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Edmonton's downtown alley transformations

Downtown business association wants to make alleys accessible places to walk, linger and socialize
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More city spaces are being transformed, with hopes of bringing more people to the downtown core, more often. Photo supplied.

The Edmonton Downtown Business Association (EDBA) wants people to explore, enjoy and linger in the city core. To that end, the EDBA has just announced details of two alley transformations to be completed this summer that will create new and unexpected public spaces in the downtown.

The first alley is located behind Rice Howard Way and will feature permanent art installations, improved lighting, opportunities for arts and cultural performances and small-business activations, including patio space. The Rice Howard Way alley transformation will be led by The Works International Visual Arts Society.

“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of maximizing access to shared public spaces and brought to light the opportunities in converting these kinds of underutilized spaces into vibrant, accessible gathering places," said EDBA executive director Puneeta McBryan. "We hope these alley transformation initiatives will demonstrate how, in being flexible and creative in how we design our public spaces, we can enrich downtown Edmonton’s community, culture, and economy for all."

The second reimagined alley, to be named Lulu Lane, runs from 103 Street to 104 Street south of Jasper Avenue and will honour Lulu Anderson. One hundred years ago, May 12, 1922, Lulu Anderson was refused entry to the Metropolitan Theatre, located half a block away from the project site. Lulu fought back, suing the theatre. She lost her case, but in her strength and determination, her story is a beacon in the fight for racial equality in Edmonton’s history. Through this project, Lulu Lane will honour one of Canada’s lesser-known civil rights activists. In fact, Lulu’s case happened 24 years before Viola Desmond was refused entry to a theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

The block-long Lulu Lane transformation will be managed by HCMA Architecture + Design, which transformed two Vancouver downtown alleys into award-winning public spaces (“More Awesome Now”). Local Black artists selected by the EDBA, with the support and advisory of writer and civil rights advocate Bashir Mohamed, will be the creative leads and contributing artists on the project. Lulu Lane will be enhanced with bold and vibrant art installations, decorative lighting and opportunities for event activations and patio space.

“The future Lulu Lane will be a vibrant and unique downtown experience for reflection, artistic expression, and for the community to connect; all while paying homage to civil rights pioneer Lulu Anderson,” said Michael Rivest of HCMA.

In honour of the 100th anniversary of Lulu’s fight against racism and for equal rights in Edmonton, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi also declared May 12, 2022 Lulu Anderson Day.