Edmonton Notes for July 1, 2018

Happy Canada Day! It looks like the Legislature grounds had an amazing turnout today.

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Edmonton Summer Cityscape
Edmonton Summer Cityscape, photo by IQRemix

Upcoming Events

Chinatown on Canada Day

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Edmonton Notes for June 24, 2018

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • Flair Airlines is moving its headquarters to Edmonton and will use the Edmonton International Airport as its main transfer hub. “As such, that makes us Edmonton’s hometown airline,” Flair executive chairman David Tait said at the announcement Tuesday morning in downtown Edmonton.
  • The northeast corner of Jasper Avenue and 108 Street could look very different if a plan to build two high-rise towers atop retail podiums goes ahead. “With so many different downtown highrise projects in the works right now, it remains to be seen if there’s a market to support them all,” wrote Paula Simons.
  • Accidental Beach is back, and this time the City says it is prepared with “security, parking restrictions, dog laws and booze bans.”
  • Overall ridership on ETS fell about 3% from 2013 to 2017 according to a new report. “ETS spokesperson Tarra Kongsrude said the ridership drop between 2014 and 2016 was a reflection of an economic slowdown.”
  • The City of Edmonton is launching a solar grant program to incentivize homeowners to increase the energy efficiency of their homes. “The program offers homeowners a $0.15/watt incentive to help install solar systems and produce renewable energy. This incentive, when combined with the $0.75/watt incentive available to Edmontonians through Energy Efficiency Alberta, helps homeowners cover up to one third of the installation costs.”
  • Edmonton could ban right turns on red lights at certain intersections to help the city move closer to achieving Vision Zero. According to the City’s Gerry Shimko, “downtown and Whyte Avenue are some of the locations where turning left or right is causing some of the major collisions.”
  • Tim Querengesser makes the case for an urban growth boundary for Edmonton. “Our planners and thinkers treat land like it’s endless, free and easy – and they seem unbothered when it sits empty, idle and unused. And we pay the price for all this.”
  • Starting Monday morning, the 242 randomly selected applicants for cannabis stores can submit their development permit applications. “A Liquor Depot employee was granted 26 permit application appointments, while Fire and Flower Inc. has 10.”
  • How a law student accidentally became the unofficial ambassador of K-Days. “Bachewich now feels compelled to attend K-Days this year, where his cousin suggested he should go shake hands with attendees and ask them if they’re having a good time.”
  • Neighbourhood renewal is coming up for Old Strathcona and it could look quite different from previous renewals, with “a new mix of sidewalks and streets designed to slow vehicles to 30 km/h.”
  • The deadline to nominate a front yard in bloom is June 30. “A yard can be a source of food, a public gathering spot, or even a sky high balcony.”
  • A local grade 12 student who is relocating to Waterloo, Ontario has created a ‘Cool Places in Edmonton Guide’ to show the places he will miss most. Let’s hope with his passion for the city he returns to make an impact here at some point!
  • ICYMI: The #yeg hashtag turned ten years old this week!
  • The Mill Creek Ravine Pedestrian Bridges “officially reopened June 22, 2018, on budget and four months ahead of schedule.” The $7.7 million rehabilitation project involved three trestle bridges and two glulam bridges. “In recognition of historical significance, and largely as a result of public feedback, 20-25% of the original wood was used in the rehabilitation of the trestle bridges so as to maintain their authentic look and feel.” We went to see them today – worth the visit! Here are my photos.
  • For more recent headlines, check out ShareEdmonton.

Mill Creek Ravine Pedestrian Bridges

Upcoming Events

d7200 28-80-2382
High Level Bridge, photo by Viktor Push

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Edmonton Notes for June 17, 2018

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Downtown Sunset

Upcoming Events

Edmonton Brewing & Malting Company
A new plaque in the Brewery District for the Edmonton Brewing & Malting Company building

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Recognizing child friendly businesses in Edmonton

Child Friendly Edmonton, a Council Initiative sponsored by Councillor Bev Esslinger, launched the new Child Friendly Business Recognition Program today at City Hall. The program “aims to promote businesses that are intentionally welcoming to children and their families.”

Child Friendly Edmonton
Councillors Esslinger and Paquette spoke at today’s launch event

“We want to share this new program with the city and highlight the current successes of local businesses who have become more child-friendly,” said Councillor Esslinger in a news release. “With more than 20 per cent of the population being under 18, it’s very important that kids feel welcomed and included in their city.”

Based on input from Edmontonians, Child Friendly Edmonton identifies three keys to being a child friendly business:

  • Attitude “is the most important way to become child friendly. Patient, friendly and understanding service from staff who take the time to greet and welcome their younger customers is a major factor in how welcoming a business feels to children and their families. A smile is a great place to start.”
  • Amenities “are generally for the benefit of the adult(s) accompanying a child. Amenities are choices that businesses can make to improve the experience for adults with children. Some amenities like providing seating for children and washrooms that can be used by all genders to change diapers are considered ‘must- haves’ for child friendly businesses.”
  • Activities “help occupy children throughout their visit. Children that remain calm and content make their, as well as their adults’ experience at the business more enjoyable. Activities can be anything from providing a coloring sheet to creating an area specifically for children.”

Nine different child friendly businesses were showcased at the launch event today, but there are already more than 65 businesses that have been recognized under the program. I was thrilled to see that they are all listed in the Open Data Catalogue! There’s also a map view which shows they are nicely spread around the city.

Child Friendly Edmonton

If you know of a business that is child friendly, you can nominate them to the program online. If you have visited a child friendly business recently, there’s an online survey you can fill out to share your experience.

Child Friendly Edmonton’s vision is “a welcoming city for all young Edmontonians; children are listened to, respected, and valued for their thoughts and ideas.” The new program supports all four of Child Friendly Edmonton’s goals, as outlined in the Working Plan: engagement, accessible spaces, inclusive city, and “downtown demonstration project.”

That last one is to use downtown as “a demonstration site to explore and showcase an urban area which is welcoming and supportive to children and their families/caregivers.” Ian O’Donnell, executive director of the Downtown Business Association, spoke today about the DBA’s support for the program. “We want to improve the family-friendly nature of downtown and continue to work with our member businesses towards a downtown for everyone.”

Baby's first media event
Baby’s first media event

As a downtown resident with a new baby I’m obviously happy to see the push for child friendly spaces. But I know the outcome will benefit more than just families. Often the same considerations that make families feel more welcome apply to other demographics as well. This is well-illustrated in the similarities between strollers and wheelchairs, for instance.

You can learn more about Child Friendly Edmonton here and on social media using the #ChildFriendlyYEG hashtag.

Edmonton Notes for June 10, 2018

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • The Edmonton Pride Parade was very well attended yesterday even with a bit of rain! The parade was interrupted briefly by protestors demanding that police and military be prohibited from marching in future parades. Organizers agreed and have banned them from future parades “until the community feels that they have taken the necessary steps for all community members to feel safe with their presence.” Though many think of the Pride Parade as a big party nowadays, it has always been about activism and political struggle. It started in 1980 and “many people who took part wore paper bags on their heads because they were afraid of losing their jobs.”
  • The Province introduced changes to support transgender and gender-diverse Albertans this week by enabling all Albertans “to choose Female, Male or “X” on their driver’s licences, ID cards and vital statistics records, such as birth certificates and death certificates.”
  • Ward 11 Councillor Mike Nickel announced this week he is seeking the United Conservative Party nomination in Edmonton-South. “I want to go some place where I can keep pushing that agenda, where we are going to measure what we are going to do. I want results,” he said.
  • Edmonton will be launching a pilot project in October with the Pacific Western Group of Companies to test electric autonomous vehicles manufactured by EasyMile (Calgary is doing one in September). “The pilot will give Edmontonians the opportunity to ride in the autonomous vehicle and provide feedback to the City of Edmonton.”
  • Councillors Sarah Hamilton and Bev Esslinger wrote an opinion column in the Edmonton Journal arguing for the implementation of the GBA+ program, “an internationally recognized analytical tool used to examine how the diverse needs of citizens are served by policies, programs, services and initiatives.”
  • Here’s the latest on the City of Edmonton’s harassment investigations from Elise Stolte: “Since November, when Edmonton was forced to hire an external company to take complaints and investigate them, more than 400 of the city’s 14,000 employees called with allegations. Sixty of those required a formal investigation.”
  • It’s official: FC Edmonton will play in the Canadian Premier League when it debuts next spring. “FC Edmonton is owned and operated by the Fath Group headed up by Tom and Dave Fath. Jay Ball will lead operations of FC Edmonton as General Manager.” The club has also introduced a new brand identity with updated colors and a new crest.
  • City Council decided this week not to go ahead with the proposed moratorium on raves. Instead, they’ll receive a report in October on harm reduction strategies and other safety plans.
  • A new report suggests around 1,100 intersections need upgrades to support smart technology. It could cost $150 million to upgrade them all.
  • The City of Edmonton has partnered with IFTTT for a new light installation at City Hall that translates air quality data into colour. “The light installation uses open-source code first developed by the City of Louisville. Jan Mußenbrock, an Edmonton developer with BetaCityYEG, used IFTTT to turn code into a bridge between Wi-Fi light bulbs and the Province of Alberta’s air quality health index data. The index is updated every five minutes.”
  • Liz Nicholls has all the details on the 31st annual Sterling Awards nominations. The awards will be presented on June 25.
  • Nearly 600 bicycles have already been stolen this year, so police are reminding cyclists “to take the time to ensure their bikes are properly locked up.” Last year, 2,171 bikes were stolen.
  • Edmonton will study what other cities are doing to get rid of plastic straws and facilitate other plastic-reduction strategies. Councillor Henderson says “there’s an awful lot that still goes into landfill and there’s an awful lot that still goes into our water stream.” We did a story on plastic waste at Taproot back in September.
  • Bill 10: An Act to Enable Clean Energy Improvements passed 3rd reading this week. “The City of Edmonton advocated for this tool since 2011,” tweeted Mike Mellross, Program Manager of Energy Transition at the City of Edmonton.
  • “That’s right, sometimes in Edmonton we order you to wear a fanny pack,” tweets Jana Pruden. Haha!
  • As of Thursday, only 4,000 tickets were left for the 2018 Grey Cup taking place here in Edmonton.
  • For more recent headlines, check out ShareEdmonton.

Premier Notley celebrates Edmonton Pride 98948a
Premier Notley celebrates Edmonton Pride, photo by Premier of Alberta

Upcoming Events

2018 City Hall School Citizenship Fair
2018 City Hall School Citizenship Fair

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Edmonton Notes for June 3, 2018

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Jasper & 96
Jasper & 96, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Upcoming Events

104 Avenue
104 Avenue

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Roundhouse coworking space is now open inside MacEwan University’s Allard Hall

MacEwan University’s new coworking space Roundhouse held its grand opening celebration this afternoon inside Allard Hall. In addition to facilitating collaboration among students, faculty, staff, and alumni, the space is open to the broader community of local entrepreneurs, volunteers, and other “changemakers”, as Roundhouse calls them. “We’re a coworking space that is focused on building a community of changemakers through innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Amor Provins, senior manager at Roundhouse. “Together with MacEwan University’s Social Innovation Institute, we’ll be working to empower people and make a positive impact in our world.”

Roundhouse Grand Opening

Special guests at today’s event included Marlin Schmidt, Minister of Advanced Education, who made everyone laugh with his train-related “Dad jokes”, thanking the organizers “for choo-choo-choosing him to open the space” and noting it “will lay tracks for the next generation.” Scott McKeen, City Councillor for Ward 6, and Elder Francis Whiskeyjack both brought remarks as well.

Attendees learned about the Roundhouse name and logo, both of which have significance. “When excavating the site for what is now Allard Hall (where we will be located), a train roundhouse was unearthed.” It serves as a metaphor for going in a new direction. The logo is a 13-sided shape called a triskaidecagon. “This number, that is so often perceived as unlucky, is also of significance in Indigenous cultures.” It is meant to represent Indigenous talking circles, because “at Roundhouse we believe a life-changing idea can come from anyone.”

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MacEwan University’s Social Innovation Institute “provides leadership and support towards fostering a culture of social innovation, engaging MacEwan students in initiatives and opportunities that have impact locally, regionally and globally.” Founding director Leo Wong said “as a downtown university, we focus on creating meaningful relationships with our neighbours to improve the economic and social vibrancy of our city, as well as being an environmental steward.”

Allard Hall

Roundhouse is located in the southeast corner of Allard Hall, the newest building MacEwan’s campus. It looks as you might expect a modern coworking space to look, with clean lines, bright accent colors, and plenty of natural light.

Roundhouse Grand Opening

Roundhouse offers a Community Membership for $40/month that includes access to the common areas and all of its perks, including WiFi, the kitchen, special rates on programs and events, and of course coffee & tea “to fuel the magic.” Programs include office hour consulting sessions, mentorship opportunities, and workshops to build new skills.

The space includes plenty of meeting rooms, from small spaces for 2-4 people, all the way up to large conference rooms that can accommodate 20 people. The rooms can be rented by the community, and members have access to them for a certain number of hours per month.

Roundhouse Grand Opening

Hot desks can be rented starting at $80/month and dedicated desks rent for $400/month.

Roundhouse Grand Opening

They also offer private offices starting at $700/month for up to 4 people.

Roundhouse Grand Opening

There is lots of flexible seating scattered around the space, including some giant bean bags that are waiting to be put into use!

Roundhouse Grand Opening

It’s a functional space, with a print room, kitchen, lots of power outlets, and all of the typical amenities you’d expect. But it’s also a fun space, with features like these pedal-powered charging stations!

Roundhouse Grand Opening

Learn more about Roundhouse here, and be sure to follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Roundhouse is celebrating its Launch Week with a number of “thought-provoking speakers, workshops, and community events” so there are plenty of opportunities to check out the space.

You can see more photos from the grand opening here.

Edmonton Notes for May 27, 2018

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

What the Truck?! at Capital Boulevard

Upcoming Events

Stantec Tower Rising

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Mayor Don Iveson calls on Edmonton investors to get in the game

In his State of the City address (available here in PDF) yesterday at the Shaw Conference Centre, Mayor Don Iveson said there are four crucial “pipelines” that must be established in order to actively shape Edmonton’s economic future. The “export” pipeline, the “investment” pipeline, the “talent” pipeline, and the “innovation” pipeline are what we need for growth in Edmonton.

2018 State of the City Address

Most of what Mayor Iveson told the packed room was simply a rehash of ideas he and other local leaders have been sharing for years, updated to use the startup language of the day. What was different this time was the very specific audience he was speaking to. It wasn’t a speech for all Edmontonians, or for community leaders, or even for the business community. Yesterday’s speech was targeted squarely at local investors.

“As it stands right now, we don’t have enough local investment committed to our local innovation ecosystem,” Mayor Iveson said. He noted that too much local money is being sent out of the city to be invested elsewhere. “I’d like to change that dynamic.”

We need Edmonton’s investor class to get engaged

Mayor Iveson started by describing Edmonton’s investor class:

“It doesn’t always look like one might expect. It’s not always dressed in bankers’ suits. It’s not always flashy like in other cities. It’s more reserved and quiet. But it’s deeply committed to this community.”

“A lot of you are in the room today,” he said. “You’ve built your companies in dynamic and creative ways, you employ thousands of Edmontonians and you are proud to call this city home.” Mayor Iveson outlined three key reasons why the investor class should invest locally:

  1. “This is very doable,” he told them. “A lot of early-stage companies in Edmonton don’t require cash in the millions.” Instead, typical seed funding requirements are in the tends of thousands.

  2. “More local, private investment will give our innovation ecosystem more rigour.” Compared to institutional investors, private investors put “a premium on commercial viability and outcomes.”

  3. “Investing in the growth of local companies means actively shaping Edmonton’s economic future.” He appealed to their love of Edmonton. “You care about what happens to this community over the long run.”

“There must be a willingness from our community to place some bets on local innovations, on local entrepreneurs, on local talent,” Mayor Iveson said.

There are billions of dollars under management right here in Edmonton, but startup funding remains elusive. As one example, AngelList currently shows 16 investors from Edmonton with only 11 of those having actually made investments. Mayor Iveson mentioned just one seed fund by name, Panache Ventures. The situation is much better than it was back in 2006, but to say there’s room for improvement would be a huge understatement.

“I recognize I’m asking a lot of you, especially in this fragile economic climate,” he said. “But this is Edmonton’s moment, and your city needs your engagement and support more than ever.”

We need a bigger startup funnel

Noting that Startup Edmonton currently assists about 65 companies per year in their startup phase, Mayor Iveson said “we need to drastically increase the number of companies coming into the ecosystem funnel.” By this time next year, the mayor wants “to at least double the number of start-up companies that are assisted on an annual basis.” To do this, he will be asking City Council and both public and private sector parterns “to make sizeable investments” to help expand the size of the startup funnel.

This is a familiar refrain locally, especially in the tech sector. Increasing the number of startups in Edmonton is of course the whole reason for Startup Edmonton, an initiative that Mayor Iveson has long been a supporter of. Many other initiatives in recent years have focused on increasing the number of local entrepreneurs. Even in last year’s State of the City address, Mayor Iveson talked about the need “to focus on how we take local start-ups to the next level — to zero-in on adopting a scale-up mindset and build a scale-up community that helps our small enterprises grow confidently.”

This time, Mayor Iveson reiterated the importance of local investment. Edmonton needs more than just more companies, he said. “It also needs larger amounts of early-stage capital to help our entrepreneurs go from start-up to scale-up and beyond.”

Mayor Don Iveson

We need to hustle

One of the key messages Mayor Iveson focused on was the need to hustle. “Edmonton has experienced incredible external pressures before, and we have always managed to adapt and get by,” but that’s not good enough anymore, he said. Recent trips to San Francisco and Asia showed the mayor just how hard we need to work just to keep up, let alone get ahead. “From the moment you hit the ground in these places, the hustle is on.”

We have heard this before. When Brad Ferguson took over as President & CEO of EEDC in 2012, he was already sounding the alarm about complacency, calling it “our number enemy.”

This time though, the mayor got a bit more specific. “Today, we have one of the best AI research institutions in the world but we risk being outspent and out-hustled by other provinces and other cities,” he said. While there’s a role for government, “there’s also a significant role for local investors and philanthropists.”

We’re a world leader in the science of artificial intelligence, and we need to aggressively build on that.

We need a bigger talent pipeline

More talent is going to be critical for Edmonton’s growth. “We know we have work to do in terms of developing skilled talent — both locally grown, and talent that we attract from elsewhere,” Mayor Iveson said.

Again, this is not new. At the EEDC Impact Luncheon in January 2016, Brad Ferguson told the crowd that “the most important thing we can do is continue to invest in talent.” In September 2014, the Edmonton in a New Light event touched on the same ideas – be less humble, go tell the world, attract people and investment – but used different language. “The opportunity before us is to let the rest of the world in on the secret of why we’re all here,” Mayor Iveson said at the time.

The mayor did announce yesterday a new partnership with EEDC and LinkedIn “to do a deep dive on Edmonton’s talent landscape” to better understand “the kinds of skills we’re missing to grow our innovation ecosystem.” Based on that, the City will craft “an Edmonton story that is compelling, honest and attractive” and that highlights “the incredible quality of life we have here.” Plenty has been written about our city’s branding efforts and missteps, so while I applaud a more data-driven approach, I find it hard to believe this time will be different.

2018 State of the City Address

We need to sell to the world

Mayor Iveson said that for sustained growth in Edmonton, we need more businesses with a focus on exports. “Companies that aren’t satisfied to stay local, but want to scale up and take their product or service to customers around the world,” he said, and cited Stantec, PCL, Yardstick, Showbie, and BioWare as examples of local companies that “opened global markets through relentless quality and ambition.”

This focus on global should be very familiar by now. Shortly after he won the 2013 election Mayor Iveson started using some new language, “innovative” and “globally competitive” in particular. And even then Mayor Iveson was talking about solving local problems and exporting the solutions to the world:

“As problem solvers, we can do our business cleaner, greener, cheaper, faster and safer – and sell those solutions to the world. This is how we will ensure that Edmonton will compete globally, and endure long into the future, no matter the price of oil.”

He mentioned the new direct flight to San Francisco as one of the ways to enable more exports. “Although we’re in a digital world, the face-to-face meeting is still a vital commodity when it comes to engaging advisors, connecting with partners and making deals,” he said. The flight will be “a tremendous enabler for more Edmonton-made businesses, with global ambitions, to reach beyond Canada.”

We need to use the City as a lab

After talking about the challenges the City faces, Mayor Iveson said “I want to take the burgeoning community of technology minds in our backyard and unleash them on those City problems.” Earlier this month he introduced a motion to have City Administration outline a draft policy or program to make this a reality. And he said he would pursue a “Startup in Residence” program to connect startups with local government.

As early as 2009 the City was trying and failing to accomplish this goal, first with the Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally program. In his 2015 State of the City address, Mayor Iveson talked about Open Lab, “a new partnership with Startup Edmonton that aims to solve municipal challenges in a more entrepreneurial way.” It sounded promising, but it has gone nowhere, and the City even took down its web page about the program.

“Let’s actively shape Edmonton’s economic future by leveraging our local tech talent to help make our established companies become as competitive and innovative as they can be,” the mayor said. He talked about his idea for an “Innovation Hub” downtown, a place to bring together “entrepreneurs, service providers, mentors, investors, talent and business experts in an environment specifically designed to encourage the creation and growth of companies.” In contrast to the manufactured office parks seen elsewhere, the mayor promised it would reflect “Edmonton’s lifestyle where innovation, entrepreneurship, the arts, creativity and vibrant urban life intersect.”

Mayor Don Iveson

Growing Edmonton’s economy is the focus

Mayor Iveson made growing the economy a key election promise last year, so it makes sense that economic development was his focus for this year’s State of the City. Earlier this month he released a report on the Mayor’s Economic Development Summit, and his remarks yesterday built on that. Again, none of the ideas are particularly new, but perhaps by better involving local investors they’ll have a much greater chance of success.

“Edmonton is ready for this,” the mayor said. “Ready to get off the bench and play at a global level.”

Edmonton Notes for May 20, 2018

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

NAIT, Kingsway LRT Stations
NAIT, Kingsway LRT Stations

Upcoming Events

Ice district Edmonton June 2018
Ice District Edmonton, photo by jasonwoodhead23

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