s and occupying the east and west corners – the Goodrich and Gibson Blocks. Though the Quarters Downtown redevelopment is proceeding more slowly than many had hoped, eventually upwards of 18,000 to 20,000 residents will live in the area and further development along this block is badly needed.

After many years of languishing without retail tenants, a pair of buildings in the middle of the block are about to reopen. The “for lease” signs are already up on the Brighton Block, and the building next door, the 109-year-old Pendennis Building, is also set to reopen soon. Work has been underway for the last year led by Lorraine Bodnarek, Owner, Principal Pendennis Developments Ltd., her two business partners, husband Ed Cyrankiewicz and Larry Andrews – and NEXT Architecture and Delnor Construction Ltd. This comes after a decade-long and unsuccessful attempt to turn this vacant and increasingly decrepit building into a museum. When that project fell through, the building was in rough shape and had been the home of a host of pigeons for a few years, but Bodnarak and her team have been working hard on the restoration for the last year. A media tour before Christmas generated some never-before-seen footage of a soaring interior atrium and design plans for a rooftop patio backed by a sensitive four-story addition along the back of the building.

The building could be inhabited by a major tenant as early as this summer/fall, and Bodnarek expects this will “absolutely change the dynamics of downtown and the Quarters.” She hopes their efforts will “spark more interest in the area both by other developers and the City Council to focus and invest in creating an arts, cultural and food and entertainment district to support the wonderful causes and organizations already in the area.”

Women breaking the beer bro mold

While brewing is often seen as a male- dominated profession, two women working at the top at their craft in Edmonton’s core are proving otherwise.

Teaghan Mayers is the head brewer at Campio Brewing Co., which opened in October of 2019. Just down the street in the historic H.V. Shaw Building, Lisa Davis is the head brewer at the nearly decade-old Yellowhead Brewery.

“Everyone is super, super nice and welcoming, and no one ever makes you feel weird for being a woman in the industry,” says Mayers. “There’s a lot of diversity in people who make beer these days, which is great for the product because more diversity leads to better ideas.”

Mayers has an undergraduate degree in marine biology. She was pursing her master’s in microbial ecology, only to be fascinated by food microbiology and the microbiome of kimchi. After picking up home brewing, Mayers enrolled in a brewing program. Working at breweries in B.C., she went from volunteer to production manager to head brewer in nearly two years. She joined Campio as head brewer two months before it opened.

Mayers enjoys playing with different microbes and putting recipes together. But she finds passion in other aspects of brewing as well. “Some days I’ve got Carhartts on and I’m brewing and making beer, adding fruit to beer, doing barrel work and stuff like that. Then some days, I’m doing budget spreadsheets, doing production schedules,” she says. “You do a little bit of everything, which I enjoy about the job.”

Davis had experience home brewing. She planned on furthering her education in science when she got a job at Yellowhead Brewery in May 2016 as a growler bar server. Working in close quarters with the head brewer, Davis expressed interest in production. She soon had general production duties before moving into cellaring duties on her way to becoming the head brewer.

Davis says brewing is the “marriage” of science and creativity. She uses her creative side to develop recipes and her scientific side to master the technical components. “There’s a lot of science in brewing. There’s a lot of technical things,” she says. “I really love the technical aspects of the job as well as doing fun things like small-batch brewing and trying to be creative.”

Mayers believes the trade work in brewing leads people to see it as a male industry, but it’s not as male-dominated as perceived. “It’s less so than it used to be,” she says. “A lot of women are getting into it and a lot more women are getting into drinking craft beer as well.” And the industry is open to diversity. “The brewing community is a really great group of people who just want to make a really good product that brings people joy,” says Mayers.

The gender disparity has been a challenge for Davis at times. “It can feel like a boys club and sometimes it’s hard to feel like you’re on the outside of that,” she says. But Davis surrounds herself with supportive people. “There’s a lot of great people who don’t make you feel that way. So you just have to find those people and make relationships with them.”

What used to be a male’s beverage in a male’s industry has evolved and continues to evolve. “People are really open minded to learning it’s not that way,” says Davis. “You just have to find the right people who have the right mindset and have the same values that you do.”

Building on history

Historically-themed social media accounts with names like @Provincial Archives of Alberta and @ Friends of Royal Museum of Alberta Society aren’t typically what you’d expect the under-40 crowd to retweet and regram. And yet, retro #yeg posts have been making waves lately. To dive into this trend, just take a look at the profile pics of who’s sharing out old photos of Edmonton’s core.

Thirty-something Ester Malzahn says, “Old postcards are one of my favourite things to share because it shows how we present ourselves to outsiders.” Malzahn uses Peel’s Prairie Postcards as an online resource.

Heritage Forward’s Dawn Valentine says events like Heart Bombs get attention. “There are young people in their 20s and 30s that care about these old, decrepit buildings from way before their time. Social media is easy and immediate when you want to share with others your awe and/or disdain of old buildings we’ve demolished like the Court House and the Post Office.”

The outpouring of love for the doomed downtown El Mirador building on the Valentine’s Day weekend underscores that younger people are beginning to feel proprietary about Downtown’s dwindling heritage inventory.

Valentine says she’s noticed younger people have an affinity with old buildings as gathering places because of the warmth and history and feel of the space. “Plus old retro buildings just look fabulous in the background of your selfie!”

Dan Rose, (@the_rosbif) who co-founded Heritage Forward in 2015, has been actively using social media to raise awareness of historic buildings, going so far as to pose his dog Dot in front of heritage buildings so they can be shared out on Insta:

Heritage building enthusiast Dane Ryksen has been building his Insta account @_ citizen_dane_ for a couple of years and has a solid following for his shares of photos and stories of the city’s heritage buildings.

“To me, there’s no better place to share the city’s history than online – the amount of engagement you get is unrivalled,” says Ryksen. “It’s easier now than ever to spread these interesting and frankly really fascinating stories about Edmonton’s past, and people seem to enjoy that. Nearly every post I do, I’ll get comments going, “I walk by there every day and have always wondered about it,” or “I didn’t even know that building was there.” A recent post from Ryksen about the soon-to-be torn down Roosevelt Apartments generated lots of discussion, with sympathy for the argument that buildings should be saved or repurposed instead of simply being demolished.

This intentional shift towards reducing our personal and collective footprints by reusing instead of buying new, includes consideration of the worth of our existing building stock.

Historian Shirley Lowe says there’s no way of measuring interest of a new generation, but adds, “New ideas need old buildings.” She adds, “People just starting out can see the value of smaller, older, buildings.” She says they’re “bumping places,” places you can go to meet people.

“We lost too many beautiful, monumental buildings in Edmonton area to demo during an era when people didn’t bat an eye to full building demo (60s 70s). It was devastating to out heritage architecture landscape. Full building demo should never be normalized.” via Twitter

Graeme Matichuk: @kilograeme

Ryksen notes it bridges generations. He says when he shares on social media he gets feedback from people who have experienced the buildings themselves “back in the day.” Mahlzan says younger people “are interested in exploring the past, because history and place are so fundamental to our sense of identity.”

Follow and share using the #yegheritage and #yeghistory hashtags.

We call it the village

“We call it the Village,” says Johanna Wishart, 85, describing her high- density home community of Oliver. Wishart lives in a sunlit apartment with a glorious view up and down Jasper Avenue, just blocks away from several adult grandchildren whose school-age children pass near her place on their way to and from school.

In Oliver, a growing throng is moving towards retirement or identifying as senior citizens. In the city’s latest census, thousands of Oliver residents identified themselves as over 70, including an impressive 460 residents over 85. In all, about a third of the population of almost 20,000 is age 55 and over.

“Wishart describes challenges she and her neighbours have noticed, from intersections that don’t work for slower-moving pedestrians, to isolation in winter months”

Oliver’s pedestrian and cycling trails, sidewalks sheltered by green leafy trees, small parks and easy access to the vast river valley, as well as vast selection of cafes, shops and galleries, are features that enhance the neighborhood for all residents, not just seniors.

So what appeals specifically to seniors? Some have lived in Oliver for years, moving in as working professionals and making the strategic decision to stay as they age. Others are downsizing, trading car-dependent larger homes for a transit-rich, walkable neighbourhood with plenty of services and amenities. Still others like Wishart are part of family groupings with multiple generations enjoying the benefits of living near the core. She describes family gatherings in “the Village” to celebrate birthdays, with many local restaurants to choose from within a few blocks of their homes.

Gary Simpson has lived in Oliver for over 25 years. He extols its frequent bus service, large drug stores, and extensive grocery stores on either end in the Brewery District and on 109 Street. He notes a range of housing options including affordable rental walk-up apartments. Part of the appeal is the large number of medical, dental, naturopathic, chiropractic and medical specialist clinics. The Edmonton Seniors Centre (ECS), 11111 Jasper Ave., hosts an array of activities from experts bringing newcomers into the origami fold to watercolourists sharing their art – as well as game clubs for snooker players, yoga classes, and road trips to Elk Island Park and the River Cree Casino.

Oliver’s senior community leaders readily identify pockets of vulnerable community members including LGBTQ+ folks as they age. Former councillor and activist Michael Phair is an Oliver resident who has been part of a team working on housing options that don’t just tolerate, but embrace LGBTQ+ identifying seniors.

And Wishart acknowledges challenges in Oliver, from intersections that don’t work for slower-moving pedestrians, to isolation in winter months. Even in the city’s most walkable neighbourhood, when sidewalks are snow and ice-covered, seniors are often home-bound for weeks. Also, being in proximity to her grandchildren doesn’t always translate into in-person visits during cold and flu season. She adds, “but we can still keep in touch by text.”

ECS, in partnership with the Oliver Community League hosts monthly socials where new connections are made over snacks or tea. A real bonus for any community is when its senior citizens are able to contribute ideas in a meaningful way. To find out how it can better meet the needs of its senior citizens, Oliver Community League held an engagement event last fall with the assistance of MacEwan University’s social work program, and is exploring the feedback received. And Oliver’s older citizens have much to contribute and are doing so every day.