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Edmonton forms strategy to make growing Old Strathcona neighbourhood more pedestrian-friendly

Warren Frey
Edmonton forms strategy to make growing Old Strathcona neighbourhood more pedestrian-friendly
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS — The City of Edmonton is looking to revitalize its historic Old Strathcona neighbourhood into a greener and more walkable area.

Edmonton is looking to change one of its oldest areas into a greener and more walkable neighbourhood.

The Old Strathcona Public Strategy is looking to repurpose parking lots, prioritize pedestrians on and near Whyte Avenue, activate alleyways and create parks and plazas as part of its overall city plan and to address a growing population base in the area.

“Our recent policies and council-approved direction added an even greater priority for further growth in the Old Strathcona/Whyte Ave. area. When we think of that combined desirability and more demand, it puts a stress on existing public spaces. How do we improve those spaces, add new parks and spaces? How do we make it better for pedestrians or other modes?” City of Edmonton planner Marco Melfi said.

The city plan calls for a shift in how Edmontonians move around the city with an emphasis on transit and other modes of transportation and Melfi said Old Strathcona will reflect that strategy.

“Our earliest survey in August 2022 highlighted how people are travelling to the area by walking, cycling or transit, and complementary to our project is the bus-based mass transit that’s being implemented across the city and overlaps on Whyte Ave., so there are dedicated lanes for transit,” he said. “We know people are already choosing different ways to get to Strathcona, but we know we need to do that because in our climate objectives there’s not enough room in our space for cars. It’s not the kind of place that we want to foster.”

The City of Edmonton has previously densified other older neighbourhoods in order to create housing and other amenities. Melfi said the Old Strathcona project follows that example at a smaller scale.

“We know that Strathcona has over 25,000 residents already but in the coming decades that could grow…and 25 years from now we could see the population double. We’re trying to set up the neighbourhood for that increased population and the focus is mostly on public spaces, realms and sidewalks, but we have identified city-owned sites that could be turned over for redevelopment. There’s a parking lot close to Saskatchewan Drive that could become a potential tower that could include affordable housing. That could bring more people in,” he said.

Melfi said the city is still at the strategy phase of the plan and he and his team are still looking at the recommendations and proposals.

“But we know we have to bring this to council. If it gives its endorsement then the next phase would be concept design and then eventual implementation and construction.

“Each of our key actions would then be broken out into their own projects and funding allocated, but then they would go through their own design process and further engagement to see them realized,” Melfi explained.

He added while the strategy does not directly address heritage assets in the neighbourhood “it does well to highlight and leverage what makes the neighbourhood ‘Old Strathcona’ what it is.”

He added that End of Steel Park, an area where an old railway line between Calgary and Edmonton reached its terminus point, is an opportunity while improving the area to also broaden the history of the past European experiences to a more complete story.

 “There’s a focus on that settler and colonial history of rail in the area but we know the Indigenous history needs to be told as well,” Melfi said.

More information on the Old Strathcona Public Realm Strategy is available here.

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