The Armature: A Work in Progress
The unique 96 Street project called the Armature is close to completion. Streetlights have been installed. Only a few minor construction tasks are still on the City’s list.
The Hyatt Place Hotel has officially opened at the southern end on Jasper Avenue. Ten ground-level retail spaces are available for lease in the hotel. The relatively new Boyle Street Plaza building on 103A Avenue anchors the northern end.
Double Greeting Wonton House, located on the street since 1980, remains a popular dining spot for many Edmontonians. Several mixed-use developments are in the planning stages, including an artist center with residences above. The People in Need Shelter Society (PINSS) will have a new building at 103A Avenue. Landscaping for the Kinistinâw Park between 102A Avenue and 103 Avenue is in the works for next year.
Even so, Boyle Street community members and visitors to the area might wonder about the inordinate number of vacant lots that currently line this short stretch.
Mary Ann Debrinski, an urban renewal director for the City, reminds us that in the arts world armature means “a skeletal framework built as a support on which a clay, wax or plaster figure is constructed.” Over the next few years, Debrinski says, we can expect to see the rest of the City’s plans taking shape around this underlying structure. The City’s website describes “all-season parks, urban plazas, shopping, eating and entertainment, and a hub for all commercial and social activities in the area.”
Boyle Street Community League board member Candas Jane Dorsey puts it this way: “If you build it, they will come.”
Various community activities have in fact begun to take place on and around the Armature. One recent example is the Glow lantern parade on the evening of March 18 (see page 16).
Design Features of the Armature
The Armature’s design considers pedestrians first. It is a walkable green space with benches, public art pieces and custom street furnishings (for example, up-scale garbage receptacles). Other pedestrian-friendly features include flush curbs, minimal crossing distances and a roadway designed to minimize the amount of vehicle traffic.
Public transit users can easily arrive there, currently by bus and in future via the LRT, which will cross it at 102 Avenue. The Armature also includes bike lanes.
The design is environmentally sustainable. For example, the run-off from rainfall goes into catch basins and is used to water all the trees and plantings.
Public Art on the Armature
Several artworks grace the Armature streetscape. Poetry is etched into the mid-block crossings. A large silver stainless steel work called Wild Rose sits on top of a pole, and intriguing part-human, part-animal sculptures stand at the sides of the walkways.
Boyle Street resident Audrey Whitson writes on her blog, “When I cross over 103A Avenue at 96th Street, I pass two bronze figures on either side of the mall, I sometimes call [them] The Coyote Men… In place of their heads and hands, the heads and hands of deer, baby black bear, mother grizzly, turtle, squirrel, chipmunk, raccoon, blue jay, wolf, coyote, fox, hare – I’ve lost count – pop out of collar and sleeve. … Some people leave offerings. I have witnessed a matching bronze boot stuck on one of Standing Man’s small heads, a lacy blue tunic pulled over Sitting Man’s torso, and on another day, a red blanket draped over his shoulders.” (audreywhitson.com/2016/12/midwinter-passage-2016)
These artworks, like many others throughout the city, were created and installed through Edmonton’s _Policy to Provide and Encourage Art in Public Spaces_. This program requires municipal projects to allocate one percent of qualifying construction costs to public art.
Anita Jenkins is a retired writer and editor who moved to Boyle Street three years ago and loves her new community.