50 Ways to Improve Downtown Edmonton

What can we do to make downtown Edmonton the best it can be?

          If you build it, they will come! Everything's easier said than done and although some of these big ideas and preposterous proposals listed below are rather obvious, others are pretty radical to say the least, so please take this somewhat ambitious list with a grain of salt. But with that said, I wanted to share with you some of the concepts I would LOVE to see implemented in or applied to our city's core to inspire further economic growth, improve diversity and vibrancy, stimulate tourism, and encourage more people to move there. 
          Downtown is supposed to be every town's central hub and ours is admittedly getting better and better at a rapid pace, with recent additions like LRT expansion, bike lanes, the funicular, the new Royal Alberta Museum, the under-construction Stanley A. Milner Library, and of course Ice District! But why not aim for the sky when it comes down to our downtown?!
          Like I've said before, some of these ideas may not seem feasible or plausible, and others may have been considered in the past or may even be underway as we speak. I understand that our city's bank account would not be able to even remotely cover all of these concepts, but perhaps we can work towards each one one at a time, if they're even worth considering, of course. 
          And I am not trying to step on the feet of the amazing folks that make up our City Council or the Downtown Business Association or Edmonton Economic Development, so I hope you don't get that impression. These proposals are mostly essentially just for fun; pipe dreams of mine that may actually become reality one day in the (hopefully near) future. 
          One more thing: this post focuses on the downtown, but many of these ideas can be adopted elsewhere in the city, namely in more foot-heavy regions such as Old Strathcona and the University. However, I am concentrating on the downtown in particular for now, so please don't complain that I am ignoring the rest of Edmonton. I love ALL of Edmonton, and that includes YOU too! 
          Let me know what you think of the list or if you have any of your own cool or unique visions for our downtown! 


1. Green light the proposal of retrofitting the old remand centre/
I imagine this "all-in-one project" for the homeless community being a place where people experiencing homelessness can come to 24 hours a day for not only shelter and food, but addictions counseling, mental health support, primary health care, job preparation, and where they can begin the process of getting housed on a more permanent basis. Perhaps even a place where those in need have access to resources to express themselves artistically, through painting or writing or music; a place where they can get a free haircut and pick out an item of clothing that was donated to the centre; perhaps a place where they can use the Internet to check emails or search for a job or just connect with a friend or family member; a place where they can borrow donated books and magazines from an on-site library. The possibilities are endless, and this is an issue that needs to be tackled perhaps first and foremost. 
An imagining of what a homeless hub could be in downtown Edmonton.

2. Hire people experiencing homelessness to work in the downtown area/
Those experiencing homelessness can be hired to do any number of jobs, including snow removal, maintaining parks and bus stops, cleaning sidewalks and benches, planting trees, watering plants, handing out brochures, or even giving directions and information about the downtown. They could be hired through the homeless centre mentioned above (see #1) with no barriers, including no background checks or referrals, or the need for a bank account or mailing address. In addition to earning cash for themselves for a half or full day's work, anyone who would like to take advantage of this program would also gain important experience, skills, social interaction, and a sense of self-awareness. This would ideally serve as a stepping stone for full-time and permanent positions outside of the program. 
People experience homelessness in the inner city can contribute to the workforce too, like this gentleman from Denver.

3. More light in the night/
It's been proven that light can offer not only safety or at least a sense of security, but also a tool to combat feelings of depression and especially seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter months. I suggest more street lights, lit-up alleyways and parking lots, neon signage, and string lights in trees and above the downtown streets. Besides safety and mental health concerns, more light can also be inviting and encourage more people to visit certain areas during winter evenings and late summer hours. 
I know #yeg has plenty of lit-up trees, but more of these lighting ideas (like this street in San Diego) would be ideal.

4. Create a student hub ("Education District")/
108th Street (between 100 & 104 Avenues) is already home to MacEwan University, NorQuest College, and Alberta Education, so why not designate this strip as a central students hub! This christening could encourage further student residence development in the area, as well as student-oriented businesses like discount book stores and wi-fi cafés. Heck, even other schools around the city and its downtown (i.e. Academy of Learning, Pixel Blue, CDI, Centre High) could uproot their locations to the area for various reasons (tax breaks, decreased leases?). The strip could become more pedestrian-friendly as well, removing car traffic and replacing the area with more trees, benches, light posts, reading nooks, bike parking, and poster walls featuring ads for student jobs, room rentals, tutorials, workshops, and live concerts. Already established businesses in the area could also benefit by offering student discounts or applicable job opportunities. 
MacEwan University would be the anchor of a proposed student hub along 108th Street.

5. Install a bicycle-sharing system/
For those who might not know what bicycle-sharing is, it refers to a rental scheme that has civilians (and tourists) picking up, riding, and then dropping off communal & uniform bikes at numerous stations across the region, perhaps even city-wide. According to an article by The Conversation, there are an array of benefits from adopting such a system, including reduced congestion, reduced fuel consumption, reduced vehicle emissions, transport flexibility, financial savings, health improvements, and even the promotion of sharing! I can imagine bike stations strewn throughout downtown, including MacEwan University, Ice District, the Legislature grounds, and near the new funicular. This only makes more sense as the city continues to expand its downtown bike lane grid. 
This is the Metro Bike bicycle-sharing system in Los Angeles.

6. Giant kids' playground/
There's a number of drab surface parking lots just off of Jasper Avenue and in between 106 and 107 Streets (behind the Boston Pizza) that are both an eyesore and a waste of space for most of the time. As a way to encourage more families to move to the downtown, I propose building a large playground and fenced-off green space for children at the northwest corner of these lots, away from the main streets. There's a similar concept in sunny Vegas (see picture below) that I think would be ideal for this lot, where parents can bring their young kids to spend some much-needed time outdoors and away from screens. It could be winterized so that it will serve a purpose even during the cold months, and could include a nearby basketball court for the older kids and younger adults to get their share of fresh air. 
Here's Las Vegas' version of a playground!

7. Fire pit stations/ 
Who doesn't love sitting in the backyard with some good friends and some good beers around a crackling fire pit?! That's right, everyone does. So maybe we could take that idea and apply it to downtown for anyone who doesn't have a fire pit...or a backyard...or friends. They could be wooden chairs or cobble stone benches circled around a covered fire pit during summer evenings and entire winter days, situated in random spots around the downtown (Beaver Hills House Park? Abbey Glen Park? Centennial Plaza?). No beer allowed, but feel free to bring all the marshmallows you want!
Who wouldn't want to spend a summer night next to an open fire in the downtown (although a covered version would be necessary)!

8. Indigenous Peoples Archives & Museum/
There's a gorgeous old brick building that doesn't seem to get much attention hiding behind a few large trees on the corner of 99 Avenue and 105 Street. It is a historic structure built in 1905 as the McKay Avenue School, but is now home to the Edmonton Public Schools Archives & Museum. Perhaps we could transfer the latter museum and a number of other smaller local museums and assemble them into one spot, say the old Royal Alberta Museum? The 113-year-old building could house a museum dedicated to the history and culture of Canada's Indigenous people, and the large accompanying backyard park (known as RJW Mather Memorial Park) could serve as grounds for Aboriginal events and ceremonies, and house a ceremonial teepee and maybe a statue honouring Alex Decoteau, Canada's first Aboriginal police officer. 
A view of the back field of the Edmonton Public Schools Archives & Museum.

9. More gardens/ 
Yep, I get it, we live in a "winter city," what of it! That doesn't mean we should forego the tranquility of a community garden in the downtown, right? I'm not suggesting we set aside giant slots of land dedicated to flowers and veggies, but rather settle for volunteer-run micro gardens wherever there's the opportunity: back alleys, pocket parks, vacant lots, and on rooftops. We could also encourage downtown residents to spice up their space with a balcony garden in either a giant pot or a railing planter for herbs, flowers, or even reefer?
Community gardens like this one would be beneficial to the inner city for so many reasons.

10. Window display contests/
Every year, downtown businesses can go head to head in coming up with the best or coolest or most unique window display designs in the downtown region. This could be a month-long competition in which the winner acquires not only bragging rights but also does not have to pay property taxes for an entire year (or something along those lines). Winners could be selected by professional design judges and random customers, encouraging interaction, creativity, and a little friendly competition along the way. 
A visually striking window display like this one would add to any downtown's ambiance.

11. Bring the Greyhound station back/ 
It was rather embarrassing when visitors to Edmonton via Greyhound had to deal with inaccessibility last winter, tugging their heavy luggage along snow-covered pathways to try and find their way downtown. When the main Greyhound station moved from 103 Street & 103 Avenue in downtown Edmonton to VIA Rail (12304-121 Street), it inconvenienced anyone who used the service. It would be more than ideal to bring the Greyhound station back downtown, perhaps somewhere in the area behind the new Royal Alberta Museum and Chinatown. Sure, some decrepit buildings might have to be torn down to make way, but it's an important investment, if you ask me. The Greyhound station should ultimately be located in central Edmonton, accessible to public transit (including the LRT network), hotels, restaurants, cafés, and public attractions, and where one can simply wave down a taxi can or Uber driver. 
The future Wagner LRT station (at Wagner Road & 75 Street) was touted as a potential spot for the Greyhound station.

12. Build a signature fountain in the Ice District area/
Sure, downtown's home to the wave pool at City Hall and the fountain at the Alberta Legislature, but I think Ice District would be a fitting home to a Instagrammable, Tweetable, Snapchatable signature fountain that becomes an instant must-see for visitors and locals alike. Something that sets us apart and that adds to Edmonton's identity and lure. It doesn't have to be larger than life in scale, or spew golden flakes, but something with a unique design that entices people to come sit down and bask in all its glory would be sufficient. 
Edmonton needs a signature fountain like this one in Moscow, Russia.

13. Eradicate minimum/maximum parking regulations/
It's tough to open up a business anywhere, but probably more so in a city's downtown, especially considering that most metros have regulations in place that force business owners to designate a certain amount of lots for off-street parking (parking on private property). This outdated rule is in place to accommodate people visiting or living in these areas and also to reduce parking spillover onto other properties, but it can hinder business, raise home prices, and create empty spaces. Why not eradicate these minimums in the downtown area, where most people are walking anyways, where public transit is at a peak, and where bicycle riding is now happily endorsed. Sure, we might have to put up a new parkade at some point, but I would settle for that if we change these zoning bylaws. The good news, however, is that the City of Edmonton is actually actively considering changing these rules, thus encouraging more walkable neighbourhoods and less emissions from vehicles in the area. 
No more parking lot restrictions and regulations opens up all sorts of new and exciting opportunities, like his Paris cafe.

14. More LED billboards/
I'd be the first to put my hand up if someone asked, "who's sick of ads?!" However, there's an exception when it comes to these daily annoyances that pop up everywhere we look, and that's LED billboards (in moderation, of course). Let's face it, these billboards can add a certain vibrancy and liveliness to a downtown square (i.e. New York, Las Vegas), in addition to more lighting as the sun falls. Fortunately, Ice District is already on this, putting up a number of the billboards in the area. I hope more will eventually freckle the downtown region, from Churchill Square to the corner of Jasper and 109th Street. 
Nothing excessive, but the safely and strategically placed LED billboard can really liven up a downtown corner.

15. Move Talus Dome downtown/
Even though I understand that there's a specific reason why the Talus Dome art installation is located where it is (near Fort Edmonton Park, just off the Quesnell Bridge along the Whitemud), I think we should relocate it to either Churchill Square or the Alberta Legislature grounds. I understand that a lot of folks don't care for the art piece or simply don't get it, but perhaps it has something to do with it's locale? Why not place the very expensive ($600,000) structure somewhere where it can be better appreciated and seen far more often! To be honest, there are plenty of places in the city where the Talus Dome would be better suited, but downtown seems like the most ideal spot. 
Imagine getting to enjoy the stunning Talus Dome in downtown Edmonton!

16. Add more public washrooms/ 
Installing a few more public toilets not unlike the transparent design on Whyte Avenue, which has garnered national attention for its unique open look, is beneficial to anyone who goes downtown. You shouldn't have to sneak into a Subway and ask the person at the counter for their nasty bathroom key to unlock the door in order to take a pee, and if you look like you could be homeless, they might not even let you in the door. Let's avoid street pissing and invite folks to relieve themselves in a clean, warm, and secure structure. Some ideal locations could be in real estate-hogging surface parking lots where foot traffic is prominent. 
This safe and convenient public bathroom on Whyte Avenue would be ideal for the downtown, too.

17. Free-for-all days/
For some folks, affording a trip to the Art Gallery or the Museum can be insurmountable, especially if they have children they want to bring along. When you accumulate the relatively small costs of public transit, downtown parking, and admission fees, you may have to forego a bite to eat on your e-town escapade. What if the first Tuesday of every month was free of cost for public transit, downtown parking, and entrance fees for the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Royal Alberta Museum, and the other area museums that I've proposed for this list (see #8 and #21)? People could spend their money on lunch or drinks or souvenirs rather than on just getting to and into these attractions. I mean, a family of five could easily end up spending anywhere between $30 and $60 for an excursion to the Gallery, and even more when they add in the new Royal Alberta Museum, and that doesn't even count food or drinks. That might not seem like a lot to some people, but for others it's simply not feasible. It would also encourage more people to take in the world-renowned arts and culture scene our city has to offer. And other businesses could jump on board by offering discounts on their products and services on these particular days, such as restaurants, pubs, or the Citadel Theatre. 
Some people simply cannot afford a night out at the AGA, but with free-for-all days that can change.

18. Redesign crosswalks/ 
Let's be real, compared to plenty of unique ideas around the world, our crosswalks are sorta boring (minus the Whyte Avenue rainbow crosswalks, of course). Crosswalks are not exactly meant to be appealing or artistic, but why not! Try Googling "cool" or "unique" crosswalks and you'll see that there are plenty of sweet concepts we could adopt for our own city, or even light some of them up in certain busy or dangerous intersections. 
Let's try putting some originality into our downtown crosswalks, like this zipper one in Baltimore, Maryland.

19. Embrace pot culture/
Whether you like it or not, recreational marijuana will be legalized in Canada on July 1, 2018. The City likely does not have everything in order when it comes to regulating the stuff, but we'll have to learn as we go. In the meantime, I suggest embracing Mary Jane by not forcing entrepreneurs to jump through hoops when it comes to opening up a marijuana-related business in the downtown area, whether it's selling weed or weed products, or it's some sort of café where you can smoke up (similar to a hookah lounge), or even secure vending machines allowing 24-hour availability. Maybe even designate a pocket park or two for smoking marijuana without the worry of being fined or even arrested. Heck, even an annual downtown festival to celebrate the legalization of weed, perhaps on April 20th? Let's not hinder these new and exciting opportunities that will only serve to benefit our economic stance, as a whole new industry gets ready to fill in vacant space. 
Recreational pot is a thriving business in states that legalize it...this is a busy pot shop in California.

20. More idiosyncratic benches/ 
I could've just suggested "more benches," but that would've been insipid, no? The mere mention of benches doesn't exactly get folks riled up, nor does suggesting we add more of them. But when I add the word "idiosyncratic," you might take notice, yes? By idiosyncratic I mean street benches that are individualized, designed by different artists from all around Alberta. I'd be more than happy with sitting my ass down on authentic and localized art piece any day of the week (except maybe in January).  
There are endless concepts for street benches!

21. Move City Hall into the Federal Building, and transform the current City Hall into the City of Edmonton Museum/
I had intended on doing an entire blog post dedicated to this concept alone, only to realize that the idea had already been proposed and analyzed. The current City Hall building seems like an ideal location, situated at Churchill Square and across the street from both the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Royal Alberta Museum. A City of Edmonton Museum could archive, showcase, and honour the storied history (albeit relatively brief) of our hometown, from its Indigenous origins to the oil boom to the days of Stanley Cups and West Edmonton Mall. I imagine a home for Oilers & other sports memorabilia, the Pulitzer Prize won by the Edmonton Journal & other publications in 1938, heirloom outfits from Klondike Days, an old High Level Bridge streetcar, or maybe even that old fire-breathing dragon from the movie theatre at West Edmonton Mall? 
Edmonton's City Hall...or the future site of the City of Edmonton Museum?!

22. Create a downtown app/ 
Imagine, if you will, an app you can download on your smartphone that - when turned on - will send you a notification whenever you walk by a specific restaurant that has a special going on, or a shop having a sale, or a theatre offering a 2-for-one deal! Maybe when you stroll past the Alberta Legislature you'll get a notification on your phone about a tour about to start, or a book store hosting a book signing in an hours time, or a pub that lets you know it's happy hour! This is a great way to introduce folks to a business they may never have checked out otherwise, and save them a little cash or time to boot.
You can set the app for only certain businesses or types of businesses if you like.

23. The Rainbow Bus Brigade/
I came up with this concept back in 2015, and it is one that would give Edmontonians and its visitors an ideal and sweet-ass mode of transportation from one Edmonton highlight to another in a fast, easy, inexpensive, and downright awesome manner! The Brigade would be centralized downtown in the Ice District region and would include five (or more) double decker buses that are City-owned and operated, each one painted a bright colour (red, green, yellow, purple, and blue) to distinguish them from one another. There could even be a mural painted on both sides of each bus, representing their respective destinations. For example, the red bus would have Fort Edmonton Park and the Valley Zoo on its sides, because those would be the only two spots that it would transport locals and visitors to and from, perhaps only during certain months of the year (May-September). Other buses would take folks STRAIGHT to other popular locales around the city, such as West Edmonton Mall, the Muttart, Heritage Festival, Commonwealth, and the airport. For more information about this concept click HERE
The Purple bus would take folks from Edmonton to the Muttart Conservatory and Whyte Avenue.

24. QR code the entire downtown/
What's a QR code, you ask? QR stands for Quick Response, and they are the trademark for those square "matrix" barcodes that you see everywhere these days. Now, what if the city offered a free app for your smartphones and tablets that you could use to scan QR codes that are placed all over downtown. They could be at bus stops and when scanned offer you information on all the buses that come to that particular location (schedules, GPS tracking, etc.), or at the entrance of a restaurant so you can scan to see their hours of operation, food specials, access their social media pages, or even download coupons for franchises. They could be placed at historic buildings to offer you a history of the structure and what it's used for now, or at parking garages so that you can pay for parking through your phone. You can scan QR codes on benches or light posts and get a cab or an Uber to that exact location, or scan one at a pub to see drink specials, online reviews, or hashtags related to the business. 
There are endless opportunities for QR codes around the downtown.

25. Invest in affordable housing/ 
Downtown living should be for everyone, not just for those who make more than the average Canadian. It would benefit everyone involved if the City invested in developing low rentals by either building new subsidized units, retrofitting vacant office towers, or re-purposing underused commercial space. Micro unit apartment buildings and tiny house infill would also be a clever way to solve affordable living in the downtown.  
Micro apartments or tiny house infill would be great ways for some Edmontonians to afford living downtown.

26. More neon/
Let's vastly expand the Neon Sign Museum to include all sides of both the Telus building and its neighbouring Mercer Building along 104th and 104th, and encourage other businesses in the downtown to go neon with their signage. Perhaps the city could even slightly subsidize those businesses that choose to nurture neon, because who doesn't love the buzzing hues from these mini marquees displayed over doorways and inside store windows. Stroll down central Nashville or Austin and tell me you don't agree! 
Edmonton's Neon Sign Museum is already a downtown highlight, but there's always room for more neon!

27. Designate a portion of Jasper Avenue as a music hub/
It wasn't too long ago that Calgary renamed their 9th Avenue "Music Mile," as a way to centralize its local live music scene. It's a great way to establish a part of the city as a lively hub for anyone who enjoys live music, and where they can hop from one place to another with ease. Edmonton's Jasper Avenue, between 105 and 109 Streets could be our own "Music Mile," designated as such to encourage more businesses in the area to focus on the local music scene, and also as the perfect grounds for a music festival or other similar events. Perhaps more coffee shops would open with open mics, and pubs with stages, or even recording studios. City bylaws can be tweaked to benefit these venues in this particular area, as well as the musicians who play there. We could transform that small vacant lot next to Knoxville's into a small outdoors venue for acoustic shows and album release parties, with a small stage, string lights, and some picnic tables engraved with our favourite song lyrics. The nearby walls could be turned into bright murals of our local music legends, such as Tommy Banks, k.d. lang, Corb Lund, and Clarence "Big" Miller. The Beaver Hills House Park just off of 105 Street could be used as one of a number of designated zones for buskers, with a communal piano and mini music events held there, and businesses along the strip could be encouraged to play tunes on outdoor speakers throughout the day and evening. During the summer, that stretch of Jasper Avenue could be used to host the Edmonton Music Awards, outdoor symphonies, or a giant weekend neighbourhood block party featuring local and national musicians. 
Jasper Avenue could be host to a summer weekend outdoor music bash like this one in Reading, Pennsylvania.

28. Heated sidewalks/
This sounds expensive, I know, but when you consider how much money Edmonton spends each year on snow removal, you might reconsider. Now, I'm not saying the entirety of downtown should have a system of electric radiant heating installed beneath the sidewalks, but perhaps in certain areas this could be pretty promising. Places like Norway, Sweden, and even Michigan have taken to this concept, giving way to clean, dry, and warm sidewalks during the winter months, preventing accidents and prompting more visitors to the area. Some of the most ideal locales for these heated sidewalks could be most (or all) of Jasper Avenue, in and around Churchill Square and Ice District, the Alberta Legislature grounds, MacEwan University, and 104th Street. 
Montreal is the latest city preparing to install heated sidewalks.

29. Redefine parking fines/
You're more likely to receive a parking ticket in the downtown more than anywhere else in the city, especially when parking is at its most scarce, during the weekdays or an event at Rogers Place. For some folks, just one ticket could really affect their budget and set them back for months, and so why not offer a second option. Anyone who is ticketed in the downtown region could either pay the fine in cash or pay it back in the way of volunteering at any of the downtown charitable organizations (Boyle Street, Mustard Seed, Hope Mission, etc.), for the equivalence of about $20 per hour. Anyone who chooses the latter would not only get to save their cash, but do some good in the process and perhaps gain a new sense of volunteerism that they never had before. It may even lead to folks going above and beyond their required hours to pay back their tickets and become life-long volunteers. 
Just a single volunteering experience can lead to a lifetime of giving.

30. River taxi network/ 
Bravo to the addition of the new funicular near the Hotel Macdonald, which allows anyone easy access from downtown to our impressive river valley, and vice versa. Let's enhance this opportunity by indulging in a river taxi network with its flagship port located at the southern tip of the funicular system, where folks will arrive and depart for other riverbank regions of the city, such as Fort Edmonton Park, Hawrelak Park, Rundle Park, and the Valley Zoo. These taxis could also collaborate with the Edmonton Queen in taking passengers to and from, as well as with festivals such as Heritage Days and the Dragon Boat Festival. 

A river taxi network is a unique way to get from one edge of the city to the next.

31. Encourage physical activity/ 
Introduce some permanent, communal workout/ callisthenics equipment at Abbey Glen Park on the corner of Jasper Avenue and 102 Street. Imagine working downtown and having the ability to walk over to an outdoors fitness park right in the heart of downtown for a mid-day workout! Sure, they'd be covered in snow for a portion of the colder months, but you'll be surprised to see folks still doing pull-ups or cycling on the spot even in the dead of winter. It's a great way to encourage physical health and an extra excuse to get out of the office for at least a little while. Smaller pocket fitness parks could also pop up in other under-utilized regions of the downtown as well. 
An outdoors fitness park would be a dream come true for some downtown workers.

32. The Fringe, Part II/
One of the most beloved festivals in "Festival City" is the Fringe, without a doubt. Every August, it invades Old Strathcona and continues to spread its reach throughout the city via BYOVs (Bring Your Own Venue), including venues in the downtown. Could there be space and demand for a sort of second flagship locale, like along 104th Street, Churchill Square, or the upcoming Ice District plaza? A kind of mini-Fringe that would take place simultaneously during the original Fringe in Strathcona, with outdoor performances, food trucks, live music, and a cluster of nearby venues to host Fringe shows. The International Fringe Theatre Festival is ever-expanding and began to outgrow the Strathcona area years ago, and a secondary hub could allow it to spread its wings even further, as well as allow a host of newcomers to partake. 
The upcoming Ice District plaza is one possibility for hosting a "Fringe II."

33. Make 104th Street even more pedestrian friendly/ 
Situated between Jasper and 104 Avenues, 104 Street is one of my favourite spots to loiter in all of Edmonton, what with its cool shops and eateries, beautiful streetscape, and the ever-growing Neon Sign Museum. However, there's always room for improvement, namely in closing the entire strip down to traffic (with a few exceptions, such as delivery trucks) all year long. Cobblestone the whole of it, criss-cross some string lights throughout, extend the patios, and maybe toss in a few more benches and giant plotted plants, and voilà! We already close it down during summer weekends for the farmers' market, so why not try it 365 days a year! 
104th Street's summertime City Market.

34. Rejuvenate Chinatown/
I know, I know, this has been something locals have been demanding for years now and the city is finally looking into actually revitalizing our rather neglected Chinatown. I don't exactly know the extent of their plans and ideas for the area, but I think first and foremost we need to clean it up! Chinatown could also use more colour, more art, more traditional Chinese designs and architecture...overall, more TLC! Let's transfer the old Harbin Gate to 97 Street and 105 Avenue (near the HSBC branch), let's install more trees and benches along the main strip, and let's turn that small empty lot kitty-corner from the Hull Block into a Chinese garden. Let's criss-cross string lights and Chinese lanterns down the entire 97 Street, and invite local restaurants to establish sidewalk patios. Some of the buildings might simply have to be torn down and replaced, but I'm okay with that, as most of the structures in the district offer no real tribute to traditional Chinese architecture. And once we've made the place more pedestrian-friendly, let's encourage more festivals in Chinatown where we can celebrate the culture with pride. Let's put the "China" back in "Chinatown"!
Edmonton's Chinatown will never be San Francisco's Chinatown, but it can be just as great one day!

35. Revitalize City Centre Mall/ 
Let's be honest, although City Centre Mall in the heart of downtown Edmonton is convenient and a great shopping destination for area residents and workers, it is somewhat of a unwelcoming eyesore from the outside. It's cold and blank facade is uninviting and certainly does not do the redesigned interior justice, so why not remove all that beige concrete and mirrored glass and replace it with large, bright windows and retail space that you can just walk into from the street with several street-level (and second storey) patios along the perimeter. Let's give this centre some authentic character that is somehow signature to our hometown.
Something like this mall in Cairo, Egypt is a great example of a more inviting downtown shopping experience.

36. A 24-hour presence/ 
There are only a handful of businesses in the downtown area that are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, such as a Mac's or 7-11 store. Now, I know Edmonton's not exactly New York or Vegas, but there are plenty of folks who could benefit from 24-hour convenience in not just 7-11's, but coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants, movie theatres, cabarets, dancehalls, a live performance theatre or casino, hookah or pot cafés, maybe public transit, or even more all-night summer festivals like Nuit Blanche. This could encourage more downtown living, new business opportunities, and safer late night streets. An increased late night/ early morning police presence would also promote such a concept and breed a new attitude of safety and activity in a region that could use it. 
More all-night festivals during the summer would be an asset for downtown Edmonton.

37. Boardwalk Public Market/ 
How about we relocate Centre High School somewhere near MacEwan and NorQuest (to create a sort of student hub; see #4), and transform the building in which it is currently housed into a permanent public market similar to Pike Place Market in Seattle. Imagine the melding of a farmers' market, flea market, antique mall, and a fresh food and live music venue, and you have a place where Edmontians and visitors would fall in love with. The four-storey brick structure along the Boardwalk on 102 Avenue (between 103 & 104 Streets) could include a fresh foods grocery market, micro-brewery, hometown coffee shops and bakeries, ethnic food vendors, an artists' studio, an area for weekend artisans to sell their goods, and a hostel space. Imagine local musicians strumming their guitars and serenading passersby, as artists shape their canvas' as part of a program that offers workshops at the market. Picture an outdoor cafe, a craft beer gardens, souvenir kiosks, used & new book stores, a rooftop community garden and observatory, a gallery for local artists, art exhibits, and retro arcade games all under the light of a huge neon sign welcoming one and all to what could be called Boardwalk Public Market. 
Centre High in downtown Edmonton (left), and Seattle's Pike Place Market (right).

38. More access points to the river valley/ 
You'll often hear that Edmonton's most prized possession is its river valley, although in that same breath you might be privy to a few complaints about how that green space is difficult to access from the downtown. The city has already spent millions on a beautiful new funicular that does just that, but there's still an abundance of downtown nodes that can be utilized to connect the area with the river valley as a network, in the form of additional staircases and sidewalks, Segway and bicycle lifts, or perhaps another funicular or two. Then, once these access points have been built, let's make it even more worthwhile to actually use them, by encouraging specific growth in specific areas of the river valley so as not to disturb its natural lure or upset locals who do not want to see the valley overly commercialized (or commercialized at all, for that matter). This could be carefully done with the creation of unique coffee shops or eateries, or a shop where you can rent canoes in the summer or snowshoes in the winter. 
The new funicular is a great example of an access point from downtown to the river valley, but we can do so much more!

39. Positive message engravings/
The next time you walk across the High Level Bridge look down and you'll notice something engraved in the sidewalks, positive messages of hope and compassion like "as I walk this bridge I see lights of hope." This is a powerful concept that could be expanded to the downtown, with messages engraved on its sidewalks, tree trunks, public benches, light posts, trash cans, mailboxes, bus stops, and on the fronts and sides of buildings. Some ideas for inspiring or encouraging messages could be song lyrics, snippets from poems or books, the suicide hotline, or random messages like: "open a door for someone today," "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right," "life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it," "strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value," "try something new today," or "I would rather die of passion than of boredom." Sometimes this is all it takes for someone to have a breakthrough in their own life.
One of the messages along the High Level: "get hungry for laughter, fatten happiness."

40. Encourage unique storefronts/
Nobody wants to skip to my lou down a street with bare beige walls, barred up windows, or monotonous signage, am I right?! Our eyes are attracted to bright colours, bold designs, vibrant canopies, plantlife, lighting, and window displays that have put in the extra effort to pull you in. I'd love to see if the city could somehow subsidize (like they did on Alberta Avenue) businesses who want to take the initiative to either clean up or redesign their storefronts by giving them a new paint job, adding more lighting or plants, or changing their signs to something more appealing or with some pizazz! Perhaps add a sandwich board with coloured chalk scribbles, a small two-seat table for anyone walking past, outdoor speakers, or maybe even an entire sidewalk patio for its patrons. 
Welcoming storefronts like these ones on Paris can increase foot traffic in the downtown.

41. Pedway murals/
Edmonton's downtown pedway system is rather impressive, allowing residents to get from one point downtown to nearly anywhere else without having to step foot outside. However, some of these pedways can seem dreary or desolate, or even so monotonous that you have no idea as to where you are in the system. Why not turn the walls of these below-and-above-ground pedways into civic canvases, where art students and local artists can be commissioned to create beautiful murals throughout the halls below our feet and above our heads. Art is an important part of our lives, and where better to experience it than in the depths of our downtown. 
Imagine spending your commute from one downtown locale to another within a pedway like this one in Saint John, New Brunswick.

42. Little Europe/
Hear me out! We've all heard of Chinatown, Little Italy, and Little India, but not so much of Little Europe. This may be the most costly and unlikely part of this list, but the biggest ideas are always the most rewarding. I propose we take a look at transforming 101 Street between 105 and 108 Avenues (or beyond) - which is full of vacant lots and decrepit and outdated buildings - into Little Europe! Imagine European-esque architecture for apartment suites, inns and hotels, bistros, bakeries, cafés, book stores, and pubs sharing the street with London-styled phone booths and Paris-styled light posts. The buildings can be erected to allow enough space for extra wide sidewalks and patios serving French wines, Greek cuisine, and German pub fare, as cars drive alongside an Italian-styled streetcar down the cobblestone roads. If vino or Brätwurst isn't your thing, then maybe you can check out a Swedish rock band while sipping on a Guinness or a Stella instead, or drop by during the summer months for Oktoberfest, the St. Patrick's Day Parade, or one of the ongoing Euro-centric festivals.
If you can't afford a cross-country trip across Europe, Little Europe might be the next best thing!

43. Resurrect the Paramount Theatre on Jasper Avenue/
This 1,750-seat movie house first opened in 1952 as the largest in the Prairies at the time, and was shut down in 2003 after it had been taken over by Famous Players. A few years back, there were plans to tear it down and put up a condo tower, but the theatre hasn't budged since. Instead, it has been used as a haunted house during the Halloween season. I can only hope some local billionaire investor will step in and renovate the 66-year-old structure and relaunch it as a modern movie theatre, with a bright and bold marquee inviting passersby to see local productions, indie films, documentary features, and the occasional blockbuster. Toss in a lobby beer stand that serves local brews and you can't go wrong!
Jasper Avenue's vacant Paramount Theatre.

44. Improve bicycle safety and convenience/ 
Good on City Council for introducing a bike lane network to our downtown, and good on them for making sure the network expands. But, we can do more! Other than the aforementioned bicycle-sharing system (see #5), there are more ways we can improve things for local cyclists who want to come downtown, such as timing certain traffic lights to the speed of cyclists, adding more safe & secure bike parking, hosting bike events, and perhaps even creating so-called "bike boulevards." 
Bicycle parking can not only be convenient but also a piece of art, like this installation in Palo Alto, California.

45. Heated bus stops/
How has this not happened yet! Before I drove to work, I used to take a bus...in the worst of winter days, this was torturous (okay, I'm being dramatic, but still!), enough to make me dread ever having to go out during the coldest of days; because it meant having to wait for my bus in a freezing box we call bus shelters, and that's if the bus stop actually had a shelter. Imagine, if you will, HEATED bus stops! I know that the first thing you might say is that homeless folks might use them to sleep in, but that's not such a problem if #1 on this list gets approved. These shelters would have a button that you would have to push as soon as you entered, turning on the heated vents for 5-10 minutes at a time, before you would have to push it again. As for heating bills, they would be extinct if the shelters came affixed with rooftop solar panels that could run the entire shelter year-round. Each shelter could also come with a panic button for emergencies, and a camera for both safety concerns and to deter vandalism and other crimes at the stops. I know these would be expensive to produce and install, but perhaps a few at a time, until the entire city is covered.

Winnipeg has them, so why can't we?

46. Build the Quarters/
We're all aware of Ice District and its anchor Rogers Place, but not everyone is familiar with the 40-acre Quarters District on the eastern edge of the downtown. It's a hefty project that seems to be in limbo, even after the opening of the Hyatt Place Hotel about a block or two from the Shaw Conference Centre. If the ideas that initially spurred the development of the Quarters all came to fruition, then we'd have an economic snowball effect not unlike that of Ice District. Unfortunately, some of those projects have not panned out just yet or have hit a snag. There are plenty of people and businesses patiently waiting with bated breath for the resurrection of the excitement over the Quarters, which includes LRT expansion, street-level shops and restaurants, a river valley observation deck, and multiple residential and commercial towers.
One of the ambitious projects for Edmonton's downtown was this tower cluster.

47. More trees, please/
We could all stand to use more green in our lives, and I'm not talking about money or pot (althoughhhhhh...). Trees are beautiful, inspiring, and enticing, even necessary for sustaining life, and so why not plant more of them in an area that could use them! There is an abundance of concrete real estate and vehicle emissions in the downtown area, and so let's bring in more trees to counter that reality. At night, they could be lit up with string lights hugging the trunks and branches of regional and maybe certain foreign species of trees, and during the summer months will be home for chirping birds as you sit in their shade with your copy of Fire and Fury
Trees bring a sense of calm and comfort to residents, like those along this Minneapolis street.

48. Transform the back alleys/
When I went to Peru in 2012 one of my favourite memories was walking down a busy street in Lima's Miraflores district, and noticing that they had utilized various alleyways by putting up micro shops, pubs, and restaurants, like these hidden - but not really - holes in the wall. Edmonton's downtown has plenty of potential in plenty of its own alleyways and back alleys, where innovative and imaginative entrepreneurs could take advantage of the space and create something special (Whyte Avenue recently began doing just that). I'd love to see some of our alleys used for pop-up, seasonal, or even permanent art galleries, acoustic concerts, free wi-fi lounging, or venues for micro pubs and cafés. It would not only make these spaces safer, but also encourage more business opportunities and organic foot traffic to the area, and serve as a stepping stone for future entrepreneurs who can't necessarily afford to rent a large room or building for their new business pursuits. As for bathrooms, see #16. 
Wouldn't you rather see out alleyways and back alleys utilized like this L.A. one instead?

49. Promote more "cubbyhole" businesses/ 
Speaking of micro shops, it can only benefit the city's downtown to invest in more development specifically directed towards "cubbyhole" businesses. By this I mean those tiny spaces of commercial real estate that are prominent in enormous world cities like Tokyo and New York. We're no Tokyo or New York, but that doesn't mean we can't act like it by offering entrepreneurs the option to open these sort of micro cafés, restaurants, bakeries, pubs, and shops that allow for cheaper rents for businesses that don't need the excess space. It adds a certain vibrancy to the streetscapes and allows more options for residents and downtown visitors as well. People love a sense of mystery and coziness to their streets, so why not create those feelings and allow passersby the ability to get a little lost.
The Coffee Bureau (Jasper Avenue & 105 Street) is a great example of a "cubbyhole" shop in downtown Edmonton.

50. Downtown gondola system/
This is the most preposterous idea of them all, but one worth considering and one I had hinted at in an article from a few years back. Before you roll your eyes and return to reading memes on Facebook, listen up! A gondola system in the downtown could not only draw in tourism and increase downtown activity, but it would be a downright awesome way of getting from one corner of the downtown to another (for a fee, of course). I picture two tracks for the entire downtown grid, including one that would cross the North Saskatchewan. The first one would go in a giant loop starting with a station at the corner of Stony Plain Road and 124 Street, then head onto Jasper Avenue and all the way to 97 Street and then up to 104 Avenue, and all the way back to 124 Street, with additional stations situated at the small park in front of the Hotel Macdonald (walking distance to the funicular) and another on top of the 97 Street Bridge (near the new museum and Chinatown). There would also be a station on the corner of 109 Street and 104 Avenue (at MacEwan University) where you can continue on to 124 Street or get on the second track, which would take commuters straight down 109th all the way across the river to the Garneau district and just off Whyte Avenue, with one stop in between Jasper and 100 Avenues. Well?!
It would be something special to have a gondola system transporting folks around the downtown and across the river.


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