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Hey Edmonton, look what’s living under our sidewalks!


3 minute read

Written by Darrel G. Babuk, MRAIC

Many of Edmonton’s buildings had sidewalk vaults.

Not sure why.  Usually, sidewalk vaults were found in cities where hilly streets got flattened out or raised – like New York City, Vancouver or Victoria. In flattening out and raising the roadway, the sidewalks were rarely raised.

To get a sidewalk in front of their building, building owners would extend the basements of their buildings out to the roadway, and the roof of the basement extending beyond the building became a public sidewalk.

Here in Edmonton, the Gibson Block and the McLeod Block still have sidewalk vaults; the roof over the portion of their basements that extend beyond the building is the public sidewalk. Other Edmonton buildings, like the Jasper Block and the Kelly Ramsey Block also had sidewalk vaults.

Back in the day, when the idea of working in an office was still a novelty, retail space commanded a much higher rent than did office space.  Many times, retail spaces would be located on the second, even third floor.

Retail space in a basement, just one flight of stairs from the sidewalk, made sense. The Gibson Block still has a stair going from the sidewalk to the basement, where the Georgia Baths used to be.

But, aren’t basements dark? To bring light into basement sidewalk vaults, glass sidewalk prisms were embedded into the sidewalks.

photo by Darrel G. Babuk

Victoria still has sidewalk prisms, the purplish glass blocks on the sidewalks on Government Street.  Seattle still has sidewalk prisms, they even offer tours of the sidewalk vaults underneath the sidewalk prisms.

Edmonton’s Jasper Block not only had sidewalk prisms, the interior hallways had glass prism floors so that natural sunlight would filter through the third and second floors down to the ground floor!

Not sure why.  Usually, sidewalk vaults were found in cities where hilly streets were regraded to be flat – like New York City, Vancouver or Victoria. In flattening out and raising the roadway; while the actual street was raised, the sidewalks weren’t. If you know, send me a note!

[email protected]

Boreas Architecture & Civic Design puts to use our years of highly unique and specialized experience to identify the essentials, understand them and create a plan of action to re-image historical buildings: to maintain the dignity of their original design with a sustainable new purpose in the community. Click for more information.

This article was originally published on March 31, 2019.

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Glendale Skatepark now includes on-site mentors from the YMCA

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News release from the YMCA of Northern Alberta

With consistent fair weather and summer right around the corner, skateboarders, BMXers and scooter-riders are excited to return to Red Deer’s skateparks. Glendale Skatepark in Red Deer’s north side is a popular choice, and has the added benefit of being staffed by Northside Community Centre YMCA’s skatepark mentors.

The Y’s skatepark mentors are experienced skaters and BMX bikers who want to help make sure the skatepark remains a safe and inclusive space for kids and youth of all skill levels and backgrounds to enjoy. They hang out at the park every day after school and on weekends, offering encouragement, teaching skills and providing water and snacks to anyone who wants it.

“The biggest part [for me] is just creating community engagement and connections,” one skatepark mentor explained in a video on the YMCA’s social media channels, adding, “engaging with the kids, teaching what you love to do… just being a positive influence on everyone and trying to make this place a better community.”

The YMCA Skatepark Mentorship program was piloted in 2021, and after a successful season Border Paving Ltd. stepped up with a generous donation to make it possible for the Y to staff the park all summer long in 2022 and 2023. The Y has since expanded the program, and will have skatepark mentors and youth workers at the Red Deer Skatepark downtown in addition to Glendale, starting in July.

Youth can find YMCA skatepark mentors at the Glendale Skatepark Monday to Friday from 2:30 to 7:30pm, and noon–4pm on Saturdays and Sundays until the end of June. Starting in July, their weekday hours will expand to 12:30 to 8:30pm and they can be found at the Red Deer Skatepark downtown from 10am to 1pm every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Visit to meet Northside Community Centre YMCA’s skatepark mentors for 2023 and learn more about youth programs at the Y.

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Red Deer group cycling across Canada for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Red Deer

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A Red Deer resident has gathered some friends and begun on a trek to cycle across Canada while raising funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Red Deer.

Ben Pelletier, a teacher in Red Deer, is a strong supporter and believer of BBBS and Youth HQ and decided that he wanted to use his cycling adventure from Vancouver to Halifax as a chance to give back.

In addition to Ben Pelletier other members of the group include Logan Davey, Keith Weber, Jade Weber, Tristan McDonald and Karina Bennett.

“As a teacher here in Red Deer, I have had the chance to visit Youth HQ, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Red Deer, and simply love what they do for the youth in this city. All donations will go directly to support this awesome organization” said Pelletier on his GoFundMe page for the event.

The trek kicked off in Vancouver on May 1 and will see the group reach Halifax by the end of June. Youth HQ is excited to see the updates as this trek continues and will be sharing them on our social media channels throughout the coming weeks. Simply go to the “Gofundme” page and follow the group throughout their journey.

“We at Youth HQ applaud the efforts of this group of amazing individuals. What an adventure they are embarking upon, and what a great way to support the amazing work of Big Brothers and Big Sisters.” States John Johnston, Community Engagement Manager, Youth HQ

From GoFundMe

Hello! I’m Ben Pelletier and alongside my pals Logan, Tristin, Jade, Karina and Keith, we will be cycling over 6000 km across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax, because why not!
This journey will take two months, from May 1st to the end of June, so why not try to raise a bit of money along the way!
As a teacher here in Red Deer, I have had the chance to visit Youth HQ, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Red Deer, and simply love what they do for the youth in this city. All donations will go directly to support this awesome organization!
So if you can, feel free to donate what you can while joining this motley crew on a cross Canada adventure that will be anything but dull!

Updates (5)

Yesterdayby Ben Pelletier, Organizer
Day 4 is in the books! 127km’s travelled today with 2,013m of elevation from Osoyoos to Grand Forks and it was full of ups and downs- our first flat tire, some more crazy heat, and a big climb up “Anarchy Hill”, but the gang did amazing once again!
A little bbq burger dinner to end off the day put any sore muscles and achy bones in the rear view mirror, life is good!
Ben Pelletier
Red Deer, AB
Registered nonprofit
Donations are typically tax deductible in Canada


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