Delight in Downtown

Like a lot of leaders in Edmonton, Jim Taylor, executive director of the Downtown Business Association, has been impatient for renewal for most of his career.

Now that renewal has arrived, he’s a bit spooked.

The city is making Jasper Avenue into a pedestrian route. 108th Street is transforming. New towers are going up north of Jasper Avenue on 103rd and 104th Streets. The Singhmar Group is building the anchor development in The Quarters, a lovely hotel designed by Dub Architects. The Royal Alberta Museum will begin construction soon. And there’s an arena on the way, if we can find the cash under the civic mattress.

You can’t walk into a restaurant in downtown Edmonton anymore, without a reservation. It’s easier than ever to get downtown by public transit.¬†Property owners, led by Melcor, are committed to beautifying their existing properties with light and public art. Surface-level parking lots are going away.

It’s a moment of physical and emotional change. And the emotional part is crucial. Downtown Edmonton is a destination again, and soon it will be unrecognizable… in a good way.

This is all happy news, but not everyone will be happy. For some people, downtown is a place to park and work. If it’s hard to drive their cars, and park their cars, they could turn against it. This is keeping Jim Taylor awake at night.

The trick is to invite these people, and overwhelm their annoyance with delight. It has to be worth the trouble to come downtown. Telling them it’s also a pain in the ass to drive to West Edmonton Mall and South Edmonton Common, and to park, is not a clever strategy. It is not worthwhile to say this is normal behaviour in cities they love, all around the world. The harder it is to park, the better experience when you’re out of the car. Right?

I know this from experience: it only makes you sound like a jerk.

So what can you do? I propose this as a Make Something Edmonton project. Is there a way to prepare for the coming madness, for traffic and parking, in downtown Edmonton? Can we add enough fun, enough beauty, enough surprise to conquer the frustration, to make lovers out of fighters?

The Singhmar Group hotel for The Quarters, designed by Dub Architects.

The Singhmar Group hotel for The Quarters, designed by Dub Architects.


4 thoughts on “Delight in Downtown

  1. Pingback: #Yegdt Notes – April 16, 2013 | DECL

  2. I frankly find it worrisome in its own that our dedicated downtown advocate seems to be advocating for suburbanites.

    Eventually if we do urbanity right, it will earn its own dedicated fans.

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