The Pulse: Aug. 9, 2021

We're back after a fruitful week away from day-to-day production that enabled us to reflect, plan, and refresh. Onward!

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  • 26°C: Sunny. High 26. Humidex 28. Increasing cloudiness early in the evening. (forecast)
  • 30,302: The Edmonton Elks lost 16-12 to the Ottawa RedBlacks on Aug. 7. Attendance at Commonwealth Stadium was 30,302. (details)
  • 24: Sherwood Park track cyclist Kelsey Mitchell won Canada's 24th medal on the final day of the Tokyo Olympics. (details)

Commercial infill projects are the next step to revitalize mature neighbourhoods, says IDEA

Commercial infill projects are the next step to revitalize mature neighbourhoods, says IDEA

By Andy Trussler Andy Trussler

Residential infill projects have added new housing to mature neighbourhoods, but commercial infill could be the key to revitalize these areas and support business owners.

"Edmonton has made really impactful strides around residential infill," Mariah Samji, executive director of the Infill Development in Edmonton Association (IDEA), told Taproot in an interview with Speaking Municipally.

According to Samji, the next step is commercial infill. Samji said the addition of busier commercial sites could help to bring back vibrancy to Edmonton communities.

Infill is the process of developing vacant or under-used residential, commercial, and institutional lands to "fit the needs of today."

Some examples of commercial infill are new garden suites, removing some onsite parking requirements, and revamping Rogers Place, according to Samji. These developments support residential infill in what she calls a construction ecosystem.

Ritchie Market is an example of commercial infill development, with a coffee shop, restaurant, and event space. Revitalizing under-used strip malls in the city is one of IDEA's top priorities.

According to Samji, these developments will "give builders, developers, and tenants more ... agency to bring back that beautiful space" and that residents will "start to see these mature neighborhoods fill up again."

The City Plan, which was approved at the end of 2020, included a vision for 50% of new construction projects to be infill.

"It will take a lot of work ... and coordination," Samji said. "But I think we have all the right pieces to get there. We just need to make sure we're implementing and actioning them as we go along."

Photo: Ritchie Market is a multi-use building with a shared, collaborative space. (Duchess Bake Shop/Instagram)



By Mack Male Mack Male

  • Edmonton's downtown is anticipating a boost as private businesses and governments begin bringing employees back to the workplace early next month. The provincial government is phasing in its workers by Sept. 7, and the city intends to have almost everyone back to work by Sept. 20.
  • The new 40 km/h speed limit is now in effect for most residential and downtown streets, including parts of Whyte Avenue and Jasper Avenue. The city released a digital map of affected roads. Drivers caught speeding will receive a warning until the grace period ends Sept. 1.
  • The first phase of excavation work to uncover suspected burial sites around the former Charles Camsell Indian Hospital was completed on Aug. 6, with one-third of the site searched. While operational, the hospital institutionalized many Indigenous people with tuberculosis and other illnesses.
  • Edmonton-based soldiers have been deployed to Oliver, B.C. to assist in fighting active wildfires including the Thomas Creek wildfire which is currently about 10,000 hectares in size.
  • A pop-up dog park has appeared on Whyte Avenue. A collaboration between local designers and Southpark on Whyte, "Southbark" contains benches, open space, and structures for dogs to play in. The park is open daily from 7am to 10pm until next year, when construction on an apartment complex is slated to begin.
  • City hall was temporarily named the "Nathan Fillion Civilian Pavilion" over the weekend to mark the premiere of the Edmonton-born actor's new film, The Suicide Squad. "It's great that so many Edmontonians see the humour in it," the city said in a statement to Global News.
The North Saskatchewan River is healthier than you might think

The North Saskatchewan River is healthier than you might think

By Mack Male Mack Male

Many Edmontonians believe the North Saskatchewan River is dirty and unsafe due to its brown colour, but Martin Dugas, executive director at the RiverWatch Institute of Alberta, said that's not true in an interview with Taproot's Speaking Municipally.

"It's an amazing water system, we're very fortunate that its quite still and quite deep and wide," he said. "The water quality and health is actually quite amazing."

Dugas suggested the river valley's history as a source of coal contributes to the persistent myth that the water is unclean. The Whitemud Creek Coal Mine, Edmonton's last, closed in 1970.

"Now our water has never been cleaner," Dugas said.

EPCOR notes on its myths page that the river is "naturally sediment rich" which helps give the river its muddy appearance.

Dugas said the brown foam sometimes seen on the river is normal organic matter and is "a very healthy part of the river."

"There's a whole combination of things that might be misinterpreted that are actually quite healthy on the river," he said.

As the primary water source for the growing Edmonton region, the health of the river is critical. The RiverWatch Institute of Alberta regularly collects dozens of measurements to monitor the health of the river, and shares that information with governments and other partners.

Edmonton's city council will receive an update later this month on the potential effects of coal mining projects on the city's water.

Dugas said there's no backup plan if the river were to become contaminated with selenium or other toxins. "There is no other solution that has the capacity that is required," he said.

Photo: Canoes on the North Saskatchewan River. (Mack Male/Flickr)

Coming up at council: Aug. 9-13, 2021

Coming up at council: Aug. 9-13, 2021

By Mack Male Mack Male

City council returns this week after four weeks off for the summer break. Monday, Aug. 9 also marks the reopening of City Hall to the public, with council chambers open at 33% capacity (45 seats available).

Here is what city council will discuss at committee meetings this week:

  • The proposed Public Art to Enhance Edmonton's Public Realm policy would consolidate percent for art related policies into one and would establish the Public Art Reserve as "a long-term transparent and predictable funding source" for public art.
  • A new Business License Bylaw, which "establishes a more modern framework for licensing and regulating businesses operating in Edmonton," will be considered. If approved, it would take effect on Jan. 17, 2022. The new bylaw would introduce a two-year license option and "a new, simplified fee schedule."
  • After engaging with the industry, administration has proposed a new fee structure for cannabis retail stores and aims to "streamline and simplify" all related regulatory processes.
  • Amendments to the Public Places Bylaw would strengthen the definition of what qualifies as harassment. The proposed changes include harassment based on race, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
  • Extensions to agreements with the Edmonton Football Club and Western Food Services for the operation of events and concessions at Commonwealth Stadium and Clarke Stadium will be considered. The Edmonton Elks lost their first game of the shortened CFL season on Saturday night.
  • The emergency advisory committee will receive an update on COVID-19 at its meeting on Thursday afternoon. In a statement issued on July 28, Mayor Don Iveson said he was "surprised" by the provincial government's decision to lift remaining public health measures.

Meetings are streamed live on city council's YouTube channel.

Photo: Council chambers will reopen to the public on Monday, Aug. 9. (Mack Male/Flickr)

Coming up this week: Aug. 9-13, 2021

Coming up this week: Aug. 9-13, 2021

By Emily Rendell-Watson Emily Rendell-Watson

  • Alberta on the Plate is happening Aug. 6-12, celebrating "the incredible bounty grown and produced across our beautiful province." For ten days, participating restaurants are offering multi-course, fixed-price menus highlighting local producers, growers, distillers and brewers.
  • Alberta Women Entrepreneurs is hosting a course on the Essentials of eCommerce, breaking down the Shopify platform from Aug. 9-11.
  • Rogers Place is hosting a job fair to hire a variety of positions including fan experience, security, bartenders, cashiers, warehouse associates, and more, on Aug. 10-11.
  • Together We Fringe: A Fringe Theatre Event runs from Aug. 12-22, and offers both live and digital performances. Tickets are on sale now.
  • Live music is back at the Edmonton Ski Club, with Martin Kerr playing toe-tapping tunes on Aug. 11.

Photo: Thanks to Zahid for sharing his photo with us!