The Helm clothing store opened its flagship location on 103 Street in downtown Edmonton this summer.
It’s a block from its former home on 104 Street, where it spent a decade.
“We love the downtown core — we love our city,” owner Chad Helm said.
“We did have opportunities to go leave the core and we chose to stay.”
Helm and some of his neighbours have concerns about the area right now.
“It’s no secret that we’ve been going through some struggles downtown when it comes to safety, cleanliness and overall recovery from what we’ve just experienced through the pandemic,” Helm said.
“Bricks through windows are very common. You don’t hear about it every day, but it is a common thing.”
Concerned community members, like Helm, want downtown to succeed.
Four months ago he joined the Downtown Recovery Coalition (DRC) — a 25-person steering committee committed to revitalizing the area.
The group’s focus is on cleanliness and infrastructure, safety and security, as well as transformational projects.
The committee wants downtown to be a priority for all levels of government, and outlines short-, medium- and long-term goals.
“In the short-term, we’re looking for an increased presence of beat cops in our downtown streets. We’re looking for the city to prioritize sidewalk washing, power washing, garbage pickup.
“We’re looking for private developers to ensure that their properties are well maintained, that construction hoarding is safe and secure,” DRC co-chair Alexandra Hryciw said.
“At this stage, honestly, any investments into Edmonton would be really welcomed.”
A seven-page letter sent to the group by the mayor on Wednesday noted over the past few years the city has invested close to $300 millions to support vibrancy, safety and well-being in downtown and Chinatown.
The letter also said at 40 official meetings have taken place between the mayors office, Alberta government representatives and community organizations to talk about downtown safety and recovery.
“While we work together to tackle these challenges, we must also continue to highlight the good news stories that are emerging from our collective efforts on downtown recovery and revitalization,” part of the letter reads.
“It is important that as leaders, we do not always focus solely on challenges but also recognize the wonderful work being done by businesses, community organizations and government partners.”
Edmonton Downtown Business Association executive director Puneeta McBryan said the situation downtown has improved since the depths of the pandemic.
“The difference is that we can’t blame it on COVID anymore,” McBryan said.
“This is the new normal — so what does that mean for city service levels for EPS service levels, for provincial investment and social services — all these issues we’re talking about — we’re not just talking about COVID recovery anymore.”
McBryan also noted crisis diversion teams need to be scaled up and their response times improved.
Ultimately, the coalition wants to keep the conversations going and hopefully see some tangible change downtown.
“We just want to be proud of our city and we want it to become a vibrant hotbed for all things fun and exciting,” Helm said.
More information on the DRC and its list of actions can be found online.