June 5th City Engagement

Dear Church Friends,

I am just wanting to share with you a small celebration from this past Tuesday.

Many of you are aware of the Greater Hardisty Sustainability Coalition (GHSC) – a grassroots citizen’s group that gathered first to keep St. Gabriel’s school open, and now works for the ongoing sustainability of Gold Bar, Capilano, Fulton Place, Terrace Heights and Forest Heights communities.  The recent focus of the group’s work is on revitalizing the aging portion of 101ave between Capilano Mall and 84th st.  This section of road used to be a main thoroughfare into Edmonton, but traffic has since been shunted to 98th avenue.  This section of road is underused, dangerous for pedestrians, crumbling, and depressing.

The City planning department, with help from the GHSC, ran 3 highly successful community engagement sessions last year inviting community dreaming and ideas around this section of 101.  The results of those engagements and updates on the process can be found here: https://www.edmonton.ca/projects_plans/design_studies/101-avenue-vision-corridor-study.aspx

However, due to a major city project re-prioritization, it was looking like the 101 avenue project might get lost in the mix.  The GHSC had heard from residents how important this project could be for many aspects of our community life: cycling routes, local business success, possible new housing developments through re-zoning, community safety, community hub space, and increased community attractiveness.

With some hard work and planning by a number of GHSC members, a group of us registered to speak in front of the City of Edmonton Urban Planning Committee – composed of four voting city councilors & other city councilors, city administration, and other city stakeholders.  We each spoke in favor of the opportunity of such a project and how it would significantly increase the viability of our communities.  The highlight, of course, were three young sisters who spoke about the project from the perspective of youth who live near 101 ave and use the corridor to walk to school.  They were great.

After a number of questions and considerations raised in the meeting, the result was quite positive in our eyes – a proposal about the project coming to budget talks in November and some further work by the planning department about what they think the project could actually look like on the ground.

I bring this reflection here because I thought the initiative was a great example of how a whole community might bring its voice into a civic context.  The speakers brought challenge to city council members but did so in a constructive and encouraging way.  The group had done their research and sought to hold city council accountable to their own vision and commitments.  The group also brought vision and passion and personal testimony in a positive way.  It felt like a moment of community building and bridge building between the community and political sphere that brought us both into deeper alignment and understanding.  I was proud that the GHSC did not come with complaints, but with vision and hope for the whole community and city working together for good.

I got to be a part of the initiative speaking briefly on the opportunity for including affordable housing initiatives in future projects.  I was pleased to be the voice of the church, among other community voices, and to reflect on a how a community cares for its weakest members.

Well done team!

Rev. Jonathan Crane

Media Coverage of the event:

Edmonton city councillors agree to initial steps towards redesign of 101 Avenue
Pro-density crowd ekes out a win for 101 Avenue redevelopment
Momentum stalls in push to revitalize Edmonton street: ‘It’s in so much disrepair’
Community rallies behind new vision for Greater Hardisty's 101 Avenue

And a photo of the group and supporters :)