Podcasters wonder what makes a district

Podcasters wonder what makes a district

· The Pulse

Following city council's decision to designate Rice Howard Way as a downtown entertainment district, news about two other districts in downtown Edmonton caught the attention of Episode 264 of Speaking Municipally.

Co-host Mack Male noticed that MacEwan University and NorQuest College are advocating for an education district.

"They're both expecting student-population growth of 30% to 50% by 2030," Male said. "Post-secondary institutions are critical for downtown, and for the success of businesses and vibrancy downtown. We really should be investing in making downtown a welcoming place for students."

Meanwhile, a consortium of arts institutions around Churchill Square launched new branding for the Arts District.

The Art Gallery of Alberta, the Citadel Theatre (whose lease is up soon), and the Winspear Centre got a Downtown Vibrancy grant to work with Berlin Communications and ZGM Modern Marketing Partners on the project. Male said the effort has the potential to increase downtown's appeal.

"I could get behind funding some branding to try to make something feel a little bit more cohesive," he said. "There's a lot of really great arts organizations and facilities and things around downtown. I kind of like this idea, actually, of refreshing the branding and telling the story of the arts district, and trying to make it a little bit more of a destination for people."

Co-host Pavlek (an admitted southsider) quipped that the University of Alberta's main campus dwarfs MacEwan and NorQuest's geographical footprint, making it something of a de facto district for education. Similarly, the arts district designation may be more appropriate for Old Strathcona, which hosts the bulk of the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in addition to year-round theatre and artistic happenings. "There is some competition," he pointed out.

Council unanimously passed its bylaw for Rice Howard Way to allow open liquor consumption from local vendors on May 14. The new rules will be in place every Saturday from June to September from 11am to midnight, with the option to happen at other times, too.

Hear more on districts, including Male's long-standing proposal for another, on the May 17 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast. It also includes commentary on Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's State of the City address, police accountability after the clearing of a pro-Palestine protest, and a decision to sell naming rights on recreation centres, among other topics.

Image: An example of how the new Arts District branding could be used, based on the new brand guidelines. (Arts District Edmonton)