The Pulse: Dec. 8, 2023

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

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  • -3°C: Mainly cloudy. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 3. Wind chill minus 12 in the morning and minus 6 in the afternoon. (forecast)
  • 7pm: The Edmonton Oilers (10-12-1) play the Minnesota Wild (9-10-4) at Rogers Place. (details)
  • 2pm, Dec. 10: The Oilers (10-12-1) play the New Jersey Devils (12-10-1) at Rogers Place. (details)

Two men stand in downtown Edmonton with their arms around each other.

Can vertical farms solve vacancy and vibrancy challenges downtown?

By Stephanie Swensrude

Converting empty downtown office spaces into places to live has been a hot topic in recent months, but TrustBIX dreams of filling Edmonton's former cubicle farms with fruits and veggies.

The company is in talks with prospective landlords to install vertical farms in downtown office space. TrustBIX representatives say it's their effort to improve downtown vibrancy and food security at the same time.

"Having indoor farms here, growing food here, and feeding people out of here would be one of those things that we can do to address people, address food, and address the empty space," TrustBIX CEO Hubert Lau told Taproot.

Joshua Lau, business analyst for TrustBIX and Hubert Lau's son, said the company hopes to start growing produce for restaurants in Chinatown before expanding to local grocery stores.

"We're looking at gai lan, which is Chinese broccoli, choy sum, lots of vegetables, herbs, and spices," Joshua Lau said. "We've been looking at growing Chinese ginger as well, because of the health benefits, and having a local source of it would be huge."

Downtown Edmonton office buildings definitely have space for new tenants. The vacancy rate for office space downtown is 24.2%, considerably higher than the national average of 18.9%, according to CBRE's third quarter report.

Hubert Lau said renovating an office space could cost roughly $25 per square foot. Contractors would ideally remove walls and carpets. The site would need a space for employees to change from their street clothes. For water to feed the plants, the operation would use PVC pipes and power for lights would be supplied through network cables.

"It's very conducive to an office environment with minimal effect to the building, so it's quite rentable after we leave as well," he said.

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Headlines: Dec. 8, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • At its Dec. 6 meeting, city council's executive committee heard an overview of administration's renewed strategy to revitalize Chinatown, which focuses on safety and security, diversifying businesses, and celebrating the area as a cultural destination. The strategy, which is still in draft form, will be implemented by the Chinatown Transformation Collaborative Society, which is receiving $1.2 million in funding over several years to carry out the strategy. In early 2024, the city will launch a new $481,000 vibrancy grant program to replace the Chinatown Recovery Grant, a $1-million program that was supported by one-time pandemic funding.
  • CBC obtained data through a freedom of information request that shows 38 members of the Edmonton Police Service have resigned while under investigation for misconduct since 2012, leaving internal disciplinary proceedings against them incomplete. In a breakdown of the types of allegations made against the officers, the most common was "discreditable conduct." In policing regulation, this can mean harming the reputation of the police service, contravening an act of Parliament, and using "oppressive or tyrannical conduct" toward a subordinate, among other things. There are no laws preventing officers who voluntarily leave during a disciplinary process from finding work in law enforcement elsewhere.
  • The city is calling on Edmontonians to apply to join an agency, board, committee, or commission, which are collectively referred to as civic boards. For this year's annual recruitment campaign, the city is seeking 38 Edmontonians to join 13 civic boards focusing on accessibility, history, transit, library services, community services, and more. The deadline to apply is Jan 14.
  • A provincial court is conducting a fatality inquiry into cases of two young men who died from hypothermia in 2017 and 2018 outside The Ranch Roadhouse, a popular bar on Calgary Trail that has since reopened as Midway Music Hall. The 2018 incident sparked protests and a petition to shut down the bar, which garnered more than 32,000 signatures. An Edmonton Police Service detective who investigated the 2017 case suggested the bar's relative isolation could have contributed to the death. The fatality inquiry will not determine legal responsibility but could produce recommendations to prevent similar deaths.
  • Edmonton's real estate market is likely to continue cooling into 2024, but the city's relatively affordable housing market and appeal to out-of-province buyers gives it an advantage over other Canadian markets, according to RE/MAX Canada's 2024 Housing Market Outlook. The average home price in Edmonton fell about 4% from October 2022 to October 2023, reaching $401,000. Calgary's average home price rose 3% during that time, even as both cities saw declining sales. RE/MAX predicts Edmonton's average home price will climb 4% to reach $417,000 in 2024.
  • Edmonton's real GDP growth is expected to outperform all other major Canadian cities in 2023 despite slowing to 2.9%, according to The Conference Board of Canada's latest Major City Insights report. The growth is spurred by improvements in oil and gas prices and the influx of out-of-province homebuyers. Growth is expected to slow to 1.8% in 2024 as local economies across Canada feel the effects of continued inflation and falling consumer purchasing power.
  • The University of Alberta ranked 28th in the 2024 QS Sustainability Rankings, up 90 spots from last year. It sits ahead of several Ivy League schools, including Yale University, Harvard University, and Cornell University. The U of A was fifth among Canadian institutions, up from 10th last year.
  • The Northgate Lions Seniors Recreation Centre is closed until spring 2024 to undergo renovations to improve energy efficiency and safety. The work includes updates to mechanical systems, doors, asphalt, and skylights, and is supported by a joint municipal-federal investment of around $5.1 million.
  • The Edmonton Oilers are on a five-game winning streak after beating the Caroline Hurricanes 6-1 on Dec. 6. The streak puts the team within six points of the eighth-place team in the NHL. Connor McDavid attributed the team's resurgence to goalie Stuart Skinner, who has let in only nine goals in five games.
  • Alberta Health Services has named Athana Mentzelopoulos as its new president and CEO. The appointment comes weeks after the UCP government announced it will overhaul the provincial health care system and reduce the role of AHS. For the past month, the position was held by Sean Chilton, who took over from Mauro Chies, who held it since the province fired Verna Yiu in April 2022.
People wait to board a sleigh pulled by two horses, with seasonal lights in the background

Weekend agenda: Dec. 8-10, 2023

By Debbi Serafinchon

This weekend offers a beloved holiday light display, a Kenyan celebration of independence, an afternoon of seasonal music, an evening of groovy Blues, and the chance to watch the seasoned pros catch big air.

Find even more to do in the Arts Roundup and the Food Roundup. And check out this weekend's holiday markets.

Photo: Candy Cane Lane is an Edmonton tradition offering residential light displays and sleigh rides along 148 Street between 99 Avenue and 92 Avenue. (Candy Cane Lane/Facebook)