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Month: February 2012

Stony Plain Road Streetscape – Journey to Destination


Over 15,000 folks reside in the four communities (Glenwood, West Jasper Place, Canora, and Britannia-Youngstown) bordering the Stony Plain Road commercial corridor between 149st and 170th Street.  Grant MacEwan’s Arts Campus brings a number of students to the area to spend their day, and even more Edmontonians spend time on foot in the area, while coming and going through the Jasper Place Transit Terminal.

Stony Plain Road however, has obviously remained a vehicular corridor.  A significant arterial route into the downtown, the current streetscape (and it’s mass of auto-oriented signage) is friendly to those passing through at 50km/h, harsh to anyone else.  Businesses have little to no street-front parking and limited stalls on side-streets.  Pedestrians have little to no shelter from traffic, and must navigate narrow sidewalks which are obstructed in numerous locations by light standards, or other obstacles, posing an unacceptable barrier to access for all.

Credit is due to the Stony Plain Road BRZ for it’s efforts thus far on utilizing the corridor for community events such as Storefront Cinema Nights, and long-term projects like the Holistic Urban Market.  Physical rehabilitation of the commercial strip however has largely remained stagnant, notably due to several years of on-going uncertainty during the West LRT debate.

Progress on this front is now going to take a large step forward over the next several years.  two presentations on the upcoming multi-phase streetscape project and it’s timelines have been held in the community over the past month. The presentations and more information are available here.  The first phase will run from 149st to 158st (just encompassing the JP transit centre).  I am disappointed that an opportunity is being missed by not taking the townsquare development, originally conceived in the Jasper Place Revitalization Strategy for the area encompassing the transit terminal, Butler park and east to the corner of 156st and SPR, and incorporating it into phase 1 of this project.  There his however much to like about the work being proposed, in particular;

-Shrinking SPR from 16m curb-to-curb to 14.5m.  The Glenwood Community League banged on this drum two years ago in regards to widening the sidewalks and improving handicap accessibility.  I’m more than pleased to see that this is finally going to happen.
– Closing 152st, on both the north and south sides up until the rear lane, to create a public gathering space.  When it comes to a lack of public spaces, West Jasper Place is long suffering, having lost park space to the creation of Grant MacEwan College, which was never replaced.  This isn’t a replacement for that by any means, but it is a unique way of creating an outdoor amenity for the community.

Stony Plain Road Urban Design Vision

In terms of building community pride in the area, and attracting investment, both financial and emotional, this is a strong beginning, albeit years overdue.

Urban Planners

In Edmonton, we of course have “urban planners”,  professionals who are difficult to recruit and retain in Alberta, to implement and amend the City’s massive zoning bylaw and collection of civic policies such as the municipal development plan – “The Way We Grow”.  We have Councillors to approve, deny, guide, direct and amend the above.  In the mix are developers, along with a substantial development lobby.  The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues and its multiple member leagues who lobby and advocate for our communities, quite frequently and strongly, in regards to planning matters, neighborhood revitalization and civic policy development.  Service providers, housing providers, non-profit agencies, community organizations, and civic departments, all of whom expend and exhaust their funds and resources, and deliver services based on how our city is planned, and how our neighborhoods fare.  And of course, there are our school boards, guided by elected officials, and clearly in the case of our Public Board, elected by residents who weren’t just looking for a change from a mode of operation that kept school boards in a state of reaction to changes in Edmonton’s mature communities.  They were looking for an advocate for their communities and neighborhood schools.  Or at least this was my perspective when I chose to cast my vote for a trustee with a strong record as a community volunteer and advocate.

No, there are too many stakeholders, too many passionate individuals and groups involved in the servicing and well-being of our city, and with the ability to affect positive change, to fore-go advocacy and leave “urban planning” to planners alone..  As a community volunteer, I couldn’t be more grateful for a group of trustees who set a direction to break free of the ‘silo mentality’, who gave mature neighborhoods a much needed reprieve with a two-year closure moratorium, and have now helped to highlight urban planning and revitalization as an issue for everyone whose resources, time and efforts make Edmonton a city.  For that, I congratulate the Public School Board for its efforts so far, and the advocacy it’s about to set out on.