Headlines: July 21, 2023

· The Pulse
By and
  • City council and real estate developers are exploring the idea of converting unused downtown offices into residential space, which could address Edmonton's nearly 25% office vacancy rate, increase the tax base, and make downtown safer. Westcorp is already planning to turn the Milner Building on Jasper Avenue into an apartment complex with more than 200 units, and the nearby Enbridge office tower was slated for conversion into a multi-unit apartment complex after a plan to convert it into hotels was cancelled in 2021. Dave Young, executive vice-president of CBRE, wants Edmonton to incentivize developers to take on conversion projects as has happened in Calgary, where developers get $75 for every square foot of office space converted into residential space. City staff will present council with options for incentives in September.
  • Strathcona County council has approved all three readings of a bylaw to create new zoning districts for Bremner, which will allow Qualico to begin development. A similar bylaw was defeated on third reading in May when a Coun. Lorne Harvey changed his vote, but he flipped back in favour after a packed-to-overflowing public hearing on July 18. The proposed community is an expansion of Sherwood Park to the northeast. Atco Gas received $2 million in February to study the feasibility of heating Bremner's homes with hydrogen.
  • The Edmonton Police Commission heard on July 20 that the Edmonton Police Service was involved in 18% fewer incidents of chasing suspect vehicles in 2022 than in 2021, and around 18% fewer incidents resulted in an arrest. Chief Dale McFee told reporters that the results point to the success of EPS's prevention tactics, such as boxing in cars or deflating their tires, and emphasized the importance of the Air One helicopter in tracking vehicles and making arrests. He also said EPS is looking to acquire more drones for use in high-speed chases and asked the province for legislative changes to allow officers to seize vehicles that exceed the speed limit by 50 km/h.
  • The Edmonton International Airport signed memoranda of understanding with SixRing and FORGE Hydrocarbons to pursue the advancement of sustainable aviation fuel. SixRing is a Calgary company that makes biofuels out of underused biomass, while FORGE is a University of Alberta spinoff that turns waste fats into renewable fuel. Both companies plan to build production facilities. The airport is aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2040.
  • K-Days and Explore Edmonton have hired disABILITY - Accessible by Design, a consulting agency, to assess the accessibility of this year's fair and recommend improvements for later years. The company is currently looking for eight to 10 people with any kind of disability to attend K-Days and share their experiences, for which the company will provide two tickets per day. Brad Bartko, the company's founder, said he's received more than 250 messages from people offering to help.
  • Paul Sir, who will retire as executive director of Basketball Alberta next month, is looking to establish Canada's main 3x3 basketball training centre in Edmonton. "If the Commonwealth Games bid is in fact given to Calgary and Edmonton, 3×3 will be in Edmonton in 2030," said Sir. "So, over the next number of years, taking that vision and really putting meat on the bones is important." Sir and his organization were involved in attracting the FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2023 and Women's Series, which are happening in Edmonton from July 28 to 30.
  • Tennis Canada profiled the Edmonton Junior Tennis Society, an organization founded by Karina Trkulja in 2010 to share her love of tennis with children of all ages. The program now offers spring and summer programs that draw more than 500 kids from ages 4 to 15, and it has around 300 kids registered in the winter. "Our purpose is to offer programs that can provide life-long pathways to tennis," said Trkulja.
  • Dom Luszczyszyn, an NHL writer for The Athletic, suggested that the Edmonton Oilers are the fifth most improved NHL team and the most improved team in the Pacific Division, based on off-season moves. According to Luszczyszyn, the Oilers' addition of winger Connor Brown is an improvement over Kailer Yamamoto, while further improvements can also be made by replacing Nick Bjugstad and Klim Kostin, both "below-average players" who are no longer on the roster. Meanwhile, former Postmedia sports columnist Terry Jones predicted the Oilers will win the next Stanley Cup.
  • Premier Danielle Smith addressed the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce on July 20 for the first time since she was elected in May to outline the UCP government's vision for the economy. After the address, she spoke to reporters about the UCP's plan to restructure Alberta Health Services and blamed regional disruptions to health services on poor management. "Too many decisions are being made centrally," she said, suggesting AHS should be focused on acute hospital care rather than services like midwifery, primary care, and continuing care. Smith's mandate letter to Health Minister Adriana LaGrange asks LaGrange to "decentralize decision-making and resources to the front lines and local communities."