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May 18, 2022
February 15, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: February 15, 2017

The progress and problems of downtown revitalization

Written by Jeff Samsonow

The long and winding story of the MacDonald Lofts is opening its next chapter. And it involves lots of health code violations.

The historic building sits in Edmonton’s new entertainment district and has been in the news a number of times in the last few months. It got into local news when tenants complained about a big rent increase in the affordable housing site, said to be needed to get the building into better shape.

That put the story into the news, as Edmonton had a heritage building being used for affordable housing that was clearly on the brink. That would have also been when Alberta Health Services got seriously involved, which brings us to the violations this week.

The discussion last fall was about whether affordable housing would still make sense in the booming (and gentrifying) entertainment district, and what could be done to actually keep people with low-income living in the building. Soon after, the proponents of the arena and hockey team bought the building – and made it clear they weren’t in the affordable housing game.

The issue today, as it was a few months ago, is finding safe homes for people who need it most. There are thousands of people waiting for a more affordable place to live in Edmonton (almost 5,000 at the end of 2016, according to a new report from the Edmonton Social Planning Council). This will see dozens pushed back into the system.

It should raise questions for the City, and provincial government, about whether we’re doing enough to keep people housed in Edmonton. It also raises questions about who benefits from the new entertainment district downtown, when some of our most vulnerable don’t have a home there.

Meanwhile…across downtown

City council is looking into whether to sell some of the parkland it owns on the top of the river valley to a developer planning an 80-storey tower. Something that tall – taller than anything else in Edmonton –  could forever change the face of the river valley in the east downtown neighbourhood of The Quarters.

At City Hall yesterday there was expected to be a decision on whether the sale would go through. After some private discussion, something forced councillors to ask for more time and to get more information. This is expected back at the end of the month. Next week, there’s supposed to be a hearing about the zoning of the land, which isn’t necessarily tied into this sale (that is also likely to be postponed).

You can see some of the discussion from the public part of the meeting by checking live-tweets from Edmonton Journal/Sun reporter Elise Stolte and Edmonton Metro reporter Jeremy Simes.

If the sale does goes through, to this developer or another, the City is being asked to buy up some private land in the river valley and expand our park system as a trade-off.

We need more schools

Edmonton needs more high schools, or at least ways to get more high school students into a classroom. A combination of bursting suburbs and continued growth has the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) looking at somewhere to put an extra 6,000 students in just a few years.

Seems like the idea put forward by the chair of the EPSB to offer Catholic programming in public schools, and save the provincial government from building two schools in every neighbourhood, might be starting to make a lot more fiscal sense as the budgets loom larger. If the Edmonton Catholic School District faces similar space crunches, while demanding schools of it own, we’re going to run out of money to build everything in a timely fashion.

Are you an organ donor?

If you, or someone you know, was planning on donating your body to science when you die, you’ll need to check on whether they’ll take it.

Either way, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re registered to donate your organs and tissue if you die. More Albertans should do this, because there’s always a waiting list of people in need.

Here’s something for your Facebook interactions with racist and xenophobic family and acquaintances: refugees aren’t sitting around collecting government money. They get jobs and start businesses as much as anyone else, especially in Alberta.

Want to know who’s running for council and school boards in Edmonton this fall? Keep your eyes on the Daveberta list of declared candidates. It’s never too early to start researching your candidates!

At City Hall

Urban Planning Committee, at 9:30 a.m. Watch or listen live.

If you live in the Belmead area, there’s a drop-in session tonight talking about changes to collector roads in the west-end neighbourhood.