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Councillors confirm Edmonton business alleys will be upgraded

April 28, 2016: It doesn't matter where you live in Edmonton, you'll still be on the hook for back alley repairs thanks to a decision made at City Hall on Wednesday. Shallima Maharaj reports.

Council’s executive committee has opted to move the alleyways in Edmonton’s business districts closer to the front of the line when it comes to upgraded roadwork.

However, they decided in Monday’s meeting to take the slower of two options, having the work done by 2030 over two construction cycles instead of just one by 2026.

“The infrastructure is in varying condition in some of those areas but all of it could use an upgrade and it will now get handled in higher priority relative to residential neighborhoods,” Mayor Don Iveson told reporters.

Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) along Jasper, Whyte and Alberta avenues, as well as 124 Street, affect approximately 4,500 businesses and their back alleys are in too rough shape to accommodate truck deliveries and pedestrian commercial activity, according to the report that drove the committee debate.

Iveson said they chose to pick the slower of the two options.

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“We chose to do it at a prudent pace that wasn’t going to create some potential waste or inefficient allocation of resources or (be done) in too much of a hurry.

“But we’re definitely accelerating the work that we’re going to be doing where the infrastructure is, quite frankly, not up to what it should be for those public-facing areas.”

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READ MORE: Edmonton will take more aggressive approach to fix crumbling alleyways

For Cherie Klassen, of the Old Strathcona Business Association, it’s too early to tell what executive committee’s decision means.

“We’ve talked about this at the alley renewal committee. The basic surface fees for paving and basic lighting upgrades (could be paid for by the city) and then with the opportunity for private industry and the BIA to come in to do further enhancements to make the public realm more interesting.”

“I think if we were expected to do that on all of our main streets that wouldn’t be feasible for all of us, so I can see that my fellow colleagues wouldn’t want me committing to that.

“But we have to have a better understanding of what that might look like.”

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READ MORE: Edmonton back alley repair could lead to 1.27% tax increase

Thirteen BIAs are registered with the city.

Klassen is hopeful that certain alleys are upgraded where they’ll have more pedestrian activity, as well as increased vehicle use as trucks make more deliveries.

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“Some of these alleys probably need to be redefined, because they’re not alleys anymore,” she said.

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“I think the Strathcona example — they’re calling it a back street. I call them secondary main streets, but I think they do have to be redefined because they’re used differently.”

Councillor Scott McKeen expressed his frustration at the tentative list, because Chinatown is not on it.

“They have been nuanced out of the program,” said McKeen. “Those streets, to my eye at least, are really in awful condition.”

He said the McCauley neighborhood, on average, scored higher, however Chinatown has specific alley problems in the business district.

More work will be done on the file before a work plan is presented to city council for 2023-2026 and 2027-2030, where priorities based on need and alleyway condition will set the schedule. Another report will be before council in the new year.

Watch below (July 2): Vinesh Pratap takes a look at how Edmonton is seeing more and more back alley businesses.

Growth of back alley businesses continues in Edmonton
Growth of back alley businesses continues in Edmonton