Edmonton is an unfolding story, or stage play.
Its cast of characters numbered 148 people in 1878 and nearly 400,000 in 1967. Today, the cast is nearly one million.
Edmonton’s historic set pieces are still visible in some neighbourhoods and in their remaining heritage homes and buildings, mostly in this ward.
Edmonton’s reputation for preserving is heritage buildings is not good. Much of downtown’s historic warehouse district, for example, was demolished because of ill-conceived property tax policy.
Heritage homes and buildings are still falling today. Many more are under threat. You can blame city council. It is fair to do so. But please understand that city council tends to reflect the values of citizens.
Edmonton is a relatively young and fast-growing city. We’ve danced as fast as we can for decades to keep up with growth, largely suburban, investing in the hard infrastructure to accommodate all the new neighbourhoods.
But we’ve been so focused on the road ahead we’ve forgotten to pause and reflect on where we came from. For example, city council struggles to find money to invest when a critical heritage building is threatened.
In the past term, my office worked with the Old Glenora Conservation Association to initiate a heritage inventory for Old Glenora and Capital Hill. The inventory resulted in 2,000-plus-page report that details three distinct heritage districts in the community.
The City picked up the costs of the inventory, as the province’s heritage grants were no longer available for such projects.
The work now is in writing a zoning overlay, much like the one in the Westmount Architectural Heritage Area, or WAHA.
Unfortunately, the zoning overlay in WAHA features architectural guidelines, not rules, though a group of citizens has worked most of this term to introduce a few key regulations.
I’m committed to helping WAHA and Old Glenora. I’m committed to doing a formal councillor inquiry this year to determine how the City might protect heritage homes in Glenora until the zoning overlay is written and approved.
We need to tell stories to newcomers and children about where Edmonton came from, so they better understand our history and civic values. In doing so, maybe they’ll become history buffs and demand even stronger policies and programs to preserve Edmonton’s built heritage.