Edmonton is home to many unique neighbourhoods. Strathearn is one.
The community in south central Edmonton traces its history back to the mid-1880s and the River Lots 21 and 23 that grew into what is now home to more than 2,600 people.
Its community league’s “History” page says Strathearn is “a continual work in progress” that “has seen an amazing amount of change and is about to experience its next evolution over the next decade.”
The Valley Line Southeast LRT will be a big part of that evolution. Of late, Strathearn has hosted a big part of Valley Line Southeast construction. As all long-term hosts know, guests have an impact.
In April 2019, TransEd (the consortium contracted to build and operate the Valley Line Southeast) consulted with the Strathearn community and the City of Edmonton and then closed 95 Avenue from 85 Street to Connors Road to accelerate construction. The closure took effect on April 28, 2019, and is scheduled to last until the end of 2019. When the area re-opens, roads and sidewalks in the area will be complete
One of the obvious challenges was how navigate around the closure. Srathearn and the LRT team came together.
The Strathearn Community League, neighbourhood churches, businesses, property owners and residents met with the Valley Line project team to find solutions.
Wayfinding signage was developed to help customers get to the businesses on and around 95 Avenue. The TransEd-run “Strathearn Shuttle” now makes its way through the neighbourhood daily, connecting detoured bus passengers with their destinations. Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians follow new signs to help them around construction.
In the upheaval, Strathearn perseveres.
Juniper Cafe & Bistro on 95 Avenue is one of the businesses operating in the midst of construction. Co-owner Kenny Dario admits to feeling the effects of construction fatigue.
“We’re grateful to the customers who make it through all of this,” Dario said. “I personally thank them when they come in.” Dario said the cafe will continue to “do what we do,” adjusting and adapting to life in the heart of a construction project.
2019 was an opportunity for Strathearn to display their devotion to keeping traditions alive, while embracing the evolution taking place.
The summer officially began in Strathearn on June 27 with the 9th edition of the Green Shack Shaker. The community league hosts The Shaker to mark the end of the school year. This year’s edition included free hot dogs and treats, face painting, storytime, a theatre performance and a live band later in the evening.
And, this year, The Shaker included the Valley Line Southeast project team.
TransEd Valley Line staff accepted the community’s invitation and were on hand to answer questions give tours of the construction area and help with the hot dogs.
Construction crews continued work on 95 Avenue. By the end of July a piece of 95 Avenue (the westbound lane between 85 and 87 Streets) was ready to re-open. This offered new options to get around the north side of the neighbourhood, relieving some of the increased pressure on Strathearn Drive.
On July 27, The Picnic on the Pavement, hosted by TransEd, celebrated the re-opening. More than 300 people came out to the event. They played games, enjoyed chicken and pizza from local businesses and took construction site tours.
The Shaker and the Picnic were opportunities for good questions and helpful feedback about the Valley Line. Strathearn residents expressed sympathy for their neighbours whose houses border the construction zone. They talked about challenges navigating a full-fledged construction zone. They gave kudos to friendly and helpful flaggers and construction workers. Some residents talked about their excitement, looking forward to a time when the Valley Line is operational, allowing them to get to appointments in Bonnie Doon, meetings downtown or to visit friends in Mill Woods.
As the summer wound down, the Strathearn Community League geared up for one of its proudest new traditions: the annual Art Walk.
Back in year 1 in 2012, some 17 artists featured their work. This year, 270 artists and 7,000 people were on hand. There were musicians, food vendors and a beer garden. A local event had evolved into a city festival.
Valley Line LRT construction and street closures in Strathearn meant changes—(park & rides with shuttles, nearby park and walk areas—to how people got to the Art Walk. Amid all the change, it worked out.
Construction noise and disruption will continue into the fall as crews race against the arrival of winter. It can be a bit difficult now to see how the Valley Line Southeast will become an integral part of the community and the bigger Edmonton being built and connected. But once the snow flies and construction slows, the picture may become a bit clearer. Sidewalks will reopen, the road will be paved and shiny new track will emerge.
It may then become a bit easier to see the shape of the future in the community, and how a part of that future will include residents and visitors alike coming and going from the LRT stop in Strathearn—a place of independent shops and restaurants, tree-lined streets and unique people rooted there.
Thanks to the community of Strathearn for their patience during Valley Line construction.