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


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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!

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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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Glenn Anderson adds some colour to the “Day of Golf”

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Last week, the 32nd edition of the Glenn Anderson Day of Golf raised an incredible amount of money … in fact more than $832 thousand dollars!  Chances are as the numbers are tallied up, that total will be near $900K!  That’s a big deal and the money raised will fund cancer research. Congratulations to the organizers and a shout out to the Derrick Club who did an amazing job of hosting the event.

But today’s story is more about Glenn Anderson.  A class act, Anderson travels up to Edmonton from Florida each year to help make this event a roaring success.  He told some great stories at a reception the night before the tournament. If you’re an Oilers fan, you’ll enjoy this video!

Click here to watch the video. 



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Headliners Wickenheiser and Straschnitzki lead the way at Lending Cupboard fundraiser with $10,000.00 donation

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‘An Evening with The Lending Cupboard’ proves an inspiring, community-building event
Special guests Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser and Ryan Straschnitzki strongly endorse TLC’s vision

‘An Evening with The Lending Cupboard’, held on June 16th at the Cambridge Hotel in Red Deer, proved to be an exciting, inspiring event featuring Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser and Ryan Straschnitzki.

“When I was contacted to come and do this, it was a no-brainer given what I do now in medicine,” explained Wickenheiser, who is also of course a highly-acclaimed Olympic gold medalist and author in her own right. “This is a brilliant idea. I don’t know why we aren’t doing this across the country – it makes a lot of sense!

“It provides a very valuable service in the community…if we can help to raise that profile, that’s so good.”

During the event, Wickenheiser shared many details of her own memorable journey, reflecting on the hockey dreams that have been intrinsic to her life from a young age. She then interviewed Straschnitzki onstage, giving him the opportunity to reflect on the Humboldt bus crash of April 6, 2018 and the courageous steps he has taken to re-build his life since.

“My entire process from the time of the accident has made me realize how this kind of support really helps out,” explained Straschnitzki, adding that bolstering awareness about the service is critical as well. “It’s such a great idea, and it benefits so many people. The more the word can be spread about it, there’s even more of an impact that can be made. “Being in a wheelchair these past four years, I’ve realized how inaccessible things can be when you live with a disability, so I think it’s important to raise awareness about these kinds of programs,” he added. “I think it’s a great initiative!”

Executive Director Dawna Morey also commented on how thankful she was for how the event unfolded, and how inviting Wickenheiser and Straschnitzki – who turned out to be a powerful duo – was indeed the right choice. “I’m humbled that they joined us, and I’m also humbled by their incredible generosity – having donated $10,000 back to The Lending Cupboard.”

Amanda Blair, TLC’s Board Chair, said she was blown away by the generosity of all the attendees, including of course Wickenheiser and Straschnitzki – and the overall support from the community. “Seeing everyone pull together just gives you that faith in humanity – it warms your heart,” she said. “Everyone there was also super enthusiastic about it – I think a lot of people learned more about The Lending Cupboard, which is also what we are trying to do.”

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