IN THE NEWS: Downtown Public Places Plan and festivals

Recent news stories have propelled the Downtown Public Places Plan into the spotlight, and with the new attention have come questions about the future location of downtown festivals.

Spoiler alert: There are no plans to move festivals out of Churchill Square.

The City expects that Taste of Edmonton, The Works and the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival will all return to the square after finding temporary venues this summer (see below). The 2018 hiatus is to make way for Valley Line LRT construction and refurbishments to City Hall Plaza and East Gardens.

Enter the Downtown Public Places Plan.

places1The Downtown Public Places Plan recognizes that downtown Edmonton is changing. Ice District, the updated Legislature Grounds, LRT projects are attracting energy, people and business. As the neighbourhood grows, it’s essential to ensure that public places—their size, location, their quality, the way they are connected—stay in the conversation.

“What this work does is contemplate how we create more spaces in our downtown to continue to bring people together as a community,” said Paul Giang, City of Edmonton planner. “Public spaces are often home to activities and festivals that define who we are and what we love as a community.”

The Downtown Public Places Plan is important for many reasons, one of which is that it holds the promise of creating and protecting the kinds of public places that will match the ways that downtown festivals have expanded in popularity.

Enter Taste of Edmonton. The festival has said it needs a place to grow.

City planners simply want to ensure that as Downtown Edmonton changes, it changes in the direction of being a place for public places—to find solitude in, to watch the city go by in, to brag about, to celebrate in. It might be that in the future Churchill Square and East Gardens will be  joined by other premier venues downtown as sites for existing and, perhaps, new festivals and other gatherings.

And that’s why the question of the future location of festivals downtown can turn up when people are talking about the Downtown Public Places Plan.

And people are talking. The City has already held four public engagement sessions where people have dropped by to share thoughts on creating great open spaces, parks and plazas.

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Street level engagement is being done through Write + Draw boards at 3 locations in the downtown—102 Ave at Railtown Park, Alex Decoteau and the 100th Street Funicular. The boards summarize the plan and invite people to consider what they want in future public places. An old-fashioned Sharpie lets people finish the sentences, I Want To See More… I Wish We Had Places To… I Want Spaces That Are… And, they fill up quick.

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The columns of comments are reflective of the various perspectives people bring to public places. Off-leash parks, food trucks, flowers, fewer weeds, more benches, trees, peace and quiet, people out and about, freedom from catcalls, light, no dog poop and more!

”Downtown is for everybody and with that everyone brings in a diversity of ideas,” said Giang. “It is exciting to see the community come to a space and share what they see as a future opportunity for our downtown spaces.”

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The comments will be collected by the planning project team and shared back with the community in a What We Heard report in the second quarter of 2018. They will also be used to inform future planning.

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There is also a good online survey. Find it here. Whether you live downtown, or not; whether you work downtown, or not; whether you visit downtown, or not yet, there is room in the survey to share your views, or to work out your views, on public places downtown.

Learn more about the Downtown Public Places Plan here.

This year, The Works Art & Design Festival takes place at Federal Building Plaza June 21 to July 3.

The Edmonton International Street Performers will happen from July 10 – 15 and happens at Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park, 8331 104 St NW.

Taste of Edmonton relocates to the Federal Building Plaza on July 18-28.

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