The city is looking for ideas on how to spruce up Jasper Avenue. This is something that is long overdue.
When I first moved to Edmonton, Jasper Avenue was abuzz with activity both day and night.
But that was before Edmonton Centre, West Edmonton Mall and a hip and trendy Whyte Avenue. The intervening years have changed Jasper from a vibrant main street into an urban desert.
So what is our city to do?
I think the first thing it must do is to decide whether people are more important than cars because it is cars that get the greatest use from our main street. Assuming that the city decides that it wants people on Jasper, there are a couple of things it can do in the short term.
The first thing it should do is not be too ambitious. Jasper is very long; trying to change it all at once would spread our available dollars too thinly and not make much of an impact. It would be much better to do it in stages. I would suggest that we concentrate on the area between 100 Street and 104 Street.
We could take out parking on that section of the avenue and remove those sarcophaguses in the centre. Then we could reduce the avenue to two lanes.
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That being done, we should extend the sidewalks so that people can walk easily in the area and restaurants can create serving areas in front of their establishments. That way when people come to visit our fair city, they would clearly see that there is in fact a downtown in Edmonton.
Over the long term, we could continue the process along Jasper to 107th Street and then south toward the legislature building. We could then link up the walking area on Jasper to Winston Churchill Square. I think that over time the end result would be an easy and interesting walk from city hall to the grounds of the legislature.
Over the very long term, we should look at completely closing off those seven blocks of Japer Avenue to vehicular traffic. We could then do the same thing with most of Rice Howard Way. In the end, we would end up with an attractive, pedestrian and business friendly area in the downtown that could be used to accommodate festivals, parades and whatever else we want to do. What do you think?