The Pulse: April 10, 2024

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  • 11°C: Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud in the afternoon. Wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50. High 11. UV index 3 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue for Global Meetings Industry Day 2024. (details)
  • 6:30pm: The Edmonton Oilers (47-24-5) host the Vegas Golden Knights (42-27-8) at Rogers Place. (details)

An LRT rolls eastbound into The Quarters, past several surface parking lots.

Land sales signal change could be coming to The Quarters

By Tim Querengesser

Several city-owned lots in The Quarters are in the process of being sold to developers, giving at least one city councillor a glimmer of hope that there is legitimate progress to revitalize the 106-acre neighbourhood.

"There are some active land sales and I know (of some) solicitation of proposals," Coun. Anne Stevenson told Taproot. "So, that's certainly something that I think is important."

Two land parcels the city owns in The Quarters — the Koermann Block and lots close to Rowland Road — are now up for sale, and they carry incentives for developers of up to $1.5 million in city money to service the site into a state that can allow redevelopment. The city specifies it wants affordable housing on the listing.

A spokesperson in Stevenson's office confirmed the city will use the incentive money to "de-risk the investment and support the intent of having affordable housing on these sites."

Work to revitalize The Quarters, an expanse of land that's largely being used as surface parking across 18 city blocks, began with a community visioning exercise in 2006. The area was formerly Edmonton's residential and commercial hub before that activity shifted westward, leaving many of the original buildings to fall into disrepair. The announcement of Canada Place in the late 1970s is often cited as a significant change that pushed much of the remaining vibrancy (and buildings) out.

The city first started work on a plan for The Quarters in 2009. It anticipated that, once fully built, between 18,000 to 20,000 people would call the neighbourhood home, up from the current 2,500 or so residents. The plan roughly coincided with several other plans the city started at the time for redevelopment in the core, including Blatchford (2010), West Rossdale (2014), and the Exhibition Lands (2017).

Like many of those planned redevelopment sites, the amount of new housing added in The Quarters has been incremental. But unlike those sites, Stevenson said, The Quarters is unique because the city does not own all or most of the land — an important distinction. "I think that's a unique challenge to The Quarters and one that I think is at the heart of where we're at right now."

Beyond the incentives that offer public money to spur development in The Quarters, Stevenson said she hopes the city can change any specific zoning to cut potential barriers and continue conversations with existing landowners "to understand what barriers they see (and) what, from their perspective, are the pieces that need to be in place to help get them to a point of developing."

Finally, Stevenson said the city's new approach to parking-lot permits could offer a significant boost. The policy will allow existing lot owners to apply for temporary permits but also require improvements before those permits are issued. "Those (owners) who choose to not take that approach will be prioritized for enforcement," Stevenson said. "Either we're improving the streetscape or improving the look and feel of the area through enhancements, (or) conversely (we're) shutting them down and potentially creating a situation where the holding cost of those parcels, when they don't have active parking on them, maybe incentivizes property owners to develop or to sell on to someone who's more focused."

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Headlines: April 10, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

Newspaper clipping of a story with the headline "Expert Recommends City Build Five More Bridges"

A moment in history: April 10, 1950

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1950, Edmonton was looking at new ways to span the North Saskatchewan River.

The effort was kicked off by a report recommending five new bridges, issued by P.L. Pratley, who was serving as Edmonton's cross-river structural consultant. When it came to bridges, Pratley knew what he was talking about: the Montreal bridge designer was behind some of the country's best-known crossings, including Vancouver's Lions Gate Bridge and Halifax's Angus L. Macdonald Bridge.

Most urgent, in Pratley's mind, was a bridge that would cross the river at 123 Street. The bridge at Groat Road would be built in this area and opened five years later. But he also saw the growth of residential neighbourhoods in the city's deep west end (growth that would continue into the next decade), and proposed a bridge at 142 Street to connect the north and south sides of the river.

It would be almost two decades, but construction finally started on what would become the Quesnell Bridge in the late 1960s. The five-lane girder bridge cost about $6 million to construct (which would put it at around $51 million in 2024 dollars.) The new bridge was named after the nearby neighbourhood of Quesnell Heights, which was itself named after … someone. There are several possibilities, but no one is exactly sure who.

The bridge was integrated into the new Whitemud Freeway. The predicted growth of Edmonton's west-end neighbourhoods continued into the 1970s and '80s, with the bridge and the freeway serving as a vital link for local traffic. By the 2000s, it had become the busiest bridge in the city, handling around 120,000 cars each day — far more than it was originally designed for.

It wasn't until 2008 that the first major rehabilitation project was done on the then-40-year-old bridge. The project involved adding more lanes, extending the bridge's lifespan, and assessing how it would weather a changing climate.

The rehabilitation wrapped up in 2011. That was also the year the Quesnell Bridge got its most famous and controversial feature — the Talus Dome. The $600,000 art piece formed of stainless steel orbs is a reference to the shape of rock debris in the area before the bridge's construction. The reception was decidedly mixed, both for the sculpture itself and its location alongside a busy freeway. The city defended the decision, citing the location as the entrance to many river valley paths and expressing a desire to avoid concentrating public art in just a few places. (That said, Edmonton now has a new public art strategy that departs from the regime under which the Talus Dome was commissioned.)

Thirteen years after its introduction to Edmonton, the Talus Dome is still one of the city's best-known pieces of public art: some Edmontonians admire it, others ridicule it, and at least one has become trapped inside it.

This clipping was found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse of @VintageEdmonton.

A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: April 10, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.