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Construction in Old Strathcona coincides with busy festival season

WATCH ABOVE: One of the busiest spots in Edmonton for festivals this summer is Old Strathcona. As Julia Wong reports, the neighbourhood is also undergoing some major construction this summer and that has some wondering what impact it may have on the events.

Festival season in Edmonton is swinging into high gear, but the ease of getting around could potentially be hampered by construction in one of the city’s biggest event hubs.

Neighbourhood renewal is underway in Old Strathcona from Whyte Avenue to Saskatchewan Drive and 101 Street to 107 Street, where the city is reconstructing roads, sidewalks and street lights. The three-year project will wrap up in 2021.

However, that area of Old Strathcona is typically where many festivalgoers park before going to events, such as the Whyte Avenue Art Walk and Edmonton International Street Performers Festival. Both festivals kick off on Friday.

READ MORE: Flurry of festivals take over Edmonton’s Old Strathcona this weekend

Rachel Baldwin drives to work in the Whyte Avenue area and said dealing with construction has been “a pain.”

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“I’ve come down [the street] and they haven’t said at the beginning of the street that it’s closed. I’ve had to do an illegal U-turn, drive down the wrong way on the road and basically leave the way I came in,” she said.

“I don’t know if I was allowed to do it but there was no other way around it.”

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Krysta Martell lives in Old Strathcona and said it has been “frustrating” to navigate the neighbourhood.

“Sometimes with them doing the sidewalks, for instance, we only have so much room to move,” she said.

“It’s quite tricky because there’s a lot of one way streets, a lot of streets where you can only go left, only go right so you have to go further than what you want and then come back and then go around.”

READ MORE: The Works Art and Design kicks off Edmonton’s summer festival season

Both women said they expect festival attendance to be impacted by the construction they are experiencing in the neighbourhood.

“I don’t really know what they’re going to do to be totally honest. I think it’s going to be very frustrating for people. I’m just glad I live in the area so I don’t have to drive,” Martell said.

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“I think it’ll impact it horrendously,” Baldwin said. “I think a lot of people know where to park residential for free … so I do think it’s going to hit it, majorly.”

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Shelley Switzer, artistic producer for the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival, said people should read up on the construction and closures before heading to Old Strathcona.

“We’re always worried about numbers but, again, I think if people just take a few minutes to really think about it, plan ahead, there’s a number of paid parking lots that are very reasonable,” she said.

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Kim Fjordbotten, of the Whyte Avenue Art Walk, said the layout of the festival is convenient and it will be easy for people to get around.

“Old Strathcona can handle it. It’s a big space,” she said.

“These things are scheduled on a 20-year basis so when your turn is up, your turn is up.”

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Steve Schmidt, supervisor for of the neighbourhood reconstruction, acknowledges there is a lot of work taking place in Old Strathcona.

“We accommodate pedestrians on one side of the road at all points in time. It can be an inconvenience but we try to do our best just to make sure people are aware and understanding of the scope of the work,” he said.

READ MORE: In Photos: Edmonton’s Sand on Whyte Festival takes over Old Strathcona

Schmidt said the city has been working with the festivals throughout the planning stages of the reconstruction. Global News asked whether the construction could affect festival attendance.

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“We are working with the festivals to make sure they’re moving forward and try to limit the inconvenience as best we can throughout the season here,” he said.

“There are certainly going to be some restrictions in the area so we do encourage people to…either take public transit or just find other areas of the neighbourhood they can be parking in to walk over to the festivals from there.”

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More information about traffic disruptions and road closures, can be found here.