The Pulse: March 22, 2023

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  • 9°C: Sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High 9. Wind chill minus 16 in the morning. UV index 3 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Green: The High Level Bridge will be lit green for the start of Ramadan. (details)
  • 8:30pm: The Edmonton Oilers (40-23-8) play the Arizona Coyotes (27-32-11) at Rogers Place. (details)

Four people cut a ribbon in front a CarbinX unit in a boiler room

Alberta Ecotrust installs carbon-capture technology at non-profits

By Colin Gallant

An assisted-living facility in central Edmonton is the first of four non-profit buildings across the province to be fitted with carbon-capture technology that aims to both reduce energy costs and decrease emissions.

The Alberta Ecotrust Foundation has installed a CarbinX unit in the Excel Society's Grand Manor on 97 Street NW. The unit, developed by Calgary's CleanO2, captures carbon dioxide emissions from heating systems and converts them into non-toxic potassium carbonate, or pearl ash, which can be used to produce soap and other cleaners.

"We know, as a charity, it's really hard to ensure that all of your dollars are going to your impact, because you have to support your operations at the same time," Mike Mellross of Alberta Ecotrust said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Grand Manor on March 21. "So anything that we could do to reduce the costs of groups like the Excel Society (while reducing emissions) is a win-win-win."

Mellross noted Edmonton's commitment to reducing emissions across the board through its Community Energy Transition Strategy and the need to empower everyone to take those steps.

"The carbon-capture concept at the urban scale became really important when we saw the city's modelling of how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050," he told Taproot.

Through its carbon budget, the city is supposed to emit no more than 176 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent between 2022 and 2050, though it is behind on those targets.

Alberta EcoTrust plans to install three more CarbinX units, one at a Calgary non-profit and the other two in city facilities in Edmonton and Calgary. And it is looking at the potential to expand the Carbon Capture for Nonprofits program.

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Headlines: March 22, 2023

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • Hundreds of Edmonton Police Service officers, first responders, and Edmontonians lined the streets on March 21 to pay tribute to Const. Brett Ryan and Const. Travis Jordan as their bodies were brought to Serenity Funeral Home. The procession began around noon and followed a five-kilometre route, along which street lights were adorned with blue ribbons to honour the officers. A regimental funeral for Ryan and Jordan is scheduled for March 27 at Rogers Place.
  • A health assessment of Lucy the Elephant done by the Edmonton Valley Zoo and the animal advocacy organization Free The Wild concluded that she is not fit to travel, which means the 47-year-old animal will remain at the zoo. Free The Wild also recommended significant changes to Lucy's facilities and care regimen. According to the city, a blood gas analysis test revealed the elephant has severe hypoxemia and hypercapnia and only breathes through her mouth. She also has a large uterine tumour, which is being treated with a vaccine. One of four experts who produced the assessment, Patricia London, disagreed that Lucy is unfit to travel, suggesting she is being "kept more like a pet" than a wild animal and may be experiencing worsened respiratory problems due to the cold, dry environment. Activists have been calling on the city to transfer Lucy to a sanctuary for years, while the zoo says that moving her could be life-threatening.
  • Boyle Street Community Services can proceed with plans for a new facility after the city reissued a Class A development permit for the location at 101 Street and 107A Avenue. About 200 supporters of the social services agency gathered outside the future home of okimaw peyesew kamik, which is Cree for King Thunderbird Centre, on March 21 in celebration of the project being given the green light to proceed after the permit had been previously revoked due to land use concerns. The organization has raised 80% of its $28.5-million funding goal through its Build with Boyle campaign. Opponents of the project said in a statement the city is contravening its promise to deconcentrate social services in Chinatown.
  • City council's urban planning committee debated amendments to Edmonton's business license bylaw to address privacy concerns raised by adult service industry workers, which includes exotic entertainment workers, body rub practitioners, and escorts. The existing bylaw mandates that businesses keep a list of workers' personal information, including names, birthdates, and phone numbers, while the amendments would require businesses to only track their pseudonyms and licence numbers. Monica Forya with Advocacy Normalizing Sex Work through Education and Resources Society (ANSWERS) says the existing bylaw exposes workers to businesses with nefarious intentions. The amendments will go to a regular council meeting for approval.
  • Ex-Alta 2, a cube satellite designed and built by a group of University of Alberta students and faculty called AlbertaSat, was launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on March 14 along with two other cube satellites aboard a cargo spacecraft. The new satellite's job is to capture images of wildfires. Ex-Alta 1, which launched in 2017 and ended its mission in 2018, was designed to study space weather. AlbertaSat explained the differences between the two satellites on its website.
  • A new Zellers is set to open in Kingsway Mall on March 23 on the upper level of the existing Hudson's Bay store. The grand opening event will include a DJ, prizes, and a Zellers Food Truck.
  • According to Rentola, a company that runs a rental home search engine, Edmonton is the best place to be in Canada during a zombie apocalypse. The company compared Statistics Canada data for 35 cities and ranked them across the categories of vulnerability, hideouts, supplies, safety, and mobility.
  • The 2023 provincial budget will result in changes to municipal funding structures. The UCP government has adjusted the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) to double operating funding to $60 million for 2023-24, alongside $485 million in capital funding. Starting in 2024, the MSI will be replaced by the new Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF), which sets baseline capital funding at $722 million across all municipalities, including $382 million reserved for Calgary and Edmonton, and will index annual capital funding 1:1 with provincial revenues from the previous three years. The advocacy organization Alberta Municipalities, which conducted an analysis of the 2023 budget, says it leaves municipalities with a lingering infrastructure deficit and that budgeted LGFF funding is far below the 12-year average of past funding streams.
A newspaper clipping of an aerial view of downtown with the caption "Heart of Edmonton as envisioned in $107,000,000 civic centre proposal"

A moment in history: March 22, 1962

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1962, a New York company was pitching a massive development plan with promises of revitalizing Edmonton's downtown core.

The idea of building a civic centre downtown wasn't a new one. The idea of a municipal district containing government buildings, office space, and arts facilities had been bandied about since 1913. The City owned a parcel of about 20 acres in the centre of the city, just south of the Canadian National Railway tracks. Over the next half-century, at least half a dozen plans of varying cost and ambition were proposed for the land, but none materialized.

When Webb & Knapp (Canada), a subsidiary of the New York development firm, pitched their Civic Centre Development Plan in 1962, it was perfect timing. Alberta's oil industry was growing rapidly, bringing waves of new residents to Edmonton. The decade was also marked by a North American obsession with "urban renewal" and the transformation of "blighted" areas — an idea wholeheartedly embraced by many Edmonton leaders.

The company offered to spend $100,000 developing the plan for the city. In return, if it was approved, the city would make a large area of land available for potential private development to Webb & Knapp and other companies.

When the plan was unveiled, it covered 86 acres in central Edmonton, including the 20-acre civic centre. Estimated to cost more than $100 million in public and private investment over the next 15 years, the blueprint included a new city hall, parks, recreation buildings, a hotel, and three 25-storey office towers. Webb & Knapp hoped it would prove to be a blueprint for similar projects in cities all over North America.

The plan generated a lot of debate, including concerns over land expropriation and the need to move institutions like the City Market. City council would reject the plan later in the year.

But that would not be the end of the story. The original agreement stated that if Edmonton rejected the plan, the materials would become the property of the city. However, the company alleged that city planners copied and inserted big chunks of the idea into their proposal, which was later approved by city council before it had the rights. The company sued for $2 million in damages in a case that dragged on for several years. It eventually ended up before the Supreme Court, which determined that Edmonton had breached copyright and ordered $50,000 in damages.

The 1962 Civic Centre Plan is just one of a seemingly continuous stream of downtown revitalization plans that stretch over the city's history. City council's urban planning committee will be talking about it on March 22, as it considers a report on what can be funded with the downtown community revitalization levy.

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.