Over the last few weeks, community members have been rallying together and fighting hard to keep revitalization funding and support in Alberta Avenue.
On June 18, city administration presented a report to executive committee recommending that revitalization funding be reallocated from Alberta Avenue and Jasper Place to Inglewood and Balwin/Belvedere for 2019-2022. This meant revitalization funding would end for Alberta Avenue and Jasper Place and that funding would shift to the new neighbourhoods.
Christy Morin (executive director of Arts on the Ave), Joachim Holtz (executive director of Alberta Avenue Business Association), along with business owners and community residents, spoke to executive committee asking them not to wind down support.
“This motion meant funding for Alberta Avenue revitalization could end as early 2019. We wanted funding and programming to remain in place until a plan for phase two of revitalization was established,” said Amanda Nielsen, co-owner of Norwood Dental Centre.
Before the report and recommendations went to city council on June 26, they made another call to action.
“I thought we’d be better reconsider the strength of the motion and ask the community to champion a stronger and clearer ask,” said Morin.
Morin, Nielsen, and Janis Irwin, a Parkdale resident, created an email template containing a letter for council members, along with a call to action to amend the original motion so funding remained. An estimated 500 people across Edmonton sent the letter to city councillors. Their efforts led to an amendment requesting a report and service package (a detailed funding plan) prior to the 2019-2022 budget process.
Great Neighbourhoods staff are now rushing to consult with the community to complete a plan and funding request for the next four year funding cycle. Timelines are extremely tight as the report must be submitted by Aug. 18.
Current funding for Alberta Avenue’s revitalization is approximately $300,000 per year. But although the community has received revitalization funding for a decade, residents say there’s still work to be done.
“In my opinion, we’re not ready to transition even,” said Irwin. “I know we’re asking for a lot. If we hadn’t already put a lot of money and time into revitalization, it would be a different story. People are willing to invest in the community. The city should as well.”
Mark Henderson, artistic director of Alberta Avenue-based Theatre Prospero, said, “If this was evaluated closely enough, the city may well find they’re saving money by spending money on community.”
City administration intended to wind down funding even though they have not re-evaluated the need. Community leaders feel that the Alberta Avenue district still has high social vulnerability and is still one of the highest need areas in the city.
Irwin pointed out the boarded-up buildings along 118 Avenue. Nielsen said some of those buildings are owned, but “they’re taxed so low people have incentive to hold on to them.”
Morin said new initiatives are needed, such as building mixed-use properties combining businesses and apartments on 118 Avenue as well as offering more programming in multicultural, arts, LGBTQ, and Indigenous areas.
Irwin said she doesn’t want to pit Alberta Avenue against other neighbourhoods like Inglewood and Balwin.
“I don’t think we need to sacrifice one to support another,” said Irwin.
Featured Image: Amanda Nielsen, Janis Irwin, and Christy Morin are some of the community members who’ve been actively involved in trying to ensure Alberta Avenue continues receiving funding for revitalization. | Talea Medynski