Central Business Neighbourhood

The Problem

The saying, “So goes your downtown, so goes your city.” came from the awareness that downtowns are the economic engines of a city. They are the centres in which our social connections generate new ideas, innovations and ventures. Downtowns are the heart of a city.

For decades we’ve known that, “Our region’s portal to the world is downtown Edmonton, whether we live or work in Ottewell, Glenora, St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan or even Leduc or Nisku — it is by our downtown that our entire region will be judged and measured.”

So many of the people I talk to tell me that our downtown is in rough shape. With the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of office employees and post-secondary students are working and studying in their homes. Every day we see downtown businesses closing their doors and there are temporary restrictions on the things that make downtown so special — nightlife, events, dining and gathering for experiences. While vaccines are available, it’s going to be a long time before we see the kind of vibrancy and commerce that is key to the success of not only downtown, but to Edmonton as a whole. 

Without a thriving downtown, and its enormous impact to the entire region and province, we are in for years of economic hardships and we risk losing the incredible gains we’ve made in developing our city core.


The Policy

Designate 109 Street to 97 Street and 104 Ave to 100 Ave as Edmonton’s Central Business Neighbourhood (CBN) and enable the following to catalyze business, support an innovation ecosystem, simplify and accelerate market-driven development, and encourage more people to visit and stay downtown.

  1. Business Made Simple
    1. Business licencing and development processes have service-level agreements that include:
      1. A commitment to two week response turnarounds.
      2. Expedited approvals within two months.
      3. An escalation process for complex issues.
    2. Removal of the barriers preventing alleyway and unconventional space uses, winter patios and outdoor retail and hospitality.
    3. One-year moratorium on business license fees for small and medium enterprises.

  2. Enabling Technology
    1. Work with partners to provide high-speed internet fibre throughout the CBN.
    2. Free Wi-Fi and public charging stations in designated public spaces.
    3. Designate the downtown as a new technology and innovation test area.

  3. Pathways that Work to Connect
    1. 365 year round cleanup/snow removal for main streets, sidewalks and active transportation pathways.
    2. Deliberate and accelerated construction planning and implementation to reduce the impact on surrounding businesses.
    3. Completed connections and integration of the multi-use pathway network.
    4. User-designed wayfinding, detour planning, communications and signage.

  4. Transportation Serves the Core
    1. Free LRT/bus within the CBN.
    2. Discounted LRT/bus travel during evenings and weekends from suburban areas to downtown. *upon completion of the Smart Fare program
    3. Free 1-hour street parking - 7 days a week. *excludes event dates and egress boundaries
    4. Standardized ‘Parking’ signage for all parking lots designed to be visible to the driver.
    5. Improved user experience and upgraded epark platform encompassing all parking within the CBN.

  5. Integrated Partnerships for Impact
    1. Dedicated 7 day a week/8 a.m. to midnight crisis and safety supports — Peace Officers & social worker units dedicated to CBN and area.
    2. Bolster the DBA to enable them to:
      1. Work with CBN businesses, partners and the Neighbourhood Empowerment Team (NET) to facilitate and create community solutions to downtown vibrancy, night time experience and social disorder issues.
      2. Lead a dedicated stakeholder team of downtown business owners and residents to expedite concerns and complaints to City Administration.
    3. Accessible and safe public washrooms.
    4. Dedicated public space cleanup: Pocket parks, LRT stairwells, bus stops.
    5. Shared commitment to improved lighting and safety of public and private parking lots.


The Outcome

A vibrant, thriving business district in the heart of our city, one that Edmontonians are proud of. More residents see downtown as an appealing and exciting place to spend time in. Our city’s streamlined permitting and licensing services enable entrepreneurs to set-up and grow their businesses in our city’s core. Our engaged technology and innovation community feels the value of the community connections and collisions, which result in new ideas and partnerships. The events, nightlife, restaurants, arts and culture breathe life into our heart and demonstrate the DNA of our city. The central neighbourhood of Edmonton looks better, is safer and welcoming to visitors from across our city, the region and around the world.