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Edmonton planners think about moving downtown festivals long-term

The 2018 Taste of Edmonton festival will be held at the Federal Building plaza.
The 2018 Taste of Edmonton festival will be held at the Federal Building plaza. Fletcher Kent, Global News

The door has been opened to moving some of Edmonton’s key festivals to other downtown locations. Nothing is imminent, however, the project lead for the Downtown Public Places study the city is conducting over the next four weeks with open houses and online surveys confirms he’ll be broaching the idea with both the province and festival leaders later this week.

“That’s definitely the consideration,” Paul Giang said at Wednesday’s open house in the Edmonton Tower.

Festivals were forced out of Churchill Square for 2018 because the Valley Line LRT project needs 20 consecutive months of uninterrupted construction in the square. Taste of Edmonton, for example, is setting up north of the legislature after working out logistics with Minister Brian Mason and his staff.

READ MORE: Taste of Edmonton to hold 2018 festival at Federal Building plaza

Giang confirmed moving there for good is something they’re mulling over.

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“We are hoping to talk to the province in this project. We met with them to have an initial discussion but it could be something that comes out of that. The festivals that are already stationed there is a good start. Maybe it will help to think about those questions in the future.

“Perhaps we need to move it elsewhere,” Giang said. “It could be perhaps 108 Street, for instance. 108 Street has been recently redone. It could be something similar to the farmers market (Saturdays on 104 Street) where they close the street for that portion. If it’s done correctly without impacts to the remaining downtown network in terms of getting around, it could be successful. But we have to look at those options through the experience of this summer.”

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Giang said the current plan is to have Taste of Edmonton return to Churchill Square in 2019.

However, he said there are non-festival elements the city has to consider as well.

“There is non-festival programming that is also important to think about. People playing ping-pong, checkers, or informal seating. When a festival happens, those activities do get moved but we have to figure out how to find that kind of programming for other parks as well.”

Taste of Edmonton general manager Paul Lucas said the festival has grown consistently over the last four or five years that they have looked around for other places to set up.

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“We need a place to grow,” he said, adding they’ve ruled out Capital Boulevard south from MacEwan University because of the large number of parkades that have access to 108 Street.

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The Downtown Public Places Plan, is looking at a number of parks that will be built in several areas of the downtown, including Ice District, the government precinct, the warehouse district and the Quarters.

It has an online survey that runs through March 27 that is seeking input on design, and what amenities you’d like to see, Giang said.

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“What does that look like from a bigger picture? Do we talk about, do these facilities need washrooms for families to change their babies, for instance? How do people walk around with strollers? Those are important questions we need to address at the high level stage until waiting until the very last minute.”

Giang said public safety is also something the city wants to gauge.

“Yeah, definitely lighting, most considerations for any conflicts between hostile people. Definitely we need to think about recent events,” Giang said, referencing the police incident outside the Edmonton Eskimos game on Sept. 30.

“We need to think about that because if we want a vibrant downtown we need to also think about that safety angle as well.”

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The city is also in the early stages of land acquisition for downtown parks. A parcel of land near the Boston Pizza on 106 Street is still being put together, while a playground and park is in the early stages of being assembled next door to McKay Avenue School on 99 Street between 104 and 105 streets.