So, what’s it all about?

“Old Strathcona is a unique and vibrant area in Edmonton. It is a cultural hub, tourist destination, historical asset, business district, and an important transportation network in addition to being home to thousands of people. This area is expected to attract more residents as Edmonton grows to a population of 1.25 million. So how should our public spaces (parks, parking lots, plazas, alleys, and streets) adapt as a result?

The Old Strathcona Public Realm Strategy (OSPRS) will envision a new future for parks, plazas, parking lots, sidewalks, alleys and streets. A series of design ideas have been drafted that explore possible improvements.”

How does this align with the work we do?

Oh, in so many ways – let us tell you…

Our BIA fully supports the draft Old Strathcona Public Realm Strategy (OSPRS). This strategy represents a long-term investment in our public spaces and infrastructure and will enhance the vibrancy of Old Strathcona for both current and future businesses and patrons. The OSBA board voted to “enthusiastically support” the draft strategy because it closely aligns with the strategic goals and mandate of the Business Improvement Area (BIA), which aims to improve our commercial district through strategies such as beautification, placemaking, and marketing. An expenditure of this magnitude, likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars, to enhance the infrastructure and visitor experience of the Old Strathcona BIA is long overdue. The last time a public fund investment of this size occurred was in the 1980s, and our aging infrastructure is in dire need of a major revitalization.

As a Business Improvement Area (BIA), we’re in the business of community economic development. We represent nearly 600 businesses within our boundaries and work on behalf of those businesses to take action on the strategic priorities determined by our board of directors.

There is a lot that excites us about the OSPRS, especially the ideas that enhance Whyte Avenue as a main street destination and hub of social and economic activity. A public places plan of this scope is a once in 40 year opportunity that our organization has long been advocating for and will introduce a new way of experiencing our main street for decades to come.

Some of the big highlights are things like: wider sidewalks, reliable and convenient public transit, enhancing our alleyways so they can be active spaces for commercial and recreational activity, the creation of new green spaces or public plazas and shared streets that are safe and welcoming for a variety of users like pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

In summary, the OSPRS aligns with our vision by creating a district that is:

  • Active and vibrant year-round
  • Welcoming and inclusive
  • Innovative and inspiring

Learn more about why walkable streets are more economically productive.

Here’s a peek at a few design renderings:

What about parking?

The proposed ideas shared in the strategy suggest some on-street and surface lot parking could be removed to accommodate for other plan ideas like wider sidewalks and mass transit lanes for BRT (bus rapid transit). But rest assured, there will always be a need for parking in the area and while some of it might go away, there are opportunities to explore new parking management practices, like underground parking and wayfinding to encourage more efficient use of existing parking!

Each block on the Avenue will be considered in its own context when looking at the proposed changes. So some areas might be more conducive to the bioswale & rain garden example, while others need the pick-up/drop-off flex space with accessible parking options. All of these needs will be considered throughout this process.

Pg. 14 of the What We Heard Report
Examples of parking wayfinding

We also know that as time goes on, travel habits are changing. In the survey conducted by the City of Edmonton during Phase 1, 68% of respondents indicated that reducing on street parking to add mass transit lanes would be very or somewhat acceptable (pg.15). It’s also encouraging to see that visitors are already getting to the area by walking (65%), cycling (50%), or taking public transit (48%). The City also conducted a comprehensive parking study in 2022 which shows that there are over 3,500 parking spots available in the district with only a 60-70% utilization rate.
Key study takeaways:

  • There are more than 3,500 public parking spaces available within the study area including on-street curbside and publicly available off-street parking.
  • There are 1,965 on-street curbside parking spaces within the study area, including parking adjacent to residences.
  • About 80% of the on-street parking supply is unpaid, free parking, and 60% of the on-street parking supply are unrestricted parking spaces.
    On-street curbside parking utilization is, generally, below 65%, but never exceeds 72% during all study time periods. This level of utilization broadly translates to about 650 to 880 available on-street parking spaces within the area.
  • For most of the intervals surveyed, there are between 250 and 500 available parking spaces within one block of Whyte Avenue.

Project Timeline

The Old Strathcona Public Realm Strategy planning is split into three phases. Now that the City of Edmonton has completed multiple phases of engagement, the OSPRS will be voted on at council in August, for funding and next steps. Should the project receive funding, final designs and a construction plan will be created. However, this major neighbourhood overhaul will not begin until 2027-2030.

  • Phase 1: Background Analysis and Opportunities – Summer 2022
  • Phase 2: Priorities and Draft Recommendations – Winter 2023
  • Phase 3: Draft Public Realm Strategy – Spring 2024
  • Presentation to City Council for funding – Fall 2024

We hope you’ll find time to learn more about the the project and the positive impact it could have on Old Strathcona. Visit the City of Edmonton’s Old Strathcona Public Realm Strategy page to learn more about the project and the feedback collected through various phases of engagement.

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