The Pulse: Nov. 30, 2022

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  • -15°C: Snow. Amount 2 to 4 cm. Wind becoming east 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the morning. High minus 15. Wind chill near minus 25. (forecast)
  • Periwinkle: The High Level Bridge will be lit periwinkle for Stomach Cancer Awareness Day. (details)
  • 7:30pm: The Edmonton Oilers (12-10-0) play the Chicago Blackhawks (6-11-4) at the United Center. (details)

Sophie Gray stands in an empty space with construction materials in the background

Mental wellness company DiveThru to open a studio

By Stephanie Dubois

In a space just south of Whyte Avenue, a storefront with a sign saying "you can cry here" may not look like much right now. But in February, the space will become home to DiveThru Studio, the brick-and-mortar location of Edmonton-based mental wellness company DiveThru.

It won't be a traditional therapist's office with a leather chaise longue and a clinical feel. Instead, DiveThru is aiming to create a space that is bright, cheery, and Instagrammable.

"(We want) to make this a more enjoyable experience, where you're not ashamed, and you want to show off that you're in therapy, because DiveThru makes it approachable, makes it fun, makes it cool, if we want to use that word," DiveThru CEO Sophie Gray told Taproot.

"We want to change the perception of mental health, and we're looking to do that through this unique model of creating these really stunning spaces and a better experience overall."

The company first started as a journaling app, which now has more than 50,000 downloads. The company's weekly newsletter has 40,000 subscribers. But DiveThru customers have asked for in-person therapy, Gray says. They want a space to meet as a community to get through their struggles.

That's what she's trying to accomplish with DiveThru Studio. And when someone is in between sessions, Gray says they can access the resources or do the homework assigned by their therapist on the app.

"DiveThru started as a journaling app, but I always had this larger version of creating in-person spaces. This dream … where you can go to therapy, drop in on a class on burnout, (attend) yoga class. So we're now fully realizing that vision," she says.

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Headlines: Nov. 30, 2022

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • City council heard from more than 200 people and organizations that signed up to provide input on the 2023-2026 draft budgets during a two-day public hearing spanning Nov. 28 and 29. The hearing was required before council begins debating the budget on Nov. 30, with plans to wrap up in mid-December. Administration has proposed a $7.75-billion capital budget for 2023-2026 and a $3.2-billion operating budget for 2023, along with four years of 3.9% property tax increases. During the Nov. 28 hearing, council heard a range of requests for funding related to climate change, improving the Edmonton Valley Zoo, and adding more transit peace officers. Several speakers requested support for sports and recreation centres, including the CEO of YMCA of Northern Alberta, who said running the Castle Downs location is unsustainable without city funding. Coun. Michael Janz said he will propose a motion to remove the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre project from the budget, which currently only suggests scaling back the design. During the Nov. 29 hearing, council heard funding requests from Edmonton's film and video game industries, affordable housing organizations, and the wildlife rescue group WILDNorth, among others.
  • The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, NAIOP Edmonton, BOMA Edmonton, and the Urban Development Institute (UDI) - Edmonton Metro have issued a joint statement that summarizes their calls to action to city council in advance of budget debates. "Many partners from across the city-building spectrum are clear in their desire to see a more strategic budget," said chamber president and CEO Jeffrey Sundquist. The business organizations said the proposed 2023-2026 budget cycle "lacks a clear list of priorities" for the city, "commits significant spending at the front end," and will require a 16.4% property tax increase over four years "essentially to preserve the status quo." The statement also noted the city's engagement process found the majority of the public was uncomfortable with the proposed tax increase and with incurring tax-supported debt for new projects.
  • The city has activated its extreme weather response in anticipation of the cold weather expected in Edmonton over the coming days. The measures began Nov. 29 and are expected to remain in place until Dec. 8 at 8am. The city's extreme weather response is triggered when temperatures hit -20°C with wind chill for at least three straight nights and shelters reach 90% capacity. As part of the response, Edmonton Transit Service busses will provide overnight service on three routes, and shelter services will be expanded. The city said it won't open LRT stations as shelters because they "lack amenities such as heat, and adequate washroom facilities."
  • Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang was ordered to pay a $7,200 fine by the Provincial Court of Alberta for hacking into the province's vaccination website in September 2021, an action that prompted an RCMP investigation, Dang's choice to leave the NDP caucus, and his subsequent decision to not seek re-election. "I have considered that Mr. Dang's actions were not impulsive, but planned and deliberate and continued for several days," said Judge Michelle Doyle. "His conduct was, in my view, inconsistent with the trust placed in him by his constituents." However, the judge noted Dang's intention was to benefit his community by helping Alberta Health prevent such hacking and praised the 27-year-old as "an exceptionally intelligent young man" who has "enjoyed accomplishments well beyond his years."
  • Edmonton's real estate market is currently experiencing a balance of supply and demand, but demand is expected to increase in the spring, largely driven by "move-up and move-over buyers," according to RE/MAX's latest market outlook report. The average residential sale price in Edmonton increased 3% since 2021 to reach $401,025 over the period of January to October of this year. Other major trends in 2022 are increased migration from other provinces and increased demand for luxury residential real estate. RE/MAX also expects demand for downtown condos to continue rising in 2023 and for the demand in luxury condos to become "more robust." Single-detached homes are still the most in-demand housing in Edmonton.
  • Two more Edmontonians have shared stories with the media involving violent attacks outside LRT stations. One man said he was punched multiple times outside the Southgate LRT Station on Nov. 19, and a woman said she was attacked with pepper or bear spray outside the MacEwan LRT Station on the afternoon of Nov. 22.
  • Premier Danielle Smith introduced the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act during the first sitting of the provincial legislature on Nov. 29. The bill would allow the government to act against federal laws it considers harmful to Alberta's interests, by granting cabinet the power to bypass the legislature to amend provincial laws. NDP deputy leader Sarah Hoffman said the bill is "not democratic and has no place in democracy," but Justice Minister Tyler Shandro defended the bill, saying the legislative assembly would have to approve a motion before cabinet could change any laws.
  • Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney announced he has resigned as MLA for Calgary-Lougheed. In a statement posted to Twitter on Nov. 29, Kenney said he is "concerned that our democratic life is veering away from ordinary prudential debate towards a polarization that undermines our bedrock institutions and principles." Kenney served as United Conservative Party leader and provincial premier from 2019 to 2022.
Map of the Edmonton metropolitan region

Municipalities across Edmonton region face budget challenges for 2023

By Mack Male

Councils across the Edmonton region have been hearing about the challenge of maintaining existing services in an environment of high inflation as they review and start approving their 2023 budgets.

Though final property tax rates will be set early next year, all municipalities must approve their 2023 budgets by Dec. 31, 2022.

Approved budgets for 2023, with an average tax increase of 4.46%, include:

  • Leduc County council approved its 2023 budget with a 3% tax increase.
  • Parkland County council approved its 2023 budget with a 2.78% tax increase. "We are proud to approve the 2023 budget, which includes investments of over $50 million in strategic areas to attract investors, promote tourism, and improve quality of life for our residents," said Mayor Allan Gamble.
  • Stony Plain's proposed 2023 budget originally forecast a tax increase of 4.84%, but that increased to 7.47% on Nov. 8 after council approved several additional funding requests. Council approved the amended budget on Nov. 28.
  • Strathcona County council approved its 2023 budget with a 4.6% tax increase, down from the originally proposed 5.5% increase.

Proposed budgets for 2023, with average tax increase of 5.7%, include:

Photo: A map of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. (EMRB)

A newspaper clipping with the headline "Our Historic Buildings: The Birks" with a picture of the Birks Building on Jasper Avenue with its distinctive curved corner

A moment in history: Nov. 30, 1984

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1984, details were coming out about how close Edmonton came to losing the iconic Birks Building.

The way the building curves around the corner of Jasper Avenue and 104 Street has made it instantly recognizable for nearly a century. But its origins actually lie back east. Henry Birks began his jewelry business in Montreal in 1879. The following decades were successful for the company, and before long, it expanded to other cities across Canada.

Birks and Sons arrived in Edmonton in 1927 when they bought out the successful jewelry store run by D.A. Kirkland, dubbed "The Diamond Prince of Edmonton." As the Edmonton Journal article notes, the Birks company had a habit of moving into new cities by buying "the best store or the best real estate, or both."

The company hired Montreal architects Nobbs and Hyde to design the $350,000 facility in the same style as their Montreal shop and other stores across Canada. When the building opened in 1929, it was an event. More than 5,000 people came out for the grand opening.

The jewelry store took up much of the first floor, offering more than 200 feet of displays and counters. But just as exciting for residents were the other three floors of the building. At the time, Henry Birks and Sons had a policy of leasing the office space of their buildings specifically to medical professionals. They went as far as consulting with local doctors and dentists as to the design of the building, adding in extra features such as a compressed air system running through the building. That made the Birks Building the first in the city designed specifically for medical offices.

In 1934, the fourth floor of the Birks Building was leased to CJCA Radio, which had been Alberta's first radio station, broadcasting since 1922. The memorable CJCA "Flying Tiger" sign, with its moving tail and gigantic glasses, was added to the top of the building for the 40 years the station called it home.

The building changed hands several times over the latter half of the 20th century. Several attempts were made to designate the building as a historical structure, both by the city and the province. But they were often opposed by building owners such as Ralph MacMillan, who told the Journal in 1984 that he opposed historic designation because the land could be put to better use than a four-storey building and designation "does not add to the value."

Eventually, the Birks Building was added to the city's inventory of historic buildings. Despite the fact that Henry Birks and Sons expanded to many Canadian cities, Edmonton's Birks Building is one of the only two original stores still standing, along with the Montreal original.

While the Birks Building is currently protected, there are those warning that other Edmonton landmarks are in danger. Earlier this year, the city's historical board warned that more properties are being demolished than being protected and urged the city council to put more emphasis on preserving historic structures.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.