Headlines: Nov. 2, 2023

· The Pulse
  • City council approved $16.7 million in affordable housing grants as part of the Affordable Housing Investment Program. The money will create 276 affordable and supportive housing units that will be rented at below-market rates to youth, people with disabilities, Indigenous people, and people experiencing homelessness who have recently been discharged from hospital. One of the grants will support the renewal of the former downtown YMCA. The funding comes at the beginning of Housing Month, which is marked each November to raise awareness about strategies to end homelessness in the city. Throughout the month, organizations behind the campaign will host webinars on affordable housing and homelessness.
  • A group of downtown organizations launched a "walk and roll" plan to improve accessibility and commuting experiences in the downtown core. The Downtown Pedestrianization Plan was co-created by Urban Development Institute — Edmonton Metro and Paths for People, and has been endorsed by the Edmonton Downtown Business Association, the Downtown Edmonton Community League, and the Downtown Recovery Coalition. The plan comes as the city's urban planning committee prepares to discuss a report in December on opportunities to temporarily close downtown streets. It follows a debate in 2022 about closing 102 Avenue to vehicles, which council ultimately decided against.
  • The city announced the completion of the 124 Street Renewal project, which lasted two years and upgraded the street between 111 Avenue and 118 Avenue. The project included a new boulevard design with trees, road renewal including surfaces and curbs, updated lighting and decoration, wider sidewalks and more seating, and accessibility upgrades including tactile walking surface indicators.
  • A portion of Fort Road between 125 Avenue and 66 Street has partially reopened with reduced one-lane capacity in both directions. The stretch has been closed to traffic since April as part of a project to widen Fort Road to six lanes, and was originally supposed to reopen on Sept. 29. The city says it plans to gradually reopen more lanes throughout 2023 and 2024 as construction progresses.
  • Edmonton Fire Rescue Services says there has been a significant decrease in the number of fires in abandoned buildings in 2023 compared to 2022. Officials attribute the trend to the Community Property Safety Team, a pilot project launched in 2022 to inspect vacant buildings and hold owners accountable for fire risk. Since October 2022, structure fires have dropped 31% in the inner city and residential fires have dropped 12%. Funding for the pilot is expected to end in December, but officials hope it will be extended for another 18 months. Council's community services committee will discuss the project on Dec. 4.
  • Council's urban planning committee voted to commission a report on the possibility of using the Downtown Community Revitalization Levy, one of three CRLs in Edmonton, to fund incentives for developers to convert office space to residential units. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the option could encourage conversions without needing to raise property taxes, but it would also require delaying other downtown revitalization projects slated for funding. Coun. Erin Rutherford told reporters she opposes the idea, noting that council received a lot of criticism during the zoning bylaw renewal debate from residents who see it as too friendly to developers.
  • A new home builder, StreetSide Developments, a division of Qualico, is coming to Blatchford and is preparing to start construction on 26 new condo town homes near Littlewood Park. The town homes, when "paired with the architectural and energy performance standards for Blatchford," will be "unlike anything else in the market," said StreetSide vice-president Nicholas Carels.
  • CBC News visited the Edmonton Fencing Club, which has been growing steadily each year, to explore the appeal of the sport in the city. Much of the popularity is attributed to head coach Jujie Luan, a former Olympic athlete who competed for both the Chinese and Canadian national teams. The sport also appeals to some for the academic and scholarship opportunities it provides. The club has plans to seek out a new, bigger facility.
  • The Oilers Entertainment Group and the Alpine Club of Canada announced that the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation is hosting its ice climbing world championships in Edmonton's ICE District from Feb. 16-19, 2024. The event, which usually happens in Europe, will attract some of the world's best ice climbers for lead climbing and speed climbing contests. The Alpine Club will move its ice wall from the Edmonton Ski Club to the ICE District fan park, and it is expected to be open for the public to climb by mid-December. OEG is also planning an ice festival to accompany the competition. Tickets for the competition and festival go on sale Nov. 28.
  • The CFL nominated Edmonton Elks defensive back Kai Gray for a Most Outstanding Rookie award in the West Division. The league will give out the awards on Nov. 16 in Hamilton as part of Grey Cup Week.
  • The province announced proposals to reduce auto insurance rate increases for Albertans considered good drivers. The plans would prevent rates from increasing higher than the rate of inflation in September, measured at 3.7%, for people with a clean driving record. The province is also giving Alberta's Automobile Insurance Rate Board the power to direct insurance providers to return a portion of premiums they collect in years with high industry profits. The board will also be able to request a rate filing from insurers at any time to review rates and lower them if needed. The changes are expected to come into effect Jan. 1, 2024. Finance Minister Nate Horner said the measures are a short-term affordability solution while the province awaits the completion of a report examining long-term options used in other jurisdictions.