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Revitalizing East Jasper

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  • Revitalizing East Jasper

    Fallow ground or hallow ground?

    As many of you are aware, Edmonton is in the process of creating a vision for Downtown East. If you are thinking to yourself, Downtown East, where is that? You are not alone. On a typical day the average Edmontonian is only aware that they have to travel through Downtown East to get to the downtown core. Generally speaking Edmonton rarely discusses or hears about this part of the city, with the exception being a news story on prostitution, theft, or sometimes far worse. But this can be changed. The Mayor, Councilors, City Administration and the public see the potential.

    Rich in history, culture, diversity, and social problems, East Jasper is one of the more unique areas in this city. We need to recognize this, for good and for bad. We cannot simply raze and rebuild, even though some might see this as the only option. We need to look to ways of creating a public space that reaches out to all residents and business owners; we need a single cohesive plan. Of course, creating a single vision for such a diverse and eclectic neighborhood is not a simple task. Don Stastny presented 5 distinct and creative options from which a single vision will be formed. Major concerns were recognizing the “givens” such as historical buildings, Louise Mckinney Park, and current connections to the downtown. The 5 options were a blend of density patterns, road alignments, pedestrian corridors, and open space. He used the analogy of preparing for landing to help give people an idea of where they are at with this process, indicating as with landing a modern jet, this plan is far from simple and involves many procedures and checklists.

    So then…where do we go from here? Should we look to the past for guidance or rely on the “givens” to direct where we head? Or should we look to the future and ask ourselves what should Downtown East represent for future generations?. The majority of Edmontonians maintain the perception that it is crime ridden, unsafe, and encompasses many social ills. However, we must be cognizant that 97th Street has for far too long been the proverbial railway track dividing Edmonton’s vibrant core and decrepit “downtown eastside”. Currently, for right or wrong, Downtown East has an exclusive feel to it, but for the wrong reasons
    We are fortunate to have a rare opportunity to create a vibrant neighborhood that will attract a wide variety of residents, businesses, and curious visitors alike. To have the ability to reshape such a significant neighborhood bordering the downtown, connected to the river valley, and blessed with reminders of our past, we should step carefully but not be too afraid to take long strides.

    Edmonton, it’s time to reach beyond the edge of familiarity and mediocrity. Color outside the lines for once…you never know, you might like it.

  • #2
    Great article Ian.

    Absolutely. Downtown East is the part of the town that really could be a booming place if only we could give it a chance to succeed. It has a lot of character behind it's dirty facade, and I wish I could show visitors who come to this city that part of downtown without feeing a bit embarrassed.

    If there was a time to do something about that area it is now. We have money, we have a mayor and a council who seem to be willing to change it.. now lets do it.
    Time to grow up.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Ceres
      Great article Ian.

      Absolutely. Downtown East is the part of the town that really could be a booming place if only we could give it a chance to succeed. It has a lot of character behind it's dirty facade, and I wish I could show visitors who come to this city that part of downtown without feeing a bit embarrassed.

      If there was a time to do something about that area it is now. We have money, we have a mayor and a council who seem to be willing to change it.. now lets do it.
      They already are. The Downtown East Jasper plan should be proceeding to Council by early summer.

      That's step one. The next step is to see the devlopers start developing.

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      • #4
        The developers will do so once they have the plan in place. The area is ripe for redevelopment and once coucil approves a plan, the developers will take it and run away wiht it.

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        • #5
          thanks for adding my mug shot:>


          Ottawa-Edmonton-Vancouver-Edmonton

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          • #6
            Andwhat a mug it is, or are you holding one?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Edmonchuck
              Andwhat a mug it is, or are you holding one?



              Ottawa-Edmonton-Vancouver-Edmonton

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              • #8
                Right now the biggest battle for redeveloping Jasper East is perception. Quite bluntly, the Boyle Street area is still regarded as a dangerous area of town.
                “You have to dream big. If we want to be a little city, we dream small. If we want to be a big city, we dream big, and this is a big idea.” - Mayor Stephen Mandel, 02/22/2012

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                • #9
                  Definitely.

                  I mean, c'mon. Most of the Jasper East area is parking lot. The real danger spots are further afield or in close proximity to the few hotels that are still in the area.
                  LA today, Athens tomorrow. I miss E-town.

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                  • #10
                    Agreed.
                    President and CEO - Airshow.

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                    • #11
                      From the Journal...

                      Downtown East needs a blight knight
                      Architect sees great potential in the area, but private developers must step forward and be 'pioneers'

                      Paula Simons
                      The Edmonton Journal


                      Saturday, April 01, 2006



                      CREDIT: Shaughn Butts, The Journal
                      WHERE THE STREETS ARE MORE SAD THAN MEAN: Jasper Avenue east of 97th Street is mostly a dismal mix of rooming houses, ....


                      CREDIT: Shaughn Butts, The Journal
                      ... sex shops and derelict buildings.



                      Don Stastny and I are walking the streets of Downtown East. We're not exactly seeing Edmonton at its best.

                      We stroll Jasper Avenue east of 97th Street, past aging rooming houses and abandoned buildings. We stop to peak in the window of the old Gem Theatre. The floor is littered with pigeon feathers and bird dung. We pass a bathhouse. A peep show. A shop that sells "marital aids." Two scantily clad mannequins forlornly occupy the window, showing off their faux-fur-covered handcuffs.

                      There are a couple of used condoms on the sidewalk -- hey, at least it's safe sex. A police car pulls up to the curb. Two officers stride purposefully up the stairs of a rooming house.

                      Otherwise, the street is eerily quiet. Once the officers are inside, Stastny and I are the only people in sight.

                      But Stastny, a Portland-based architect, isn't depressed by what he sees. If anything, he's inspired. Stastny, best known here as the co-designer of the new Churchill Square, has been hired by the city to come up with a redevelopment blueprint for the saddest part of downtown, with the most raw potential.

                      "Whenever I came to Edmonton, I kept looking over here and wondering why it was all just sitting here," he says.

                      It's a good question. Downtown East should be prime real estate. It offers fantastic river valley views, access to parks and trails and intimate proximity to Canada Place, the courthouse, City Hall, the Shaw Conference Centre, the Winspear, the Citadel and the Art Gallery of Alberta. It's also home to downtown's largest collection of heritage architecture, its last intact historic streetscape.

                      Yet the private sector certainly hasn't rushed in to reclaim the district. About 40 per cent of the area is empty -- vacant land, gravel parking lots, derelict buildings. The most visible businesses are rooming houses, taverns and sex shops, mixed with social service agencies.

                      There have been a few hopeful signs -- the success of the Hardware Grill, for example, the new mix of thriving businesses along 97th Street and the construction of some fine low-rise condos perched on the valley edge. And there are neat plans for a Ukrainian museum and archives, to be built within the old Lodge Hotel and Brighton Block, now bleak rooming houses.

                      Finally, the stars may be aligning for downtown's eastern edge. Mayor Stephen Mandel has made the redevelopment of the area his passionate personal mission.

                      And with the city's economy hotter every day, the time may be ripe for developers to look east of 97th.

                      "I've been coming to Edmonton for 30 years, and I was absolutely amazed at the change," says Stastny. "The sense of optimism -- you hear it everywhere."

                      You certainly hear it when Stastny talks about his vision for the 16 blocks he's studying, between 97th Street and 94th Street, south from 103 A Avenue to the river. The area is criss-crossed with little-used roads and alleys. Stastny wants to narrow or close some of them and replace them with parks and walkways, linked to a funicular down to the river.

                      Then, he's envisioning a diverse mix of development: single-family homes, townhouses, apartment towers, seniors' residences, galleries and grocery stores, law offices and artists' studios, boutiques and restaurants, affordable housing and high-end condos.

                      "I would like to see it become a laboratory for the city, a place where we can experiment with new ways to build and new ways for people to live and intermingle."

                      The city has set aside some funds to buy up a few key properties. But for the most part the renewal is supposed to be driven by private investment, with the city spending its efforts on infrastructure improvement and solid planning.

                      Stastny says a number of private developers have expressed real interest in the area. But nobody's been brave enough to jump in first.

                      "They don't want to be pioneers. They'll be part of the wagon train, but they won't be pioneers."

                      That's why, he says, it's so important that the city take the lead, by building parks and paths, investing in projects like the Ukrainian museum and generally cleaning up the area. The city has also begun negotiations with Ottawa to discuss moving the Stan Daniels Centre, a federal minimum security prison and halfway house, out of its current site in the historic RCMP Garrison and into some other part of the city.

                      Stastny and the city's downtown planners have already held two energetic public forums on Downtown East. A third session will take place April 12. Stastny and his team will present their redevelopment proposal to council in late May or early June.

                      While it's exciting to imagine a funky, vibrant residential and retail district flourishing in Downtown East, shutting down the taverns and sex shops or relocating the prison and the soup kitchens won't magically make the city's social problems disappear. They'll only move them somewhere less visible.

                      That's not a reason to let the area fester, to waste its extraordinary potential. But let's not delude ourselves that slum clearance will cure poverty, addiction, crime or homelessness.

                      If we're going to "resettle" many of the residents and transients who inhabit this area, we need to provide them with better alternatives, such as improved addiction treatment and clean, safe, supportive housing. Otherwise, our splendid renewal initiative will only paper over some of Edmonton's most intractable urban challenges.

                      [email protected]

                      © The Edmonton Journal 2006

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                      • #12
                        I like this article and the fact that this area is really receiving the attention it deserves. I attended both previous sessions, and I plan to be there on the 12th.
                        President and CEO - Airshow.

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                        • #13
                          Are there any positive signs that developers will jump in and take the risk? It seems they're reluctant to make the first move even though there's lots of support for the project.

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                          • #14
                            From what I gather....and this is just conversational information, developers are both attending the sessions and being solicited for their opinions. So, yes, there are more than a few interested.
                            President and CEO - Airshow.

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                            • #15
                              there is high interest, but there are things to sort out 1st...


                              Ottawa-Edmonton-Vancouver-Edmonton

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