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It's been raining hard this past week and the city is clean and green. I was walking up the stairs from my place today just inhaling the sweet scent of undergrowth.
I live in my city's downtown area in a small little community surrounded by apartments and condominiums. There is a staircase going up the hill to the heart of the city behind my house that leads to the city's first schoolhouse. It is a small wooden structure located on the property of yet another school built at the beginning of the 20th century.
The house I live in is almost one hundred years old, as are all the houses on the block. We are surrounded by big elm trees and lilac bushes and the River Valley is only a few blocks away. For some reason, artists have congregated in the homes, whether by instinct or just an attraction to the community, I don't know. One thing is certain, it is an oasis of peace in an otherwise unattractive downtown core.
I paint in a small loft upstairs that doubles as my bedroom. The windows are east and north...perfect lighting. The ceiling is sloped on either side and I often bumped my head when I first moved in.
The musician Bill Bourne (Juno Award winning artist) lives a few houses up from me, and there are other musicians down the way. A radio announcer for CJSR lives across the street.
The City of Edmonton owns these properties and some of the city planners have decided that it would be a good idea to sell the land the community is located on. Not the individual properties, but the whole chunk, most likely for the purpose of developing into yet another condominium. This is not very well thought out.
For one thing, another tall building would block the last remaining view of the River Valley for students and others visiting the old schoolhouses I mentioned before. The possibility of imagining a bygone era would be erased by a modern, flat, ugly concrete building (one thing for sure, they don't build for aesthetics in Edmonton!)
For another, these houses have a history for our city. Once they are gone, that's it.
Third, this area brings a vitality and sense of beauty to a visually impoverished region of glass and concrete. Neighbours here know each other, say hi to each other. People sit on their front porches and watch the evening fade into night. It is a small space of idyllic living - the kind the city tries to build with new suburbs but at which it invariably fails.
And last, it is not economically viable. We hear about "the revitalization of downtown" year after year. Mammoth projects are undertaken and yet the streets remain empty. The problem is that city planners seem to forget that People are not Systems. People want artists in their communities to enrich the area, to offer something new and beautiful. Artists in any community help to give the place a sense of identity and character. This has been shown time and again in other cities across North America.
Get rid of the artists and what are you left with?
The condominium across the street, down by the corner has been half empty for two years. Beside the stairs I mentioned is an empty lot where just months ago two smaller apartments were demolished to make way for a high rise. And now they want to do the same with my home.
Perhaps it is the way it must go, but it is a very unfortunate thing.
If you care enough, contact the City of Edmonton, and let them know that it is important to preserve livable, functioning communities, and to think about the value of beauty in a place like Edmonton.
And that's all for today.