Participants at the Alberta Avenue Community Walk and Ideas Workshop on Feb. 10 appreciated the mild – 6 C weather since everyone had ideas about how to renew Alberta Avenue’s mature neighbourhood.
The high level of public engagement is what City of Edmonton project managers had hoped for.
“A big part of the walk is that it’s so great to see first-hand, and it sparks these natural conversations,” said Debbie Cashion-Kalinowski, city project manager. “We get a better understanding because we see it too.”
Alberta Avenue’s neighbourhood renewal is scheduled to last twice as long as most neighbourhoods due to its size. Work on residential roads, sidewalks, and other potential upgrades will be ongoing from spring 2019 to fall 2022.
“The best benefit is to make it more community friendly,” said Emily Zukowski, city project manager. “Small perks we can add to make life more enjoyable, or big perks depending on the budget.”
The city will invest approximately $60 million, with sidewalk reconstruction split equally between homeowners and the municipality.
Workshop organizers held activities to help participants share their ideas, including walking around Alberta Avenue, creating speech bubbles, collaborating on envisioning projects, and sketching how they might look.
One idea was to make St. Faith Park an official dog park by closing off each end (it’s already being used by pooches informally).
Terry Ferguson, who uses a motorized scooter, said that because of the lack of curb ramps, her mobility is limited, forcing her to detour to find ways to cross the street.
“I want to see everyone in Alberta Ave have wheelchair ramps at both ends [of sidewalks],” Ferguson said.
Cora Shaw, a long-time resident who uses a walker, agreed with Ferguson.
“Accessibility is a big one, being able to walk the community. When you have no ramps it’s difficult to maneuver,” Shaw said.
Other participants voiced their interest in local art and culture.
“There’s a lot of rich history. Seeing statues and plaques in the parks to talk about the history and pay homage to the art culture, [and] have art pieces from local artists would make walking more interesting,” said Jermaine Smith.
His wife, Mélanie Légaré, voiced the practical worries of many women in the area.
“The biggest thing is connectivity to get places. The bus stop to my home doesn’t feel super safe because there’s not enough lighting.”
Gérard Forget, community garden coordinator for Alberta Avenue, had another concern: “I’m very much into trying to improve social issues and incorporate this into the planning of the infrastructure. What would deter the johns and drug dealers?”
Others want improved or new bike lanes, with a potential shared use path along 96 Street.
But the renewal program doesn’t address alleys.
“A new program will be coming in to look at that. You can’t rip out the entirety of a neighbourhood. Folks still need to live there while all this is going on,” said Cashion-Kalinowski.
The workshop fulfilled some of what Cashion-Kalinowski was hoping for: “There’s an opportunity to talk and get to know neighbours,” she said.
Featured Image: Participants share and examine ideas about neighbourhood renewal. | Alita Rickards