EDMONTON — Community members and business owners in Alberta Avenue believe that while strides have been taken to improve the neighbourhood, more can be done and now it’s up to property owners to do their part.
“It’s not just the city, it’s the private owners on the avenue. They have to make an effort,” Melanie Dovale said.
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Dovale owns Passion de France, a pastry shop located on 86 Street and 118 Avenue. She moved to Edmonton from Montreal seven years ago and while she wasn’t specifically looking to open up shop in Alberta Avenue, she said she’s really found her niche.
“Being from a multicultural area in Montreal, it’s like I found my home,” she said.
“There’s a lot of different cultural shops and there’s so many different types of people here, so it’s really fun.”
A few years ago, the City of Edmonton embarked on a $24-million streetscape project aimed at improving the neighbourhood’s sidewalks, trees and streetlights. Most of the work was finished by 2011.
Before that, community leaders came together to lobby for public resources and encouraged Edmontonians as a whole to “believe in 118.”
“For the last… seven or eight years, it’s a huge change in a good way,” Jim Nguyen, board chair of the Alberta Avenue Business Association, said. “From the appearance, from the coordination between the arts, between the arts festivals and everybody notices a difference.”
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However, Dovale and Nguyen admit some challenges remain.
“I think the biggest challenge is stigma,” Dovale said. “It’s really nice. The parks are nice, they’re well maintained, there’s pots everywhere and flowers. They really make an effort in this neighbourhood.”
On top of the stigma, there are some unappealing buildings. Some buildings are boarded up and others that are occupied have seen better days.
“We do worry,” Nguyen said. “Property owners, we want them cooperate more and do their role.
“Our role right now is to make sure they cooperate and we encourage them to use funds available, to use programs.”
Last year, five buildings along Alberta Avenue saw completion of exterior renovations in coordination with the city’s façade improvement program.
The business association is working on a plan to get more people, beyond the neighbouring communities, onto Alberta Avenue.
With files from Vines Pratap, Global News.