The Pulse: May 11, 2023

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  • 22°C: A mix of sun and cloud. 60% chance of showers in the afternoon with risk of a thunderstorm. High 22. UV index 6 or high. (forecast)
  • Blue/Yellow: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and yellow for International MPS (Mucopolysaccharidoses) Awareness Day. (details)
  • 4-1: The Edmonton Oilers (6-4) defeated the Vegas Golden Knights (6-3) in Game 4 of their playoff series on May 10. (details)

The outside of Vender Convenience as seen from the sidewalk, with windows sporting signs that say "Vender" and "We Hate Lineups"

Vender Convenience to bring cashless shopping to Edmonton

By Colin Gallant

A former political operative is opening a new cashless, app-based shop downtown in hopes of revitalizing the community convenience store through tech.

Vender Convenience is slated to open this June at 9917 109 Street NW, directly across from The Common and just a few blocks north of the Alberta legislature. It fills a niche for a bustling section of downtown, founder James Johnson told Taproot.

"109 is a busy street," he said. "We've got people at WCB, people at the Legislature, all kinds of offices, and the people that live downtown."

Johnson, a former advisor to the UCP caucus who currently works as a consultant and lobbyist, said he began exploring the concept behind Vender when he noticed his go-to local convenience store had closed during the pandemic, leaving a gap in the quintessential community experience.

"I think for anyone growing up, the corner store is the first place you go to ride your bike and buy candy," he said. "It's just kind of a fixture of every neighbourhood."

Johnson cited a piece by Canada Convenience Store News that says on average, more than three Canadian convenience stores closed per day between 2020 and 2021. That report says credit-card-processing fees are profit-killers, but Vender is banking on its card-payment-only model to save money on labour.

Shoppers must install Vender's app and create a profile using their name, phone number, and payment info before entering the store, then use the app to unlock the door and complete any purchases.

"(The model is) becoming more common in Europe and Asia and other places," said Johnson. "I think it's unique for Canada."

Vender will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but it will only be staffed during the day. Workers will clean, restock, and answer customer questions, but they won't be operating tills.

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Headlines: May 11, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi delivered his 2023 State of the City address to hundreds of attendees at the Edmonton Convention Centre on May 9. The event was hosted by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. Sohi's speech highlighted the city's efforts to cut $60 million from the budget over four years, collaborate with regional municipalities on hydrogen production, and improve safety and cleanliness. The mayor also encouraged attendees to advocate for Edmonton's interests when speaking to provincial election candidates, echoing the city's recently launched Ask About Edmonton campaign, which aims to advise residents on what to ask candidates. The 2023 address marked a shift in tone from 2022, when Sohi criticized the UCP for holding back Edmonton's economy.
  • The city announced $6.5 million in funding to improve downtown vibrancy and safety through the Downtown Vibrancy Fund and the Meet Me Downtown Grant, both of which are for projects that support the goals of the Downtown Vibrancy Strategy. In 2023, the Downtown Vibrancy Fund will put $5 million toward long-term and strategic projects, and the Meet Me Downtown Grant will put $1.5 million toward events, activities, and festivals. Catherine Crowston, executive director of the Art Gallery of Alberta, said she is confident the efforts will encourage people to go downtown and to the arts district. The city also introduced a mascot, a "fun-loving emoji" called Marvin, that will appear on city branding and advertising this summer.
  • Cooler weather has offered some relief to crews fighting Alberta wildfires, but another difficult stretch is expected with hot weather in the forecast. Some parts of Yellowhead County, including Evansburg, were allowed to return home on May 10, but Wildwood and Lobstick Resort remained under mandatory evacuation. As of May 10, 78 wildfires were burning across the province, with 24 out of control, and about 17,860 residents were under evacuation orders, down from 24,000 on May 9. Wildfires have burned 410,000 hectares across the province so far this year, which is about double the average in an entire season. The northern Alberta communities of Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, East Prairie Métis Settlement, and Fox Lake are all reporting significant damage, with 85 homes in Fox Lake confirmed destroyed.
  • The city announced that a section of 170 Street, from 87 Avenue to 90 Avenue, will be closed starting 9pm on May 12 to accommodate the installation of a new pedestrian bridge truss structure. The shared pathway will also be closed. The road is set to reopen May 15 at 6am, but the shared pathway and the 170 Street ramps to the West Edmonton Mall parking lot will remain closed until the pedestrian bridge is completed in summer 2023. Construction on the pedestrian bridge started in late 2021.
  • The city is inviting Edmontonians to take the Moose Hide Pledge on May 11 as part of the Moose Hide Campaign. The campaign focuses on challenging men and boys to speak out against violence toward women and children, but people of all genders are invited to show support. The city, along with the Canadian Native Friendship Centre and Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta, are hosting a public event at City Hall Plaza from 1pm to 4pm featuring a ceremony, speakers, traditional drumming and dancing, and a community walk.
  • The city has announced opening dates for outdoor swimming pools. Weather permitting, the Fred Broadstock Outdoor Pool will open May 20, the Queen Elizabeth Outdoor Pool and Kinsmen Spray Park will open May 30, the Oliver Outdoor Pool will open June 3, and the Borden Natural Swimming Pool will open June 10. The Mill Creek Outdoor Pool will remain closed this season due to ongoing rehabilitation and is expected to reopen in 2024. More information about outdoor pools is available on the city's website.
  • Construction is underway on a new water feature at the Alberta legislature grounds as part of a $20-million upgrade to its pools and walkways. The old wading pool has been torn up, and the dome fountain has been closed since 2020 due to the pandemic and mechanical issues. Construction on the new feature is expected to be finished in 2024. Earlier this year, Albertans were allowed to vote on three possible design concepts, and the province announced last month that 65% of respondents preferred the "river" concept because it featured more green space and less concrete.
Chris Robson holds a microphone and a picture of the Walterdale Bridge, flanked by a smiling Mike Wilson and Meghan Dear

Wyvern among winners at YEG Startup Community Awards

By Colin Gallant and Karen Unland

A company that successfully launched a satellite into space was recognized as the "Most Edmonton Startup of the Year" at the third annual YEG Startup Community Awards on May 10.

Wyvern specializes in high-resolution hyperspectral imaging taken from space for use in agriculture, energy, mining, forestry, and defence. Dragonette-001, which was launched on the SpaceX Transporter 7 mission on April 14, is the first of three satellites the company plans to launch this year, while it continues to work on a deployable telescope to get even better images.

CEO Chris Robson said he and his co-founders started Wyvern because they wanted to stay in Alberta and have a career in space. "It's great … to be able to have our team do that kind of thing here," he said as he accepted the award. "It's also fun to have a satellite in space — it's pretty cool!"

Wyvern beat out fellow finalists Air Trail, Future Fields, and Loop Strategic Marketing for the award, which recognizes the startup "that has most embodied the spirit of Edmonton's startup community in the past year (and) has shown resilience, innovation, risk-taking, and a great focus on community."

Here are the rest of the awards presented at a ceremony at the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii):

Photo: Mike Wilson of DrugBank, which won last year's Most Edmonton Startup of the Year award, presents this year's award to Wyvern CEO Chris Robson and chief growth officer Meghan Dear. (YEG Startup Community Awards/YouTube)