Alberta Avenue


community action
Established: 1894 (first known as village of North Edmonton)
Amalgamated into city: 1912
Population: 6,550
Household income under $30,000: AB Ave; 30%; Edmonton: 18%
Household income over $150,000: AB Ave; 3%; Edmonton: 14%
Single or semi-detached homes: AB Ave: 84%; Edmonton: 58%
Residential units constructed prior to 1960: Ab Ave: 73%; Edmonton: 18%
City councillor: Tony Caterina, Ward 7, 2007-
Provincial riding: Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood
MLA: Brian Mason (NDP), 2000-(riding name changed in 2004)
Local festivals: Kaleido Family Arts Fstival (sep); Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival (Jan)
Arts hubs: The Carrot Cafe, Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts

Alberta Avenue is one of Edmonton’s oldest neighbourhoods. The area had a heyday back in the First World War era, when it was home to foundries, garment companies, banks and other industries that formed along 118 Avenue. By the 1970s most of those businesses were gone, and people outside the neighbourhood perceived it as plagued with high crime and a lot of other social problems.

“We lost our soul many years ago,” says Christy Morin, executive director with Arts on the Ave, a community organization dedicated to making Alberta Avenue an inclusive arts district for the city. “Now it’s all about rebuilding.”

“The stigma was heavy,” says Morin. “But it wasn’t true. I moved in 21 years ago with my husband. We thought the area was affordable, lots of bungalows, a lot of verandas, decks, that kind of stuff. It’s quite beautiful. We bought a house, fell in love with it, and realized there were a lot of social issues needing help. We realized that a ton of different artists lived in the neighbourhood.

Music, theatre, dance, lighting designers, wardrobe mistresses at the opera—so many people live here. So then the artists started getting together, and we asked: What can we do to make this better known as a good place? So we started a festival. At the same time, city council put a focus here, and the city and the arts intersected.”

The Alberta Avenue Revitalization Initiative began in 2006 and completely remade the main street. It now has wider sidewalks, a new roadway, more streetlamps, new trees, new benches, outdoor sculptures, colourful murals and, says Morin, “more vibrant and positive businesses.”

“People call it the tipping point,” she says. “We haven’t tipped yet. But more and more people are moving in. That’s what the arts are doing. We’re a presence, and we’re advocates, and we’re humanitarians and lovers of life, so whatever we can help grow and be part of, we are. It’s pretty exciting.”

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