For many of us, our only contact with the downtown is the route we take from our bus stop, LRT station or parking lot to the buildings in which we work. Much of that walk is often inside on pedways or in underground tunnels. This is particularly true in the winter, when walking around at street level is not a reasonable option.
Without any first-hand experience to the contrary, we are likely to view the downtown as a distinctly dangerous place full of disreputable types waiting to stick a knife in your neck if you don’t come up with spare change or a cigarette. With that in mind, and given that spring is finally here, I decided to take a walk in the downtown. I tried to imagine what a first-time visitor to the city would see, if he or she decided to do the same thing.
I started walking from the Hotel Mac and headed north toward the city hall. On that particular day, there was nobody hanging around the doors of the library. So no bad experience there. I did wonder, however, what someone would think of all the concrete around the library and the great expanse of it in Sir Winston Churchill Square. Not very inviting. Standing in the square, the first thing I noticed was the new art gallery. As a visitor, I would probably put that on my list of things to investigate in more detail.
During my walk from Sir Winston Churchill Square to 104 St., down 104 to Jasper Ave. and along Jasper to the Mac, I didn’t encounter a single panhandler or anyone who I thought was a risk to me. What I did notice was how multi-racial Edmonton has become. This is reflected in the faces on the street and in the number of ethnic restaurants we have in the core. I only saw one empty building. That’s a nice change. It’s also nice to see that the city’s push to keep smokers from littering the streets with butts seems to be working.
Condos and apartments in the downtown have made a real and positive difference to 104 St. There are new restaurants, clothing stores and such that make you feel you are actually in a city. If you work downtown and want something to do at lunch, take a walk along 104 St. It will give you hope for the future of the downtown.
Terence Harding is a corporate communicator. He’s also a keen observer of all things Edmonton; firstname.lastname@example.org.