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Opportunity, right in the centre of Jasper Place

Update – The purchase has been approved by Council!


Second only in impact to the approval of a statutory Area Redevelopment Plan next year, in a single-effort tomorrow, City Council could be in the position of granting a substantial opportunity to the west-end and in particular, the communities of the Jasper Place area in Ward 1.

The orange building at the corner of 100th avenue and 156th street, the site of a former school in the Town of Jasper Place, has long-been a distinctive mark. It’s also centered between four communities undergoing a dedicated revitalization, across the street from the Jasper Place transit terminal, and adjacent to a future LRT stop, within an active business revitalization zone, and within an area of Stony Plain Road envisioned to be a walkable pedestrian coordinator and vibrant urban market.

A decision by MacEwan University’s board of governors in 2009, to consolidate operations around it’s downtown campus means an open opportunity for the future of the building and site.

Slated to begin construction in 2013, with a opening targeted for 2015;

The new facility will house operations for the Centre for the Arts & Communications (CFAC), which will relocate from the west end campus.

Students will remain in the west end until the new facility is complete.

Yesterday evening several interested community league’s gathered to learn more about MacEwan’s plans and possible future options and processes for repurposing the site. Officials see a likely future for the facility in serving the public in some way, and any sale will need the approval of the provincial government through an order in council.

City staff have been discussing a possible purchase of the facility for some time now. With a possible future use an “arts incubator”.

With the surrounding communities looking for an investment in local amenities, and an adjacent business revitalization zone looking to create an attractive urban market, there is opportunity here. And with a decision today, Council can move the purchase forward. An arts incubator perhaps, space for community meetings, activities and programs, or more – right next to a future LRT transit station.

The loss of an educational facility in the community need not be a loss at all, just a new direction for an accessible, centrally located facility, at the four corners of neighbourhoods with a combined population of over 15,000. Officially sponsored revitalization efforts will have ended by the time MacEwan University has moved downtown, a decision to purchase this orange icon tomorrow, could be the best way for the city to end those efforts and send the communities of West Jasper Place, Glenwood, Canora, Britannia-Youngstown as well Sherwood, Jasper Park and more, off into their future.




Budget Wants

It’s that time of year.  Winter rolls in to stay, the Xmas shopping season begins, and City Council debates the City budget for the new year.  I spoke at the November 23rd public hearing on behalf of the Glenwood Community League, in support of Community League operating & infrastructure grants, as well as volunteer training.  These come with a city-wide scope that benefits all Community Leagues.  However, as a Jasper Place resident, I’ve got a budget ‘want’ for our neck of the woods, and you’re gonna hate me for it because it’s a big one.  The Grant MacEwan Arts Campus in West Jasper Place is centrally located between the Jasper Place communities, just across 156st from the Jasper Place Transit Terminal, and just feet from the JP station on the proposed WLRT conceptual design.  The building is valued at $37 million.  With Grant MacEwan centralizing its programs, the site could well become available in the near future, while the Mayor has already expressed some support for the purchasing of the building by the city.So why in difficult economic times should the city budget to purchase this facility in the near future?  Good question, I’m glad you asked:

1) The Community of West JP has been chronically short of park space since the old school site was turned over to Grant Mac for the construction of the campus.  Furthermore, the community’s only public park is the school yard of Sherwood Elementary, a school with an uncertain future, while the community hall adjacent to it isn’t getting any younger.  It’s not outdoor park space, but it could become a wonderful community gathering point and recreational facility.

2)  As many residents pointed out at the time, the campus was built chronically short of parking.  Furthermore, the proposed cut through the southeast corner of the 156st/Stony Plain Road intersection by the West LRT will remove most of the campus’ onsite parking.  The Jasper Place area is home to 15,000 residents who can get to and from it without much driving or hassle at all.

3)  The HUM.  The Stony Plain Road Business Association is still in the hunt for a home for their proposed Holistic Urban Market.  There’s more than enough room on-site to house it, and more than enough residential density around it, and coming through future infill to support it, while affording residents another amenity to allow them to ‘live locally’.

4) Both the Stony Plain Road commercial corridor and the four neighboring communities are under-going revitalization efforts.  There are three realms to a neighborhood revitalization – That which the community can do, that which the city can do, and that which land and business owners can do.  The Stony Plain Road Business Association has been active for several years and is looking to take a larger leap with the creation of a local market.  The city is in the process of preparing for streetscape work along SPR, but has much work to do to cultivate and help revitalize local public spaces.  The community itself is long-suffering, having endured numerous delays to local projects, namely those held up by ongoing uncertainty over the WLRT, while losing a number of volunteers along the way.  The purchase of the Arts Campus can positively affect all three – creating a centre that builds pride within the community, helps to support and grow the local business revitalization, and hopefully helps to attract new quality infill development along the way.

Well actually I’ve got two asks, but we’ll talk about redeveloping the neighboring Butler Park/JP transit terminal area into a town square centre, another day.

One Step Back on SPR

In May of 2009, the Government of Alberta announced $6.6 million in funding for two Capital Region Housing Corporation developments.  The development slated for the Jasper Place area, sits in the community of Britannia-Youngstown, on the Stony Plain Road commercial strip, and within the boundaries of the Jasper Place Revitalization Strategy.  When developed with input from community residents, and approved by Edmonton City Council in 2009, the JPRS called for future development of Stony Plain Road to be mixed-use, with street-oriented retail and multi-unit residential above.  The development here does include ground floor retail facing Stony Plain Road, with 20 studio/bachelor affordable housing units in the floors above.

As the development has reached completion, its first retail tenant has moved in:

In an area already well saturated with adult-oriented businesses such as cash/pay-day-loan stores, pawn shops, adult video & etc, this is the first retail tenant of a tax-payer funded affordable housing development, within an area undergoing tax-payer funded “revitalization” efforts.

I’ve had the great opportunity over the last few weeks to discuss neighborhood revitalization and mature neighborhood sustainability with some of the city’s foremost experts on the subject.  I’ve heard great disussions on the negative effects a concentration of adult-oriented businesses (pawn shops, pay-day-loans, etc) can have on a community.  How they’re often found concentrated in areas of distress, and the best description I’ve heard, “outposts of distress”, ‘a poisonous combination of taking from a community without generating any reinvestment’.

Addressing the issue was a defined component of the Jasper Place Revitalization:

Declining and relocating businesses have left a retail vacuum which has been filled with an over-concentration of pawn shows, adult bookstores, massage establishments, and cheque cashing establishments in three core, centre block

Goal 3: Building our community

Short Term Actions

Custom commercial overlay on all pawnshops and adult shops until a new zoning plan for Stony Plain Road business corridor is complete including density, design and zoning standards


As someone who has volunteered on the JPR steering committee, I’ve seen the situation as multi-fold;  Grandfathering protects the concentration that exists now, establishing a commercial overlay against a pay-day-loans operation is difficult as they currently fall under the broadly defined Professional, Financial and Office Support Services in Edmonton’s zoning bylaw, and no action has been taken at a legislative local level, except for the following motion from October 29th, 2008:


Text Amendment to the Zoning Bylaw with a Stony Plain Road Commercial Overlay

Moved K. Leibovici – L. Sloan:

That Administration prepare a text amendment to the Zoning Bylaw with a Stony Plain Road Commercial Overlay containing the following:

  • Prior to issuing a new development permit for bars, nightclubs, neighbourhood pubs, adult entertainment shops, pawn shops, cash stores, massage shops, or for an increase in occupancy load of bars, nightclubs, and neighbourhood pubs, the applicant shall:
  1. Contact affected parties including the president of the adjacent community league(s), and Stony Plain Road Business Revitalization Zone.
  2. Outline details of application to affected parties and solicit comments.
  3. Document opinions and concerns expressed by affected parties.
  4. Submit the documentation as part of the development permit application.
  5. Apply for a DC2 provision for bars, nightclubs, adult entertainment shops, pawn shops, cash stores, massage shops, neighbourhood pubs, within the Stony Plain Road Business Revitalization Zone area.
Planning & Dev.Council Public Hearing

Due: To Be Determined


G. Heaton, Deputy City Manager’s Office, answered Council’s questions.


For the Motion: S. Mandel; B. Anderson, T. Caterina, E. Gibbons, R. Hayter, B. Henderson, D. Iveson, K. Krushell,
K. Leibovici, L. Sloan, D. Thiele.

Absent: J. Batty, A. Sohi.

A lot of time, sweat, and effort from business owners and volunteers has gone into local revitalization.  There are property owners along SPR, who out of concern and support for these local efforts, have taken it in the pocket, turning down offers to rent space when they felt doing so would hinder revitalization.  Obviously not all in the area are willing to do the same, but in the abscence of any legislative tools to address a concentration of predatory/adult-oriented businesses, it’s going to fall to landlords to make the right choices for the Stony Plain Road commercial strip and surrouding communities.  When the landlord and development in question is funded by millions in taxpayer dollars, I absolutely expect nothing less.  CRHC has advertised this as a development that will “help enrich the community of Britannia-Youngstown”.  For the revitalizating community surrounding it, and the future tenants in need of stable, affordable housing, this choice of retail tenant fails both.


Some more light reading:

Does Fringe Banking Exacerbate Neighborhood Crime Rates? Social Disorganization and the Ecology of Payday Lending

August 23rd Update – It’s been several months since I first contacted the CRHC asking for a response from them on this issue, I still have not received a reply.

Neighborhood Renewal

During this year’s election campaign, I mentioned the current state of the community of Canora. A partner in the Jasper Place Revitalization, Canora is home to 3,300+ residents,with a future that affects the 15,000 who who reside in the JP area. The Jasper Place Revitalization is important to the whole, the successful conclusion of which requires addressing the individual needs of each community.  Glenwood, Canora, West JP, and Britannia-Youngstown share a need for long-term land-use planning which incorporates vision over short-term whims in order to provide certainty for the future.  An issue identified over 20 years ago in the 100th avenue land-use study.  In Canora in particular, the glut of RF2 zoning across the entire community is a concern which must be addressed.

Revitalization requires building pride in a community, and encouraging investment.  However the dire state of Canora’s infrastructure is anything but a selling point.  This past week, city administration reported to Council’s Transportation and Public Works committee on the current priorities for neighborhood infrastructure renewal.  The report and video of the committee meeting are available below, featuring a presentation to Council by a concerned community resident.  It’s disappointing to see that as current priorities stand, Canora will not see re-construction of it’s infrastructure until after the conclusion of the JPR in 2014.

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