The Pulse: Oct. 10, 2023

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  • 20°C: Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud in the morning. Wind becoming east 20 km/h gusting to 40 early in the afternoon. High 20. UV index 2 or low. (forecast)
  • Red: The High Level Bridge will be lit red for PANDAS/PANS Awareness Day. (details)
  • 12-35: The Edmonton Elks lost to the Toronto Argonauts on Oct. 6. (details)
  • 3-1: The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Seattle Kraken on Oct. 6. (details)

Edmonton Transit Arc Card set against the background of Edmonton's downtown

On the agenda: Youth on transit, Blatchford, and funding for safety and well-being

By Mack Male

City council is back from the Thanksgiving break with three committee meetings to discuss transit improvements and fares for youth, an external evaluation of progress at Blatchford, and funding for community safety and well-being.

Community and public services committee meets on Oct. 10, urban planning committee meets on Oct. 11, and executive committee meets on Oct. 13. Here are some of the key items on the agenda:

  • Amending the city's transit fare policy to make transit free for children 12 and under when unaccompanied by a fare-paying adult would cost $900,000 in lost revenue, administration says in a new report. A separate report prepared by the City of Edmonton Youth Council highlights concerns raised by young people who were surveyed about Edmonton's transit system, including routes and timing, payment procedure and affordability, and comfort and security. Administration says it has several new and enhanced initiatives to support young riders, including the rollout of Arc to youth, increased off-peak service frequency, enhanced bike connectivity, and youth fare reduction in 2025.
  • A third-party review of Blatchford conducted by Gettel Appraisals found the overall pace of home sales is "reasonable," with 85.6% of homes constructed being sold. Gettel also concluded that both lot and home pricing are "appropriate" given the context of Blatchford being "a public policy guided development area." Administration says it is seeing "significant interest" from existing and new homebuilders and it is already planning to address all of Gettel's recommendations. To help with affordability, administration recommends looking into the opportunity for smaller housing units, reviewing architectural design guidelines to help lower the cost of construction, and investigating bringing larger sections of land to market to attract large homebuilders.
  • Administration is looking for $3.95 million in one-time funding for the Community Safety and Well-being and Family and Community Support Services Grants and the creation of a one-time Collaboration Grant. Another $500,000 in ongoing funding would increase the Indigenous Operating Grant. There is currently $5.16 million of unallocated CSWB funding available for 2023, which includes a $350,000 reallocation of "previously approved Anti-racism Strategy funding held within the City Manager's budget." Ongoing funding of $1.36 million for 2024, $3.86 million for 2025, and $3.85 million for 2026 is available.
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Headlines: Oct. 10, 2023

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • Boyle Street Community Services and Bissell Centre partnered to host the Friendship Feast on Thanksgiving Day to provide meals for Edmontonians experiencing homelessness. The organizations hosted two sittings, with the first offering traditional Thanksgiving food and the second featuring Indigenous cuisine, including bannock and stew. More than 3,100 people are experiencing homelessness in Edmonton, according to Homeward Trust.
  • A new hybrid office workspace is set to open in an Edmonton highrise in May 2024 as efforts to convert vacant office buildings increase. International Workplace Group (IWG) is opening the space in the Park Plaza Building at 98 Avenue and 106 Street, providing a hub for freelancers, small businesses, and large corporations. Despite the shift to remote work during the pandemic, companies are still looking for flexible office spaces, said IWG Americas CEO Wayne Berger. The new workspace is one of 13 opening across Canada. Edmonton's downtown office vacancy rate hit 24.2% in the third quarter of 2023, according to real estate firm CBRE. The vacancies have led to efforts to develop a program to incentivize the conversion of office space to residential units.
  • The 132nd Avenue collector renewal project has earned praise from Canada's urban planning community for its efforts to balance needs of drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians in its design. The five-year, 7.3-kilometre project stretching from Fort Road to 127 Street involves narrower roads, dedicated bike paths, and new sidewalks. Stephen Raitz with Paths for People said Edmonton "is being a leader" with the project's design, which he said makes more "efficient use of a public right of way." Coun. Erin Rutherford, whose ward includes part of the project area, said she has heard mixed feelings about the design, but said the reduction from two driving lanes in both directions to one lane in each direction is because 132 Avenue is "meant to be a residential road, not an arterial."
  • A Postmedia analysis of city council voting records shows that Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and councillors Keren Tang, Andrew Knack, Jo-Anne Wright, Aaron Paquette, and Ashley Salvador have emerged as the dominant voting block. The data showed they voted together more than 75% of the time and were on the winning side of those votes more than 84% of the time. The reporting didn't include which issues the councillors agreed on most often.
  • Palestinian and Israeli groups in Edmonton held rallies in response to violence in Israel and Gaza over the weekend. One of the organizers of a rally in support of Palestine held in Castle Downs on Oct. 8 said Edmonton's diverse Palestinian community is devastated but also frustrated by narratives surrounding the recent events. The Jewish Federation of Edmonton also scheduled a gathering for Oct. 9 to "stand in total and complete solidarity with Israel." The Edmonton Police Service said that while there were no immediate safety concerns in the city, it was increasing patrols around some community centres and places of worship "out of an abundance of caution."
  • New home builds in Edmonton have declined by 30% in the first six months of 2023 compared to the same period last year, according to a report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Among the reasons cited for the decrease were higher interest rates, increased construction costs, and labour shortages. The rest of Canada saw a 1% increase in new builds, with a surge in new apartment construction in Toronto and Vancouver. The CMHC expects the housing market in Edmonton to rebound in the fall, particularly in the single-detached home segment.
  • An Edmonton LRT car has been transformed with vibrant art through a public art project created by local artists Michelle Campos Castillo and Roger Garcia, who both came to Canada as refugees from El Salvador when they were children. The design is a tribute to Salvadoran culture and was inspired by the artists' childhood memories and experiences. "We grew up with mango trees and lemon trees and avocado trees, so we wanted to bring those bright visuals to transit, which can be a bit drab in the winter — and commuting is hard," said Campos Castillo. The SuperTrain Residency project is a collaboration through the Society of Northern Alberta Print-Artists, the Edmonton Arts Council, and Pattison Outdoor Advertising.
  • Edmonton police have ruled the death of a man found unresponsive in Chinatown on Oct. 5 as non-criminal. Homicide detectives were initially called in to investigate the death, which had been considered suspicious until an autopsy was completed on Oct. 6.
  • An advocacy group is encouraging Edmonton residents to make their homes accessible for trick-or-treaters with mobility challenges and special needs. Treat Accessibly aims to make Halloween more inclusive by eliminating barriers such as stairs and closed doors. Edmontonians can register to have their homes marked on a map indicating accessible houses. Edmonton will also be one of nine cities across Canada to host a Treat Accessibly Halloween Village on Oct. 21 on Summerside Grande Boulevard.
  • The Edmonton Oilers are gearing up for the upcoming NHL season determined to win the Stanley Cup. "One thing that's guaranteed is we'll do everything in our power to achieve our goal and get to that point," said forward Leon Draisaitl. The team is confident in their offence, with three 100-point players from last season, and the league's best power play. The Oilers have made only a few tweaks to their roster and focused on fine-tuning their system during training camp. The regular season begins Oct. 11 in Vancouver, and the team will host the Calgary Flames for the Heritage Classic on Oct. 29th at Commonwealth Stadium.
Catherine Warren speaks at a podium bearing the words "Edmonton Unlimited," with a slide reading "This is your Startup Week" behind her and spectators seat in front

Coming up this week: Oct. 10-13, 2023

By Debbi Serafinchon

Both Edmonton Startup Week and Edmonton Design Week begin on Oct. 10. The week also includes discussions on active transportation, the transformation of mature neighbourhoods, and the future of downtown retail, as well as pitch competitions and a showcase of game developers.

Find even more things to do in Taproot's weekly roundups.

Photo: Edmonton Startup Week and Edmonton Design Week intersect on Oct. 13 with a session on Being Creative in the New Digital Economy. (Edmonton Unlimited/LinkedIn)