Construction underway to transform Edmonton alley space into vibrant public plaza

The City of Edmonton has started construction on a project that will turn an Old Strathcona alley space into a vibrant plaza for people to enjoy.

This revitalization project is what businesses with storefronts facing the alley have been waiting for.

“We’re really excited to say after about three or four years of advocating along with other stakeholders, businesses facing the back alley, that the city is starting Phase 1 of construction,” said Cherie Klassen, Old Strathcona Business Association executive director.

This first phase of the $2.4-million Strathcona Back Street revitalization project, which began earlier this week, will see the transformation of the back alley space along 83 Avenue between Gateway Boulevard and Calgary Trail to a public plaza.

“We’re going to be adding some new trees, upgrading some of the underground drainage infrastructure as well as adding some pedestrian lighting with the overall design being a more safe, welcoming space,” City of Edmonton infrastructure supervisor Steve Schmidt said.

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It’s promising news for Josh Meachem, the restaurant owner of Boxer Kitchen and Bar who bought into this storefront ally concept years ago, long before the project broke ground.

Read more: Design concept to revamp Old Strathcona alleyways shared with stakeholders

“It’s huge. This is my front doorway, so it’s hard to find us but it will make a lot more sense once the back street project is completed,” Meachem said.

While the construction is loud at times and access is even more of a hurdle for customers, Meachem said he looks forward to an influx of people and a boost in business.

“It’s going to be a really good public space for everyone to share. Just happy it’s getting done,” Meachem said

The revitalization is also welcome news for neighbours.

“I think it will be good when all this construction is done but I’m OK if it’s being repaired. I think it’s a good idea,” resident Mariana Feijoo said.

“I think it will be good for our thoroughfare and like more foot traffic, especially for the locals, like the businesses we have back here,” resident Ian Holmes said.

“Making this back alley, and quite honestly, any back alley in Old Strathcona is going to put us on the map for creating secondary main streets in our historic main street that allows for businesses to operate in a different capacity,” Klassen said.

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Klassen said while this is a great start, the greater vision for the area with further amenities will require millions of dollars more that will need to be fundraised.

Construction is slated to be done by the fall.

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