Neighbourhoods change. What we need and want from our neighbourhoods is constantly evolving. If you looked across the decades, there would be few constants when it comes to what residents say makes a neighbourhood “great.”
However, when we zoom in and look closely at what residents want from their street the dream has largely stayed the same – wanting to live on a tree-lined street with wide, smooth sidewalks next to a quiet road with little traffic is something most of us seem to have in common.
“We’ve talked and listened to Edmontonians for years, and we know that, as much as things change, that dream stays pretty much the same,” said Ryan Olson, director of Neighbourhoods Planning and Design.
“And that gives us something real to work with.”
The Neighbourhood Renewal program is working with Edmontonians to turn this dream into a reality. Through the program, mature neighbourhoods are transformed with upgrades that can include:
• Repaving roadways
• Changing intersections to calm traffic
• Adding bike routes where none currently exist
• Replacing rusting and tilted streetlights with energy efficient LED fixtures
• Building new sidewalks where they are missing and replacing existing sidewalks that are damaged
• Improving parks and public spaces
The exact improvements that occur in each neighbourhood are heavily influenced by the residents living in that neighbourhood. The program involves extensive public engagement with the community beginning two to three years before construction begins.
“No one understands a neighbourhood better than someone making their home there right now,” said Ryan, “we engage residents early and often throughout Neighbourhood Renewal and try and turn their vision into a reality.”
How does that vision become a reality? Below we spotlight two neighbourhoods at different phases of Neighbourhood Renewal – Garneau, the vision and Alberta Avenue, the reality. The Garneau Project Team began planning and engaging with residents in 2018 and is now ready to start construction in the next month with a completion date in 2023. Meanwhile, in Alberta Avenue, the Project Team has been hard at work in the neighbourhood with construction beginning in 2019 with a planned completion in 2022.
THE VISION – GARNEAU RENEWAL
The Garneau project team began planning for Neighbourhood Renewal and engaging with residents in 2018. This included everything from community walks with residents to engagement with students to coffee shop talks. Since that time, the project team has engaged with the community consistently through numerous events (in-person and online), stakeholder meetings and surveys.
“You really get to know the people in the community,” said planning and design project manager Becky Redford, “while we were developing and refining the design I’d find myself thinking about comments I’d heard along the way. Staying true to that vision was incredibly important.”
With construction set to begin in May 2021, the final design was recently shared with the Garneau neighbourhood. Looking at some of the comments from those initial sessions in 2018, Redford feels the project team has delivered on the vision.
“When I look back at the vision we developed with the community in the early days and see what we are building this spring I get goosebumps,” said Redford. “I can’t wait for construction to begin so the community can see how we took their stories and their experiences and turned that into a reality.”
Below is a sneak peak of what residents in Garneau can look forward to.
Driving in Garneau
New traffic calming measures such as curb extensions and raised crosswalks and intersection enhancements such as coloured or textured pavement. All residential road surfaces will be replaced.
Biking in Garneau
Neighbourhood Renewal will be building the Garneau portion of the Southside Bike Network enhancing the bike routes for people who bike or would like to bike.
A shared pathway will be installed along the rail corridor from Gateway Boulevard to 109 Street. The trail design is being coordinated with the High Level Line Society and the Radial Railway Society, which operates the High Level Bridge Streetcar between May and September.
Special Character Area
Neighbourhood Renewal also recognizes the importance of what has come before and Garneau’s heritage will be celebrated in their special character area which will receive new decorative street lighting, heritage style benches with back and armrests and street name plate inlays on the sidewalks similar to those found along Jasper Avenue.
Neighbourhood Renewal also makes improvements for four-legged members of the neighbourhood. In Garneau an off-leash dog park will be added in Braithwaite Park. The remainder of the park will be open for various recreation activities and have new pathways connecting across and through it.
88 Avenue Commercial Area
The Project Team worked with the 88 Avenue businesses area west of 109 Street to improve the area near and fronting the restaurants and shops to create a more welcoming space.
THE REALITY – ALBERTA AVENUE RENEWAL
While construction begins in Garneau, it is well underway in Alberta Avenue. Neighbourhood Renewal construction began in 2019 and is set to continue again in May with a planned completion in fall 2021. Residents in Alberta Avenue are already seeing the reality.
In 2018, the vision for Neighbourhood Renewal in Alberta Avenue that was drafted with residents was “to build a safe and accessible community, for all ages, abilities and incomes. We welcome everyone and will make it easy for people to walk and bike, get to places in the neighbourhood, and gather to visit and play.”
As construction has progressed, Donny Fung, the delivery project manager is proud of how the work on the ground represents the vision. “When we are in construction we focus on the specific street or sidewalk or curb that is a priority that day but when you step back and look at the whole neighbourhood, you really see the vision come to life. The neighbourhood is more welcoming and seeing people walking and biking is very cool to see.”
New curb extensions and landscaping to slow traffic and increase safety for people who walk.
A new sidewalk on 90th Street
Road rehabilitation to make it easier to get around the neighbourhood
Great neighbourhoods are the building blocks of a great city, and the City of Edmonton is committed to building great neighbourhoods by investing in neighbourhoods to enhance their livability and longevity. The Neighbourhood Renewal program in its current model was approved by City Council in 2009 and, even with the extensive public engagement, operates largely on-time and on budget.
The program is a large initiative for the City. Currently there are 6 neighbourhoods in the planning and design phase (the phase where we are actively engaging with residents) and 12 neighbourhoods in construction. However, as large as the initiative is it’s about the individual neighbourhoods and the people that live, work and play there – taking their dreams and turning them into a reality on their streets.