Residents of neighbourhoods along 118 Avenue continue to urge the city to retain funding and support for revitalization as city council prepares to send scarce resources to new areas.
At a drop-in evening hosted by city administration on Aug. 13, about 40 local residents and business owners shared their priorities and ideas on how to move forward as transitioning away from the Avenue Initiative Revitalization begins.
“What we started 10 years ago is not finished. It has to continue,” said Gerard Forget, an area resident and chair of the Alberta Avenue District Council. “It should be called a continuation, not a transition.”
The drop-in session, held at the Westwood Community Hall, was also a chance for city staff to outline the strategy they’ve pulled together for working with the community.
David Aitken, branch manager of the city’s Community Standards and Neighbourhoods, reviewed elements of the strategic plan. It takes into account staffing resources, available funding, and community input to develop performance measures for the next phase of neighbourhood support.
He said the city has made a 20-year commitment to the area, “so we can make plans” which can be adjusted based on administration and community leaders reporting back to council every four years.
Aitken’s engagement with the community comes on the heels of city council’s request that staff work with Alberta Avenue and Jasper Place to develop a strategy for transitioning out of the formal revitalization phase.
In 2005, city councillors Janice Melnychuk and Ed Gibbons worked with community services and Judy Allan, the community recreation coordinator at the time, to begin conversations with residents about their concerns and vision for the area. A strategy was created from that information and in 2006, the Avenue Initiative Revitalization was launched.
Now, the revitalization expiry date has come. Last month, city council approved shifting money and support for revitalization to Inglewood and Balwin/Belvedere, starting in 2019. That meant revitalization funding would end for Alberta Avenue and Jasper Place.
Council’s push for a go-forward strategy for those two neighbourhoods was in response to a letter campaign launched by community members Christy Morin, Amanda Nielsen, and Janis Irwin. They asked that the city not simply cut off funding for revitalization.
At the Aug. 13 drop-in, Aitken urged the community to create their own strategic plan, complete with measurable outcomes as well as new ideas and innovations.
He said the value of a good strategic plan is to show city council “how we are going to spend” any requested dollars.
Residents reported that although 118 Avenue has seen great improvements, property crime, drugs, and prostitution are still a reality and cleaning these up has “just barely started.”
It was also noted that dropping crime rates, fewer vacant shops, and more families moving to the area are measurables that can add leverage to continuing city support. The community can also think in terms of partnerships to help shift funding in this direction.
The sheer size of the Avenue Revitalization, encompassing 27 blocks along 118 Avenue and seven community leagues, makes it unique among other revitalization initiatives in the city. That needs to be clearly stated in a go-forward strategy, said Aitken.
Administration’s report and proposed funding for the Ave Initiative transition needs to be submitted to council before the upcoming 2017–2022 budget talks. Funding levels will reflect the community input gathered by city administration in the past two months.
“We need to keep talking, because time is a scarcity and we don’t have the resources,” said Morin.
Featured Image: Community members shared their priorities with city administration regarding revitalization funding. From left to right: Colyn O’Reilly, Alberta Avenue Community League board member; Amanda Nielsen, co-owner of Norwood Dental Centre; Gerard Forget, Alberta Avenue District Council chair; Christy Morin, Arts on the Ave executive director, and Janis Irwin, Parkdale resident. | Kate Wilson