Media Monday Edmonton: Update #118

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 7/6/2014

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Borden Park
‘Willow’ at Borden Park

Upcoming Events

Edmonton Street Performers Festival
Street Performers Festival in Churchill Square

Edmonton’s High Level Bridge has lights…now what?

In case you missed it, here’s my recap of the light up that took place on Canada Day. Now that the lights are turned on, I had some questions about them, and I heard some common questions from others too. So I reached out to the Light the Bridge team for answers. Here’s what I found out!

High Level Bridge

When will the bridge be lit?

Every single night, 365 days a year. You can always go check out the lights at night!

What time do the lights come on and off?

It varies depending on the time of year. In the summer, they’ll come on later at night and turn off sooner. In the winter the lights will come on earlier in the evening, and may also be on in the early morning to brighten the commute. The City of Edmonton will control this, and the exact schedule is still being determined.

How are the colors/animations decided?

Right now the bridge lights seem to alternate from one solid color to another – green to blue to yellow to red, etc. For special events, the bridge may be lit differently (for instance, green and gold for an Eskimos game). The City of Edmonton’s Civic Events department has final say over the light colors and animations. In the future, individuals and organizations will be able to request special colors or animations – processes for that are being developed now.

Can the lights be used for advertising?

No. Not only was this a core principle established early on in the project, but the trellis structure of the bridge means there are no flat surfaces upon which words or ads could be placed. The bridge is not meant to be a billboard.

How can I find out what the colors on a given night are for?

I love the Tower Lights site for the Empire State Building in New York. You can always go and see what the colors meant for any given day. I understand the City will be creating a similar online tool so that you can see why the bridge is lit a certain way.

Where are the lights controlled from?

The lights are controlled from the City of Edmonton’s Network Operations Centre.

Who maintains the lights and pays for that maintenance?

The City of Edmonton will maintain the LED lights, just as they maintain all other lights on the bridge.

How much does it cost to light the bridge?

The annual electrical costs of running the new LED lights on the bridge are about the same annual costs as running 3-4 houses (assuming the lights are on an average of 7 hours every day).

Will the bridge contribute to light pollution?

Lights on the bridge are pointed downwards, and using LED lights allows the lights to be projected at specific points on the bridge, which minimizes the impact of light pollution. There is little to no light pollution.

I bought one or more bulbs, how can I find their location?

There’s a tool up on the Light the Bridge site now that lets you search for the location of your bulb(s) by last name, email address, or dedication. I bought two: one is light #3-1-6 (East Facing) and the other is light #4-4-56 (East Facing). You can also browse the lights manually and look at all the names and dedications. It’s a pretty neat collection of stories!

High Level Bridge

We’ve come a long way from the waterfall. Go check out the lights!

Recap: High Level Bridge light up on Canada Day

Thousands of Edmontonians lined the river valley on Canada Day to catch a glimpse of not only fireworks, but also the official light up of the High Level Bridge. The project was greenlit back in March when the necessary $2.5 million to purchase and install 50,000 LED bulbs on the bridge was successfully raised. Over the last month the lights were installed and tested in preparation for Canada Day.

Canada Day 2014

There were people everywhere last night – every path, ledge, and patch of grass was claimed by someone eager to see the lights and fireworks! Some folks brought chairs, others had blankets. There were lots of tripods and other camera setups.

Canada Day 2014

As the unveiling approached, singing of “O Canada” and chants of “CAN-A-DA!” could be heard all along River Valley Road. Finally, about five minutes past ten, the lights came on, and a couple minutes later, the fireworks began!

Canada Day 2014

Here’s the official video from Light the Bridge, with music performed by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The music was broadcast live on CKUA.

There was a lot of cheering, oohing, and ahhing as the lights came on. For about two minutes they danced across the bridge, giving us a glimpse of what can be done in the future.

Canada Day 2014

I was cautiously optimistic about how the lights would look, especially as I don’t feel the lights on the ATB Tower downtown look that great. Color me impressed though, they look great! Mayor Iveson, Dave Mowat, and others have been talking about how this could be our postcard photo, and now having seen the lights, I can see what they mean.

Canada Day 2014

It’ll be interesting to see how they light the bridge in the future. We’ve heard that it could be green and gold for the Eskimos, copper and blue for the Oilers, and evidently, rainbow colored for Pride!

Canada Day 2014

Congratulations to Dave Mowat and everyone at ATB, David Stevens and the folks at EPCOR, Tammy Pidner and the team at EEDC, and everyone else who worked hard to make this project a reality!

If you want to buy a bulb, you have until July 11 to do so. If you already bought one, head over to the website to find the location of yours. You can follow Light the Bridge on Twitter for updates.

Edmonton unveils Commonwealth Games 2022 bid committee and logo

Today we’re celebrating Canada’s 147th birthday, and the City took the opportunity to provide an update on its plans for Canada’s 155th birthday. Edmonton is hoping to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022, and at City Hall today Mayor Don Iveson announced both the bid committee and logo.

Commonwealth Games Bid Update

The bid committee will be led by former Edmonton Airports President & CEO Reg Milley. He showed a lot of enthusiasm today and I think he’ll be a great leader for this effort. Joining him on the initial committee is Vice Chair Simon Farbrother (City Manager), Candice Stasynec (Executive Director, Edmonton Events), Maggie Davison (Vice President, Edmonton Tourism), Lloyd Benz (Government of Alberta), and four members from Commonwealth Games Canada – Dr. Andrew Pipe, Bruce Robertson, Linda Cuthbert and Edmonton’s John Stanton.

Commonwealth Games Bid Update

From the news release:

“Edmonton has built a strong reputation as an outstanding host city,” says Mayor Don Iveson. “Our bid effort, in partnership with the Alberta government, is focused on convincing Commonwealth Games voters that Edmonton is the best host city in 2022.”

Edmonton has until March 2, 2015 to submit its bid. After site visits in the spring, the host city will be selected on September 2, 2015. Only Durban, South Africa has announced a bid so far. The bid committee will be travelling to Glasgow later this month, to take in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Reg Milley talked a lot about the importance of community support today. Without it, Edmonton’s bid won’t be successful. The committee is soliciting stories from Edmontonians who have fond memories of the 1978 Commonwealth Games to strengthen the bid. They also started handing out stickers featuring the new logo to Edmontonians in and around City Hall.

Councillor Sohi

To learn more about the bid committee and Edmonton’s campaign, check out the new Edmonton 2022 bid website.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #117

Happy Canada Day! Tune into CKUA on July 1 at 11pm to hear the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra perform “O Canada” as the High Level Bridge is officially lit up!

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 6/29/2014

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

178:365 – High Level Streetcar
High Level Streetcar, photo by Jamey M. Photography

Upcoming Events

Yelp's Ultimate Science Fair!
Linda & Mike on hoverboards at the Yelp/Dark Matters event!

Downtown Edmonton’s Sobeys on 104 Street will close its doors on July 31

After six years of serving the central downtown Edmonton area, Sobeys will close its 104 Street location on July 31. It’s a disappointing end to a store that, while full of promise at its launch in May 2008, never really lived up to its potential. It’s also a high profile loss for 104 Street, which has seen a number of businesses close over the last year or so, and a potential setback for Edmonton’s ongoing downtown revitalization.

Keri Scobie, Communications Manager for Sobeys West, confirmed the closure yesterday. “It was a really tough decision to make,” she told me. “We knew this was going to be a hot topic of discussion.”

Sobeys on 104 Street

Why has Sobeys decided to close the 104 Street location? The bottom line is…it’s all about the bottom line.

A spokesperson told the Globe and Mail late Wednesday that Sobeys had “identified a number of underperforming stores and we have made the decision to close these stores.” It appears the 104 Street location is one of those underperforming stores, and there approximately 50 in total across the country, according to a Sobeys news release:

“Sobeys has determined that consistently underperforming retail stores, representing approximately 50 stores (1.5 million of total gross square footage) and 3.8 percent of the total retail network gross square footage, will close. Approximately sixty percent of the affected stores are located in Western Canada.”

Sobeys is planning to close three other stores in Edmonton as well: Sobeys Mainstreet in Mill Woods at 6440 28 Avenue, Heritage Sobeys at 2011 111 Street, and Clock IGA at 15445 Stony Plain Road. Employees received letters upon arriving at work yesterday informing them of the planned closures. They’ll have the option of transferring to another location. “We have a lot of vacancies at other stores in Edmonton,” Keri said.

In order to get approval for its purchase of Safeway Canada, Sobeys agreed to sell 30 stores in Western Canada. Co-op agreed to purchase three stores in Edmonton and another three in the region, and the fact that the 104 Street location wasn’t one of them was seen as a vote of confidence from Sobeys. Now Sobeys has made it clear that assumption was invalid.

Two Urban Fresh locations in Toronto are also closing, but the second Edmonton location at College Plaza will remain open, as will ten other locations throughout Ontario.

From Urban Fresh to Closure

At the start, it seemed as though Sobeys wouldn’t have any problem attracting customers. “Again and again, the staff at the front door of the new Sobeys on Jasper Avenue and 104th Street smile and apologize, as they turn away would-be customers,” Paula Simons wrote in May 2008, just days before the store officially opened to the public.

When it first opened, the Sobeys on 104 Street was meant to bring a European-style market to downtown. It was the first location to bring Sobeys’ “urban fresh” concept to life – smaller, featuring local food, more prepared items, a cafe, and other urban-friendly amenities. Relationships with the popular City Market were touted, and excitement was high. While initial feedback was mostly positive, it wasn’t long before elements of the initial vision started to fall away. The building still retains the “urban fresh” branding, but that long ago lost any meaning.

Sobeys on 104 Street

In the summer of 2011, Sobeys on 104 Street caused an uproar in the community when it covered its windows with vinyl. Over the first three years of its existence, the store had fully transformed from “urban fresh” to just another grocery store, and residents saw the vinyl windows as the last straw. Sobeys responded to the criticism by meeting with the community and partially removing the vinyl coverings. The communications director at the time, Mike Lupien, indicated that Sobeys wanted to make the store work. “It’s a community store, it’s a neighbourhood store,” Mike said. “We want to be here, and we want to be here for the long-term.”

Today Keri elaborated on why the 104 Street location was identified for closure. “What happens is the size of the store impacts our ability to deliver our brand promise,” she said. “The smaller formats make it harder to deliver what we want to deliver.” She noted the coffee bar takes up quite a bit of room, and shoppers have complained about the smaller selection of products available. I asked her if any alternatives were considered, such as renovating and changing the layout, but she said “given the space and what we have, it was determined it was the best decision to close.”

As a resident on the street, I’m sad to see the Sobeys close. It was great to be able to walk down the block to pickup some milk or a last minute ingredient. I do think the store suffered from long lineups at the checkout (and no express or self-checkouts) and generally indifferent staff, and that made the experience of shopping there much less enjoyable than it could have been. Though prices did come down over the years, they were still higher than other locations, such as Save-On-Foods over on 109 Street.

What’s the impact on downtown?

Cecil Place is the name of the building that houses Sobeys Urban Fresh, named in recognition of the infamous Cecil Hotel. Developed by John Day who purchased the old hotel in May 2003, Cecil Place was designed by Arndt Tkalcic Bengert Architecture and cost $12.6 million to build (it took 14 months to complete). In 2007, it won an Edmonton Urban Design Award. Jurors commented at the time, “if you want to get people downtown this is the way to do it.”

100_0851
Cecil Place in March 2008, photo by Dave Sutherland

The closure is a loss for 104 Street and downtown, no question. It’s not fatal however, and with new condo towers well underway and the addition of Earth’s General Store in place of the old Pangea organic market further north on 104 Street, I don’t believe the loss of Sobeys will have a lasting impact. Demand will continue to grow as more and more people choose to live downtown and all those new condo towers fill up, and I imagine finding a new tenant for the space today will be much easier than it was back in 2007. Unlike in the past, 104 Street isn’t a gamble anymore.

Sobeys leased the space in Cecil Place, there will be no covenants impacting the ability of another grocer to move in. “That’s not applicable for this location,” Keri clarified. She said the majority of the Sobeys locations being closed were leased.

“If there is a positive,” Keri told me, “it’s that there is a lot of exciting development on the street really reinvigorating that neighbourhood.” However, the bright future of 104 Street wasn’t enough to save the store. “Closing the store was the best decision for us to make.”

What will replace the Sobeys? That remains to be seen, but there’s few other locations downtown that are as attractive as the corner of 104 Street and Jasper Avenue. If I could wave my magic wand, I’d love to see the location turn into a year-round space for the City Market. One can dream, right?

Sobeys in Edmonton

As for Sobeys in Edmonton, Keri told me that Sobeys remains committed. “We see Edmonton as a good market, which is why we’re investing here,” she said. Sobeys is opening a brand new location tomorrow morning in Newcastle at 16943 127 Street. “It’s a new concept store, the third in Western Canada,” Keri explained. “It features a revamped store layout, vibrant colors, and a focus on food discovery throughout the store.” Echoing what was said of Urban Fresh when it opened, Keri suggested the new store will “have a real market feel to it.”

In the cuthroat grocery business, competition is fierce, and Sobeys is constantly evaluating their locations. “We have had great success here in Edmonton,” Keri said, “that’s why we’re bringing the new concept store here.”

Unfortunately, the 104 Street store just hasn’t worked out for Sobeys from a business point-of-view. “We want to thank the community downtown who came in and supported the store,” Keri said.

Edmonton’s skyline can now officially rise higher

For all the noise that was made about height restrictions over downtown in recent years, they sure went away quietly today! At a public hearing, City Council made the removal of the Airport Protection Overlay (APO) official, passing Bylaw 16859 without debate. The zoning bylaw no longer references height restrictions, and buildings downtown can now rise to whatever height the market will bear.

Edmonton City Centre Airport

Section 810 described special regulations for the Downtown Development Area as follows:

“…the maximum Height of a development within the Downtown Development Area, defined in Appendix I to this Schedule, shall not exceed a Height of 815.34 m above sea level.”

Though the maximum height of each building varied with its specific location, in general, the overlay restricted buildings downtown to a maximum height of about 150 metres. The new EPCOR Tower was built to the maximum height allowed, rising to 149 metres, about two-thirds the height of the Bow building that now dominates Calgary’s skyline. Now, buildings can go even higher.

It was only a matter of time until the Airport Protection Overlay was removed, thanks to the full closure of the City Centre Airport in December. “The removal of the Airport Protection Overlay is considered to be an administrative process directly resulting from the closure of the Edmonton City Centre Airport which underwent significant public consultation,” today’s report read. Still, the outcome marks another milestone in the history of the City Centre Airport.

City Centre Airport

Our attention has now fully shifted to Blatchford, and rightly so, but the removal of height restrictions could enliven downtown’s development too. There are of course many examples of great cities that have managed to grow with height restrictions in place, such as Paris or London. Removing the Airport Protection Overlay in Edmonton isn’t going to change the fortunes of downtown by itself, but it is one more barrier out of the way. For a good discussion on what the removal of height restrictions over downtown could mean, check out this Avenue Edmonton article.