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Danielle Paradis explores what makes Edmonton a great city.

Will Edmonton’s new downtown be a place for everyone?

With new towers moving in and old buildings moving out, Danielle Paradis asks if the city's core is still going to be a place for everyone.

The downtown arena under construction in 2015.

Metro File

The downtown arena under construction in 2015.

The Greyhound building sits dingy and grey in comparison to the shining silver facing of Rogers Place. In a matter of days the company will move out of its long-term home to the Via rail station out of the glamour of Ice District.

The current location is set to become a plaza of retail stores. This is one of the many ways that development by the Katz Group and WAM developments are drastically altering the downtown core.

The modifications aren’t at all subtle. Apartments already sit in the shadow of the arena, and across from the greyhound the Grand Hotel has made modifications to appeal to the new influx of urban hipsters.

The changes are a picture of gentrification. Originally coined in 1964 by Ruth Glass, gentrification was a description of the Urban Gentry moved in to some London neighbourhoods, displacing the blue-collared occupants.

But it’s not just neighbourhoods. Whole districts can be developed to displace people.

A look at the building permits in Edmonton’s downtown from the cities Open Data Portal Shows a drastic spike in construction value of permits, from under 150 million to over $350 with a corresponding uptick in the nearby neighbourhoods of Boyle and McCauley. 

Gentrification tends to refer to people who are able to afford to purchase property in an area and often it doesn’t account for the displacement of people who are homeless from the areas they tend to use every day.

Organizations like the Bissell Centre who, according to their 2014-15 annual report, offer refuge from the cold to between 400 and 800 people per day, are starting to look into cities that have undergone similar changes.

Another study on the issue the centre is doing is not finalized, says CEO Garry St. Amand, but they hope to publish the final report later this month.

“We are seeing trends where we have partners, The Neighbour Centre in southside Edmonton for example, that are seeing an increase in the number of people, because people are running out of downtown spaces to be in, so they are moving to other parts of the city” says St. Amand.

Not only are people displaced due to the development of the downtown core, city council is also passing policies that would seem to target the same population being booted from the Greyhound area. A recent bylaw was passed which banned smoking in Sir Winston Churchill Square. Breaking this bylaw could result in a $250 dollar fine.

As more glitzy buildings with high construction values arrive, the property value and rent of surrounding buildings is likely to go up.

Development is integral to a healthy city and many of the changes are positive, like an arena that will attract out-of-town visitors. Still, the lack of democracy in the development process has been disturbing.

Now, it’s the developers and the millionaires who get to decide for the next ten years, who is the right sort of person for downtown Edmonton.

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