Stakeholders discuss what a closure of the street could look like
If you’ve seen the chatter about 104 Street on social media recently, you may have noted many voices are calling for the promenade-style street to become pedestrian-only.
The street is unique in the downtown; as part of the warehouse district, it retains a vintage feel. It also has many restaurants and retail businesses at grade as the city redid the streetscaping in 1998. The lack of curbs helps create more space for sauntering.
The Downtown Farmers Market was a longtime patron but in 2019 moved to 97 Street. In the summer of 2020 the Al Fresco on 4th Summer Series began as an outdoor market. 104 Street has held many weekend events including A Taste of Al Fresco this March.
Now folks are asking: what if the street was closed all the time? Restaurants are allowed to extend their patios when the street is closed to traffic, and during COVID, we’ve all come to realize how important open-air dining is.
Two of 104 Street’s stakeholders weighed in with their hopes and concerns about the future of the street. Jimmy Shewchuk, owner of Say Uncle, a southern bbq restaurant, and Ed Fong, owner of deVine Wines & Spirits. Fong was also the past chair of the 104 Street Committee.
“The extended patios in the past year have proven themselves in terms of the business case and the vibrancy for the street, so I think the weekend closure— looking at a Friday evening to a Sunday evening—makes a lot of sense to me,” Shewchuk said.
Al Fresco and two other weekend closures in April for Downtown Dining Week drove a lot of business to 104 Street. Shewchuk said it was a bump in revenue that was really needed at this time and believes weekend closures will continue to help struggling businesses bring in more customers. But he recognizes there needs to be a discussion with all stakeholders.
“I think we need to take a long hard look at what we want 104 Street to be,” Shewchuk said. “We have a mixed-use street and that makes it really difficult to make all parties happy all the time. So I think we just really need to create an exciting vision for the street and really establish it as an asset for Edmonton and for downtown and start to design that.”
In a downtown that tends to empty out after 5 o’clock, 104 Street is unique as an area that has a lot of residents.
“We’ve always believed, as a community, that the street could be a very interesting and vibrant venue if it was programmed effectively,” Fong said. “What we were never in favour of was closing the street just for closing the street every weekend without programming and the only type of programming would be that bars and restaurants can extend their patios.”
With so many businesses and residents involved in the discussion, it could be hard to get consensus on permanent street closures or weekend street closures, but hopefully once all stakeholders get involved in the discussion, a vision will begin to form.