Sketches re-envision Strathcona alley as welcoming space for businesses, pedestrians

The alley between 103rd and 104th Street just north of Whyte Avenue doesn't look like much now — a pockmarked road often used for deliveries and garbage pick up. But as early as next year, the prime real estate could be transformed into a more pedestrian friendly space.

Early sketches for the city's Strathcona back street project were unveiled at a stakeholder meeting last week. They feature hanging lights, street lamps, greenery and public seating. The pavement is also slated to match the historic red brick seen throughout Old Strathcona.

Sugared & Spiced bakery faces the alley. It opened in 2017, and is among a growing number of businesses setting up shop in the neighbourhood's alleys and side streets.

Co-owner Jeff Nachtigall said the alley presents some challenges.

"It's always an issue for customers on foot, getting in here," he said.

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Nachtigall said he suspects the uneven surface might prevent some customers with mobility issues, including those who use motorized wheelchairs, from accessing the bakery.

Drainage has also been an issue.

Besides the plans for new pavement, Nachtigall said he's looking forward to a proposed consolidation of garbage pick up.

""[We're] very excited," he said.

"I'm not unaware of the fact that it will disrupt us while they're building it, but in the long term, it's a huge positive improvement for the city."

City of Edmonton

The renewed alley would be the first back street of its kind in Edmonton, said Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association. 

"That will be something that's very unique to Old Strathcona and will become one of our biggest assets that people will want to come [visit] and that we can showcase," she said.

The proposed upgrades present business opportunities while addressing a safety issue, Klassen said.

"From a safety perspective … alleyways are often dark. They're not places where people want to hang out," she said. "So we tend to see crime in alleyways and disorder."

The redesign is part of the wider Strathcona Neighbourhood Renewal project, although city funding is promised only for paving and upgrading existing lighting to LEDs.

"There are going to be some funding decisions that have to be made because the neighbourhood renewal will only pay for a portion of some of the upgrades," Klassen said.

Stephen Cook/CBC

Private investment and fundraising are among proposals being discussed to make up the gap.

Klassen said further consultation is among the next steps as the project is finalized. The sketches will be posted online toward the end of the month, she said.

A revised design is expected in January, with the goal of starting construction this spring.