The Pulse: Oct. 12, 2023

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 15°C: Sunny. High 15. UV index 2 or low. (forecast)
  • Blue/White: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and white in support of Israel. (details)
  • 8-1: The Edmonton Oilers lost to the Vancouver Canucks in their season opener on Oct. 11. (details)

A group of people file into the entrance of a dark, glass and brick building.

Student leaders advocate for housing diversity as Laurent Tower opens

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

Student housing development Laurent Tower opened its doors for its first residents in September, but it's merely one piece of the housing puzzle, student leaders say.

The tower is one of Edmonton's only privately owned, purpose-built student housing facilities, meaning the units are furnished and amenities are designed with students in mind. The building, which sits across the street from the University of Alberta at 8621 112 Street NW, is Maclab Development Group's first venture into student housing.

"We saw an opportunity that U of A was going to grow significantly, and I thought there was an opportunity to provide a solution for students to live near campus, in a safe, secure, really attractive built environment," Maclab CEO and president Bill Blais told Taproot.

The U of A announced plans in September to increase enrolment by 35% to reach 60,000 by 2030.

Laurent Tower can house nearly 500 tenants, with dedicated units for graduate students. It features a gym, shared laundry, a patio, and communal spaces. Studio apartments for undergraduate students start at $1,600 per month; they can also share a two-bedroom or four-bedroom unit, leased by the bed for $1,200 or $890 per month.

Although student-dedicated spaces like this are a good option for some students, campus leaders want to see more.

"A lot of students will quite happily pay those prices for that access, but a lot of students won't be able to either," said Chris Beasley, vice-president external for the University of Alberta Students' Union. "And so the question is, how do we encourage different kinds of density in areas around the university at different price points for different students?"

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Headlines: Oct. 12, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • Alberta Health Services adopted a new "enhanced masking directive" to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in acute care facilities. The "Use of Masks to Prevent Transmission of COVID-19" directive allows leadership to require physicians, midwives, students, volunteers, and other workers to wear masks in acute care facilities. Patients, support workers, and visitors would also be required to wear masks, although AHS said that "(no) patient shall be denied services." The enhanced measures will be implemented based on factors such as hospitalization rate, number of outbreaks, and occupancy. Signs will be set up in areas where the policy is in effect.
  • The City of Edmonton Youth Council delivered recommendations to the urban planning committee to improve the transit experience of young people based on the results of a 2022 survey. The recommendations include greater bus frequency, better connection between universities and underserved areas, reduced fare prices, and improved convenience and reliability of ARC cards. The survey found that 61.3% of respondents said "drug use, houseless people, and dangerous people" make them feel unsafe, and 76.4% said improved safety and security would incentivize them to use transit. Meanwhile, just 8% believed the Edmonton Transit System was handling frequency well, and more than 70% were discouraged by long wait times.
  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi suggested adding more than $5 million back into Edmonton's snow and ice clearing budget after the urban planning committee discussed a projected dip in snow-clearing service this coming winter. The city expects that it could take up to 22 days to manually clear bus stops, paths, and other public amenities, compared to 13 days last year. Clearing sidewalks, parking lots, bridges, and wheelchair ramps could take up to six days.
  • Edmonton Transit Service and researchers at the University of Alberta School of Urban and Regional Planning are working on a joint study to improve the design of Edmonton's bus shelters. Last year, 1,600 bus shelter glass panels were damaged, which cost the city $456,000. The study will ask users how to make the shelters safer, more accessible, and more comfortable, and will explore design options to withstand extreme weather and vandalism. A report from the Edmonton Transit Service Advisory Board also recommends more bus shelters, including heated shelters.
  • The Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations is conducting its 2023 State of the Nonprofit Sector in Alberta survey. The results will contribute to CCVO's annual State of the Sector report, inform CCVO's The Nonprofit Vote campaign, and guide collective advocacy. All nonprofits in Alberta are encouraged to complete the 16-question survey, which closes Oct. 13.
  • Jason Syvixay, director of metro strategy and advocacy with Urban Development Institute - Edmonton Metro, published an op-ed in support of zoning as a tool for inclusion and equity. Syvixay wrote that zoning has historically limited housing options for low-income and other marginalized populations, while zoning that encourages broader development can improve housing stability for newcomers and people with assorted family structures and incomes. A separate op-ed by Fleisch Delikatessen owner Katy Ingraham stressed the need to update Edmonton's urban planning guidelines, which were created in the 1960s. Ingraham wrote that increasing infill is the "only economically viable, environmentally responsible way to accommodate Edmonton's growth." Council is set to consider the updated zoning bylaw following a public hearing that begins Oct. 16.
  • Several city councillors made social media posts expressing their support for Israel. Coun. Tim Cartmell said he asked for the High Level Bridge to be lit blue and white after receiving many requests. The statements of support come in the wake of Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's recent comments about Israel and Palestine, which attracted both approval and criticism. Sohi has said his role is to "stand with Edmontonians" and not offer his personal opinions on global issues.
  • The TELUS World of Science is inviting the public to safely watch a partial solar eclipse at the RASC Observatory at Coronation Park for free on Oct. 14. The eclipse is expected to begin at 9:17am and end at 11:44am, and reach its maximum at 10:28am.
  • Edmonton Fire Rescue Services shared tips to reduce cooking-related fires as part of Fire Prevention Week. In a release, EFRS said there were 131 residential cooking-related fires in 2022, which caused an estimated $3.5 million in damages. You can reduce fire risk by watching food while it is cooking, turning pot handles inward, keeping a lid nearby to put over grease fires, and keeping kids and pets one metre away from the cooking area.
  • The NHL is hosting a free outdoor fan festival before the Oct. 29 Heritage Classic between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. The festival is set to happen in the Ice District on Oct. 27 and 28, and will feature live music, interactive hockey experiences, and a chance to take a picture with the Stanley Cup.
  • The Edmonton Elks announced that Commonwealth Stadium's upper bowl will be closed in 2024. In total, about 25,000 seats will be closed each game and about 31,000 will be for sale. The upper bowl will still be open during select games. Elks CEO Rick LeLacheur said closing the upper bowl is "key to enhancing the game day atmosphere and rebuilding our home field advantage by bringing our fans closer to the action." This year, the Elks have drawn an average of about 25,000 fans per game. Average attendance has been steadily falling since peaking at nearly 58,000 in 1982.

An earlier version of this item stated fixing 1,600 glass panels cost the city $350,000, however the city has since updated that figure to $456,000.

Four smiling people stand in front of a slide reading "2023 Tech Awards: Deal of the Year, presented by Alberta Enterprise Corporation"

Edmonton tech companies recognized for social impact, fundraising skill

By Stephanie Swensrude

Two Edmonton companies were among those honoured at the annual Start Alberta Tech Awards on Oct. 11.

In a ceremony held at the Citadel Theatre, PainWorth was awarded the Impact Award, which recognizes a company that demonstrates a commitment to meet environmental, social, or governance goals.

"It's a huge affirmation that the work that we're doing is important," Chris Trudel, co-founder of PainWorth, told Start Alberta.

The app uses AI to help victims of accidents accurately value injury claims so that they don't have to hire an expensive lawyer. Trudel and co-founder Mike Zouhri created the app after Zouhri was injured by a drunk driver and had to deal with the insurance industry and personal injury lawyers. Zouhri will also be honoured with a University of Alberta Alumni Award later this month.

The company said the app has helped more than 2,000 people and hopes to expand.

"What's next for PainWorth is helping more accident victims, not just in Canada but the United States as well," Trudel said.

The other Edmonton winner was Jobber, which was given the Deal of the Year award after raising more than US$100 million in a Series D round in February.

The Jobber platform, which started in 2011, helps small home-service businesses to schedule jobs, manage crews, invoice customers, and take payments. Co-founder and CEO Sam Pillar said the company is in an exciting position right now.

"We have millions of small businesses all over the world that we could be helping with our software, and we're just getting started as a scaled company today with quite a bit of momentum behind it," Pillar said.

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A small downtown park overlooked by a large red wall covered in an array of multicoloured dots

Calls for public engagement: Urban design, Hairsine, and fire safety

By Kevin Holowack

Here are some opportunities to offer your input on civic initiatives, including deciding the winner of an urban design award and advising on the Hairsine renewal project in northeast Edmonton.

More input opportunities

Photo: The "Confetti" art in Michael Phair Park is a finalist for the People's Choice Award at the Edmonton Urban Design Awards. Other finalists are The Mercury Block, University Commons, the Touch the Water Promenade design plan, kihcihkaw askî, the Plátanos sculptures in Belvedere LRT station, the Strathcona Back Street pilot project, the Roxy Theatre, and a proposal to reimagine the Heritage Valley LRT station. (City of Edmonton/People's Choice Awards Finalists)