Edmonton

City looking at turning 102nd Avenue downtown into pedestrian-focused space

City council will hear recommendations at the end of this month on banning vehicles on the stretch of street along102nd Avenue, from 99th Street to 103rd Street.  

'This is what we want for the future of our downtown,' says councillor

Stephen Raitz, chair of Paths for People, said he hopes the city turns the avenue into a pathway pedestrians and cyclists can use. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

The City of Edmonton is considering turning a chunk of 102nd Avenue downtown into a pedestrian-focused corridor.

The possibility of banning vehicles on the stretch of 102nd Avenue, from 99th Street to 103rd Street, is discussed in a new city report.

That portion of 102nd Avenue has been closed for Valley Line LRT construction, but the current plan is to eventually reopen one lane to eastbound vehicle traffic.

One community group hopes the space could become a space for walking, chairs and tables, and possibly some greenery.

Paths for People said it wants the city to consider only allowing foot and bike traffic.

"Edmontonians say time and time again that they really want a vibrant downtown," said Paths for People chair Stephen Raitz. 

"They want a downtown that's full of life and we need spaces to provide that kind of vitality. And 102nd Avenue can be that kind of vital space if we open up the space to people and let people spill into it."

An example of what Paths for People said they imagine the avenue could look like if it restricted vehicles. (Submitted by Paths for People)

The report outlines some ideas for the area and the challenges kicking out cars could create. 

If the road is closed to vehicles, it would create dead-ends at 102nd Street and 100A Street/Rice Howard Way

The city would need to consider intersection crossings along the route to discourage jaywalking on the LRT tracks or in bike lanes.

If the city creates a pedestrian corridor, the report says upward of 600 vehicles would be diverted during peak periods. 

However, with the lane already closed for LRT construction, it's unclear whether permanently blocking it off would cause any more traffic than downtown has already experienced.

"If we left it as a car space, it wouldn't actually provide that many benefits because it is just a narrow one-way street," argued Raitz.

'The future of our downtown': councillor

Ward O-day'min Coun.  Anne Stevenson said changing the space could attract more people to downtown businesses. 

"We've seen great success on 104th Street in terms of the patios and the vibrancy that can happen there when the street gets closed down," she said. 

"It's really about extending that further throughout the downtown. I think [102nd Avenue] acts as a great spine to connect one to Fourth Street, Rice Howard Way, Churchill Square. You can really create that pedestrian-centric heart of our downtown."

Stevenson said she believes the downtown core is lacking pedestrian-friendly and green spaces. 

"This is what we want for the future of our downtown," she said.

"We want to be a people place. We want it to be welcoming, open, vibrant and this type of approach really, really achieves that."

City council will discuss the report later this month.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi is a CBC reporter based in Edmonton. She worked in newsrooms in Toronto, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Yellowknife before joining CBC North in 2017.

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