Hit play on the above video to See the visible divide between the rich and poor within the city’s urban renewal.

The Great Divide

Here you’re at Jasper Avenue and 97th street. 97th Street is also known as “The Great Divide”, because, looking to the west of 97th street are, as you can see, skyscrapers, towers, wealth, and prosperity…“The heavens declare the glory of Edmonton!”

To the other side of 97th Street, though, is what is known as the inner city…older buildings, empty parking lots, and run-down houses. This is the area where the Mustard Seed is located. On the east side of the street, you might see a pawn shop where people are desperate to sell their bus passes, and across the street, a gourmet restaurant that is one hundred dollars for a meal. Here, the rich and the poor are side by side, but we’re not always the best neighbors.

This divide was created in the 1980’s.  The City of Edmonton initiated a revitalization of the area west of 97th Street with the goal of encouraging more private investment.  This urban renewal effort was successful, bringing skyscrapers, shopping centers, and wealth; however, the neighbourhoods to the east of 97th Street were not offered the same opportunities.  Over time, as one side was built up, the other side was segregated.

Urban renewal can bring opportunities to some people and increase land values. However, certain groups of people – often vulnerable minority groups in precarious living situations – can be further marginalized in the process of urban renewal.

In the end, communities are dismantled, forcing individuals and families out of their homes and requiring them to move from their social networks and communities of support.  The most effective urban renewal is urban renewal with and for the community rather than urban renewal at the expense of the community.

Let’s continue to walk to the east on Jasper Avenue for one more block, stopping at 96th Street where we will talk a little more about women, homelessness and refuge.