GAPSS Hits the Streets of McCauley
On March 9th, the Geography And Planning Students’ Society (GAPSS) hosted a walking tour of McCauley, focusing on innovative ways to improve the well-being of a neighbourhood. Although GAPSS advocates for students at the U of A, Daniel Witte, VP of events, says “anyone who is interested in these topics is also welcome to join.” The tour was expertly guided by Yasushi Ohki of Green Violin, a non-profit community development company. The following is a partial summary of the outing.
Dependant on zoning approval, Green Violin wishes to construct three small cottages, named Base Camp, on a single lot located at 10718 92nd Street. Along with its mission of building innovative spaces, Yasushi insists, “all Green Violin’s projects must be economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable.” The objective is to continue with designs that are best received by a community.
Nearby, at the juncture of 107a Avenue and 92nd Street, Yasushi directs attention to a neighbourhood icon that had served as a corner store. A City of Edmonton program hopes to revive these community hubs through a system of grants for qualifying applicants.
The history fans among the group were treated to the story of the “jailers’ homes.” These are the tiny houses that were built for staff working at the Alberta Penitentiary that used to stand where the stadiums are now. More than a century old, the remaining few are identical to each other in their unique architecture. Sadly, not one is registered as an historical resource, running the risk of disappearing forever. Jamie Yakimets, a U of A student studying towards a degree in planning, suggests that “they could be turned into mini museums, focusing on the jail and the construction of the homes.”
As the tour moved through McCauley’s alleyways, Yasushi discusses the concept of “narrow streets” and why we needn’t feel afraid to walk these routes alone. He visualizes the transformation of garages into cafes and small shops, creating a safe and welcoming environment for community gatherings.
During the tour, Yasushi pointed out three properties owned by the Edmonton Community Development Company. The ECDC is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with communities to purchase and dispose of derelict residential and commercial entities, then rebuild or transform them into safer, family-friendly properties. An excellent example is the Piazza Plaza. This site now has more community-minded commercial tenants. Peter Kosowan, a graduating business student, says of the ECDC: “Seeing the residents come together like this really showcases the importance of our neighbourhoods across the city and the role they have to play in promoting urban vibrancy.”
Daniel encourages community members to contact GAPSS with event ideas as it is “a really good way to broaden our horizons and bring value to our members.” He can be contacted at GAPSS@ualberta.ca.
Sheila is semi-retired from the hospitality industry and is an Edmonton history enthusiast.