This is the last weekend to Experience Jasper Avenue. The pilot project, which saw Edmonton's main street, from 109 Street to 124 Street, livened up with colourful murals, picnic tables, potted trees and even some ping pong tables, draws to a close.
Though controversial, the Experience Jasper Avenue design demo is one of the most elaborate consultation processes undertaken by the City of Edmonton, as part of an effort to reach as many people as possible.
In addition to spending two years developing the conceptual redvelopment design through various open houses and stakeholder conversations, the city decided to give Edmontonians the opportunity to experience the pedestrian-friendly plan prior to presenting it to council for budget consideration this summer.
"You can choose to attend an open house," says Jason Meliefste, branch manager of infrastructure planning and design at the city. "But if you're a commuter on a roadway you have no choice but to be engaged, because it's happening right in front of you. It's quite an aggressive approach, but I think we were able to get a lot more reaction."
The stretch of Jasper between 109 and 124 streets is slated for full reconstruction in 2019. Originally presented as a simple like-for-like replacement project, city council recognized the opportunity to transform the corridor into a true main street — one that balances the needs of the community, commuters, businesses and visitors.
Oliver is one of Edmonton's most densely populated neighbourhoods, with more than 18,000 people living along a 15-block stretch on either side of Jasper Avenue. The seven-lane arterial also sees an average of more than 30,000 vehicles on any given weekday.
The pilot project attempted to try to balance the needs of the residents and the traffic. Widening the sidewalks and adding curb extensions are meant to calm traffic and address pedestrian safety concerns, while only tacking on an additional 45 seconds to motorists' commute, while the addition of trees, benches and "flex space" — which can be used for additional patio seating or parking — serves to make the street more appealing to both residents and visitors.
The subject of much grumbling on social media, the Experience Jasper Avenue demo was criticized for the inconvenience to drivers and the lack of public utilization of the new amenities.
Who at the city thinks to themselves: "Hey, you know where people will love to hang out? On this arterial road!"— Steven Dollansky (@StevenDollansky) August 13, 2017
"Not everything you'd see is a pure representation of what would be designed," says Meliefste of the yellow bollards and the light metal fencing that were the subject of much ridicule. "The idea was that they were supposed to visually identify a future curb alignment. We would look at trying to build as much permanent curb as possible."
As for the underutilization, Meliefste says it's important to remember that to many people, Jasper Avenue is home.
"There are certain areas of the city that are underserved in terms of available public land and public open space," he says. "Often the only way you have to meet and greet your neighbours and your local businesses is using those roadways."
Not everything you'd see is a pure representation of what would be designed
This Saturday, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Edmonton General (11111 Jasper Avenue), marks the last public event hosted during the demo. In addition to hosting family-friendly activities, the wrap-up event serves as an opportunity for the city to collect more feedback about the project. This feedback will inform the next steps of the Jasper Avenue redevelopment plan.
So far, there are two main lessons learned: the city will ensure that it creates an environment where trees can thrive along Jasper Avenue; it will also maintain the east-bound right-turn lane at the intersection of Jasper Avenue and 109 Street.
Other themes will be presented to council in a report in January.
If you would like to provide feedback on the Experience Jasper design demo, a survey can be found here.