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Call to Action: Edmonton Downtown East“Revitalization”

In spring 2006, CACS sent out its first call to local members to participate in cultural action and activism on behalf of the organization. CACS University of Alberta members were briefed on the City of Edmonton’s plans to “revitalize” a neighborhood that’s been dubbed the “Downtown East,” a part of the Boyle Street community.

A series of public meetings were currently underway and it was hoped that CACS members might be persuaded to attend these events and contribute to the public discussion.

CACS members were asked: Why should we, as academics who probably don’t live or work in this neighbourhood, be concerned?

Well, the “revitalization” process was begging for cultural analysis: the American urban planner at the helm repeatedly referred to the neighbourhood as “fallow ground” (i.e. a vast, empty space open for ‘resettlement’); the press took to referring to the neighbourhood as “Edmonton’s seedy downtown eastside (a neat rhetorical trick conjuring images of illicit drug use, widespread HIV infection, and missingand murdered women that needs no further elaboration); the City’s own Community Action Plan for the neighbourhood advocated “removal of offensive activities” (plans to expand the Edmonton Remand Centre were announced just prior to the “revitalization,” so we have reason to be suspicious about how people will be “removed,” and where to); safety concerns of women involved in prostitution were completely overlooked (despite the rising numbers of murdered women involved in the sex trade here in Edmonton); and also, the City proceeded as though there were no community already present and no “humans” involved at all – only “offensive activities,” criminals, addicts, and prostitutes.

Members were encouraged to:

– Attend the final public meeting, at City Hall on Wednesday, April 12th at 7pm and help raise these many pressing issues

– Consider sending a letter expressing their concerns to the Downtown East Advisory Committee (email: downtowneast@edmonton.ca)

– Submit letters to the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun, SEE, or View Magazine

– Talk about this issue in their classes, and with friends, families, colleagues and neighbours

Several CACS members attended the final in a series of public meetings about the downtown east plans, and a group of us contributed an alternative vision for the planning and development process, which we were able to present to all in attendance.