Shopkeepers along Edmonton’s most notorious strip have broken ground on reclaiming the thoroughfares that connect them.

Rising from the ashes is a recurring theme among inhabitants of the Alberta Avenue area, who are furthering community unity by saying “We Believe in 118.”

“I couldn’t possibly fathom what they go through,” said Const. Shane Brennan. “They’re living down here 24-7, work, sleep and breathe it.”

Front-line business owners on the infamous stroll for prostitutes and pushers struck a new bond yesterday, gathered strength in numbers, and elected block leaders as a direct link to law enforcement.

Keep it Simple Club, a sober area “safe zone” is staffed by recovering addicts who approach the Avenue from a grassroots perspective. They say drug-afflicted passers-by often spot their first glimpse at hope in clean-living members.

“We will be stronger by having a better connection with our neighbours,” volunteer Maria Shaw said.

Recent community initiatives have pulled once-fearful residents out from behind barred windows and locked doors, partially pushing prostitution out of the area within the past year, Shaw said.

“That’s what we need — people getting out and involved in the community,” Const. Brennan said.

“When it’s a ghost town, it’s the perfect breeding ground for criminal activity.”

Today, there is proof-positive the community believes in the strip — in store windows, on billboards and attitudes.

“It’s a vibrant area,” Const. Brennan said. “Certain stereotypes are affixed to 118 Avenue, but there are some fantastic opportunities already here and growing.”

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