Some Ada Boulevard residents say city is going too far with renewal project
A group of Highlands residents says new curbs proposed for Ada Boulevard will disturb the area’s historic appeal.
Called Friends of Highlands, the group wants the city to reconsider a plan to square off swooping, curved sidewalk corners that are a signature of the neighbourhood, a plan that will result in narrower streets in areas now popular for walkers, joggers and cyclists enjoying a day in the river valley.
“We are 100 years old and we are saying, ‘Can we not keep the historical look?’” said Jeff Young, a 30-year resident of the area who lives at Ada Boulevard and 61 Street.
The Edmonton and District Historical Society, the city’s historian laureate Marlena Wyman, and the Highlands Historical Society have backed the group’s request for a second look.
After extensive community consultation and according to a June city administration report titled What We Decided, a neighbourhood renewal plan has been approved and is underway to rebuild roads, sidewalks, street lights and park spaces in Highlands.
The plan, which started this year and is scheduled for completion in 2021, includes the installation of a wheelchair-accessible, three-metre wide, asphalt shared pathway rimmed by a wood railing that would run on the south (ravine) side of the street, east along Ada Boulevard from Concordia University.
Young, along with roughly 55 other neighbours, met recently over a variety of concerns about the plan, including parking and the fact that the new pathway will see some residents on the north side of Ada Boulevard sacrifice roughly a metre along the edge of their property to the shared pathway.
Friends of Highlands says it appreciates safety concerns and doesn’t object to the pathway, but requests it be a maximum of two metres in width.
Ada Boulevard, renowned for its architectural style and streetscapes and considered a jewel in Edmonton’s historical crown, doesn’t have sidewalks.
Young said neighbours knew reconfigured street corners were part of the plan. But two months ago, after he measured out, and spray painted, the proposed configuration in a six-block radius including 111 Avenue, the visual impact became clear.
The group is asking for roughly 22 corners of the 246 corners in Highlands to be left as is.
Young’s group has distributed more than 500 information flyers in the area and has been trying to meet with Ward 7 city Coun. Tony Caterina. Caterina did not return Postmedia phone calls over the weekend.
“I find it so disheartening to try and get anybody to listen to us,” said Young.
Other people in the neighbourhood are happy with the proposed changes.
Mathieu Lefebvre has lived in Highlands for five years. He attended several community consultation sessions hosted by the city. He said Ada Boulevard will be safer for pedestrians and cyclists with the shared pathway.
“The issue is that some people like the way that it is, plain and simple,” said Lefebvre. “But the biggest thing is the safety issue. When you walk down Ada Boulevard, cars are driving slowly and you move out of the way and generally it is polite.
“But it’s not handicapped accessible and there are slips and trips and other hazards. I think (the shared pathway) just provides an improvement of quality of place, and life, and it benefits everyone.”
Andrew Clark is the president of the Highlands community league. He said the community league is neutral on this issue.
“We’ve heard arguments on both sides. It’s a divisive issue. We wish it wasn’t,” said Clark.
Jeff Young is among a group of Highlands residents objecting to the city’s plan for neighbourhood renewal on Ada Boulevard. They don’t want some rounded corners squared off and they don’t want a wide path to be installed.