Central McDougall and the adjacent Queen Mary Park are one of the City’s four revitalization projects. Just north of downtown, they are communities in transition, and though the progress is slow, with the NAIT LRT line set to open in April 2014, and the new arena slated just south of the neighbourhood, you can bet change is on its way, for better or worse.
Central McDougall is my adopted daytime home, and I have written in the past about how I have come to appreciate the area. Over the years, the Business Revitalization Zone and the Neighbourhood Revitalization Coordinator have organized some public events, but they are sporadic and for the most part, poorly attended. Though residents are generally invited to participate, I think more could be done to spread the word to others to explore these communities in Central Edmonton.
I’m happy that the BRZ has decided to continue with the “Around the World in 80 Bites” tour, now renamed Flavour Journey. There are three dates scheduled for this summer: July 17, 31 and August 17. Each tour will introduce diners to the food from three different restaurants within walking distance of one another, all for $30. Participating restaurants include Acajutla, Caffe Sorrentino, Com Pho, Fat Jakks, Macmacaanka Waamo, and Pho Huong. I hope to finally join one of the tours this time around!
Another exciting initiative are the Thursday Nights on the Edge series. I get the sense that it is primarily intended for residents in the area (especially given the late start time), but the events are so varied and creative that I hope the word gets out about the program!
Every Thursday evening from 7-9pm from July 11 until August 15, Central McDougall or Queen Mary Park will be hosting a unique, family-friendly activity, including a petting zoo, historical horse-drawn carriage tours and an outdoor classical music concert. Mack and I ended up joining their inaugural event last Thursday, titled “Urban-caching on the Edge”.
We arrived at the Queen Mary Park Community Hall at around 7pm. Several other families soon joined us, and before long, Cheryl, the Revitalization Coordinator, arrived with instructions in tow. She handed each group an unlabeled map noted with hand-drawn dots, and indicated that we would find “treasures” at each of the locations. We were to look for volunteers wearing “Thursday Nights on the Edge” t-shirts. She set the parameters that we should be able to reach all five locations within an hour.
Ready, set, go!
We had come from another event that evening, so had the car. If we had taken transit or walked, it is doubtful we would have reached all five destinations. Given there were families with young children in attendance, without a vehicle, I’m not sure they would have made it to even one of the sites. In the future, a tighter start and end boundary would be recommended.
With the help of Google Maps, we were able to roughly pinpoint the first destination in McDougall Park, where we found Laurene Viarobo, the Executive Director of the North Edge Business Association. She said we were the first to arrive, and handed us some swag, including revitalization-branded Frisbees and water bottles.
Laurene hands out swag
For our next stop, we headed south, and keeping our eyes peeled, spotted a t-shirt hanging in the window of Produce Mart (10720 107 Avenue).
It was a great excuse to step foot in the store, just two months old, but a welcome addition to a neighbourhood without easy access to fresh produce. The store is clean, with a solid selection of vegetables, fruit and other basics like milk. I hope the shop is successful!
After picking up more revitalization swag, we walked over to Caffe Sorrentino on 105 Avenue and 109 Street. It didn’t look open, so we weren’t sure if we had the coordinates right, but one of the younger participants pushed open the door and invited us in. Our prize? A generous scoop of gelato!
We enjoyed the treat on our way to our last stop (we skipped one by St. Joseph School with a balloon animal treasure), Ethan Allen. This destination highlighted the extremes of this neighbourhood, which range from lower-income rentals to pricey furniture boutiques. The staff inside were very friendly, and seemed happy to be a part of the event. We declined the spray tattoo treasure, though we noticed some of the teenaged participants particularly relished in this prize!
For their inaugural activity, I think the organizers did a great job! Mack and I enjoyed ourselves, and appreciated the opportunity to explore a few places for the first time. Check out the calendar for a list of dates and events, but coming up on July 18, Animals on the Edge at the Queen Mary Park Community Hall with a petting zoo, face painting, balloon animals and cotton candy.