The Pulse: July 29, 2022

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  • 31°C: Mainly sunny. Fog patches dissipating in the morning. High 31. Humidex 37. UV index 8 or very high. (forecast)
  • 7pm, July 30: The Edmonton Stingers will play the Fraser Valley Bandits. (details)

A portrait of Blue Plate Diner owners John Williams and Rima Devitt, above a picture of the chalk sign reading "Thank you for 15 amazing years, 104 St. community" and beside a picture of the patio on Stony Plain Road

Heartbroken owner of Blue Plate Diner feels community's love

By Brett McKay

As she prepares to close the Blue Plate Diner for good, owner Rima Devitt can't help but wonder what would have happened if her restaurant hadn't been pushed out of its longtime home on 104 Street.

The 18-year-old restaurant moved in 2019 to make way for the proposed Mackenzie Tower development. The project at 10145 104 St. was cancelled, and the building is now the home of Seoul Fried Chicken. Seeing another restaurant in Blue Plate's old spot has been "a bitter pill to swallow," Devitt said.

"It breaks my heart. I love that space," she said. "I used to sweep that whole block and pick up the garbage and talk to people. And I just feel sad about the fact that the building is still there, and maybe we didn't have to move."

Devitt and co-owner John Williams initially looked for another location on 104 Street, but only found smaller, pricier spaces — a reality that is still limiting business development in the community, she said.

"All those spaces are still empty. They're still sitting there. It's disturbing because there's so many empty spaces for businesses, downtown, and other areas in Edmonton, and they're charging what they're calling market value for these spaces that just isn't affordable for people who want to operate a little independent restaurant or whatever."

They found a spot at 12323 Stony Plain Rd. instead, but it was hard to get traction there, and then COVID hit, devastating the restaurant industry. Now people are dining again, but the cost of food is up, rent is still a lot, and government support put in place during the pandemic is gone.

"Everyone's just on this hamster wheel trying to survive right now," Devitt said. "We're certainly not the first restaurant to collapse under this type of pressure. We're definitely not going to be the last."

The announcement of the impending closure was followed by an outpouring of condolences and stories from supporters on social media. Alongside posts mourning the loss of a favourite dish were memories of first dates, business lunches, and the eclectic decor, illustrating the personal connection many Edmontonians had with the restaurant.

"I've just been trying not to cry for the last several days since we made the announcement because every time I pick up my phone and read something..." Devitt said, her voice wavering. "A lot of these people I know, I've built relationships with them over the years, and my coworkers have built relationships with these people over the years."

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By Kevin Holowack and Mack Male

  • The City of Edmonton is reminding residents to take precautions as hot temperatures continue into the weekend. "Extreme heat can be dangerous," it said in a statement. "Everyone should drink plenty of water even before feeling thirsty, and stay in a cool place." Supports available include 15 hydration stations near fire hydrants, 24 refillable water stations at LRT stations and transit centres, and more than 70 spray parks. Additionally, "Edmontonians can seek respite from the heat at recreation centres," the city said.
  • Prairie Sky Gondola has agreed to pay the city about $1.125 million per year to lease land and for a license to operate its proposed 2.5-kilometre gondola over the North Saskatchewan River. "We're very near what I would describe as the biggest milestone in this project," said president and CEO Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson. City council's executive committee will review the deal on Aug. 10.
  • The city is providing free permits to people who want to create a boulevard garden on the strip of land between their property and the road. The Residential Boulevard Gardening Kickstart Program is intended to provide Edmontonians space to "create colourful, diverse streetscapes to strengthen community pride, ecological diversity, and build climate resiliency." The city's Instagram account will also be featuring pictures of boulevard gardens that use the #boulevardeningyeg hashtag.
  • Motorists on southwest Anthony Henday Drive should expect travel delays due to bridge work starting Aug. 4 and lasting four to six weeks. The North Saskatchewan westbound bridge will be closed between 8:00pm on Thursday and 6:00am on Monday every week. Traffic on the eastbound bridge will be limited to one lane in both directions.
  • Park and ride will be available for the Edmonton Heritage Festival in Hawrelak Park this weekend, with shuttle service running 9:30am-9:30 pm on July 30 and 31 and from 9:30 am–8:30pm on Aug. 1. Park and ride service is also available for Monster Jam at Commonwealth Stadium on July 30.
  • The Old Strathcona Business Association has launched a map of pet-friendly businesses, which features more than 80 establishments on and around Whyte Avenue that welcome dogs. To celebrate, the organization is throwing its first-ever Pet Prowl from 12-4pm on July 30 at SouthBARK, a pop-up dog park at 8122 106 Street NW.
  • Criminology professor Temitope Oriola argued in a recent op-ed that the terms of reference proposed by the Edmonton Police Commission for an independent third-party review of circumstances surrounding the release of Justin Bone "are underwhelming" and "do not include ascertaining who did what, when, and how." He said the case is a test of the quality of the commission. "The EPC's capacity to fulfill its mandate is under the microscope," Oriola wrote. "I sincerely hope they pass this test."
  • Every province except Alberta has introduced a system to roll out the Moderna Spikevax vaccine for kids aged six months to five years, which Health Canada authorized on July 14. The federal government said it has delivered 46,700 doses to Alberta, and Alberta Health said it expects progress "in the coming days" despite initially saying the vaccine would roll out by the end of July. Janaya Matheson, who founded Vax Hunters Alberta on Twitter to help parents and others book shots, said some parents have even driven to Montana for the vaccine.
  • Albertans aged 18 and older who are determined to be at higher risk of exposure will be eligible for a monkeypox vaccine starting July 28. Eligibility is limited to some transgender, cisgender, or two-spirit people who self-identify as belonging to the gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) community. As of July 26, there have been 13 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Alberta, CBC News reports.
Michael Bowling, Richard Sutton, and Patrick Pilarski smile in front of an array of DeepMind logos

DeepMind celebrates five years in Edmonton

By Brett McKay

DeepMind Alberta, the first international research office of the UK-based AI arm of Alphabet, celebrated its fifth anniversary at its newly completed office space in downtown Edmonton.

"It was a really big step for DeepMind, which is very London-centric, to come all the way to Edmonton to open an office," DeepMind research board member Doina Precup said at the July 28 gathering. "And our presence here today, and being at the fifth anniversary of this office, is a testament to the vibrancy of the Canadian AI ecosystem."

Precup remarked that the unique collaboration between government, academia, and industry has fostered the site's success since it was founded in 2017, and it's a model researchers have tried to replicate elsewhere.

DeepMind's research has helped machines understand challenging games like chess and go, and more complicated problems in the realms of mathematics and quantum chemistry. The company chose the Edmonton anniversary date to announce the release of its AlphaFold Protein Structure Database, an open-source project that has expanded to include over 200 million structures, representing nearly all proteins known to science.

Canada was the first country to develop a national AI strategy in 2017, the same year that DeepMind established its Edmonton office, and it has committed $443 million over the next 10 years for the second phase of its Pan-Canadian AI strategy.

DeepMind's arrival in Alberta "was significant because it reinforced our status as a worldwide leader in artificial intelligence and machine learning," said Elan MacDonald, vice-president of external relations at the University of Alberta.

MacDonald noted that DeepMind office "is almost like an alumni gathering, with almost 75% of the current team having a strong link with the U of A."

Photo: Michael Bowling, Richard Sutton, and Patrick Pilarski, founding members of DeepMind Alberta, were all smiles at the fifth anniversary of DeepMind's Edmonton office on July 28. (Supplied)


Weekend agenda: July 29-Aug. 1, 2022

By Debbi Serafinchon

This long weekend offers a wide choice of music — bluegrass, disco, big band, and much more — as well as a cornucopia of food and fun at Hawrelak Park, Churchill Square, and the exhibition grounds.

Find even more things to do in the Arts Roundup.

Photo: HeritageFest brings the cultures of the world to Hawrelak Park this weekend, while World Music Week fills the amphitheatre with song and sound. (Edmonton Heritage Festival/Facebook)