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New ice rinks, spray parks, street furniture and parklets along Whyte Avenue, plus community and festival spaces in two Downtown converted alleyways, are just some of the plans for $6.7 million in federal dollars for Edmonton announced Friday.

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Federal Prairies Economic Development Canada Minister Daniel Vandal announced at city hall Friday the government is supporting 27 projects pitched by Edmontonians.

New projects include a pedestrian-friendly area connecting MacDonald Drive and the river valley, eight publicly-accessible tennis courts at the University of Alberta, spray parks in Blackmud Creek and at Schonsee Park, walking and biking pathways in Confederation District Park, and a gazebo and expanded community garden in Alberta Avenue.

Street furniture and parklets along Whyte Avenue, a convertible ice rink in Haddow Park, a public gallery by Innovate Edmonton, an outdoor community space in Crestwood, four outdoor beach volleyball courts in Parkview, an ice rink in Woodvale, a pilot hockey program for youth with barriers to sport in Eastwood, and community gardens in Millhurst and Blue Quill will also be built beginning this year.

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‘Draw tourism to our city’

Local organizations applied for support for their ideas through the new Canada Community Revitalization Fund. Vandal said the initiative will help build or refresh community infrastructure that benefits the wider public.

“We’ve gone through a very, very difficult two years … It’s going to help people get out there and meet again in public spaces and continue to have fun and build communities,” he told media after the announcement.

“As a former city councilor for many years in Winnipeg, I know the infrastructure deficit that municipalities have … so as a federal team, we are looking to help.”

This national infrastructure program earmarks $500 million over two years to fund projects pitched by non-profits, municipalities, public institutions, and Indigenous communities — funds are still available for future proposals. Last month, $3.4 million was slated for such projects in Calgary.

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Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, Edmonton Center Liberal MP, said he’s particularly excited about the ice rinks and community gardens.

“Providing a community space for food security, what we’ve seen during COVID is really important,” he told Postmedia. “Anything that is going to draw tourism to our city… that’s also a wonderful benefit for our city.”

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he’s particularly excited for the Downtown Business Association’s pitch to transform two Downtown alleys into community spaces for festivals, markets and pop-up patios to bring more life to the area. It reminds him of his recent trip to Nashville, Edmonton’s sister city.

“They were really so creative in turning the back alleys into public places through creating murals, putting more benches out there, bringing festivities into back alleys, and opening back alleys for people to come into establishments,” he said. “I think that’s the potential I’m seeing.”

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Transit and carousel upgrades

Other items given the green light were upgrades to existing infrastructure, including renovations for the 124 Street area and Helen Nolan park, pedestrian areas on Gateway Boulevard between 80 Avenue and Whyte Avenue, the transit station at 100 Street and MacDonald Drive, two pedestrian areas in the Ice District for sidewalk patios, and Edmonton Valley Zoo’s antique carousel.

Plans to renovate or expand outdoor spaces at Telus World of Science, art space at Alberta Council for Ukrainian Arts, the Bennett Center in Cloverdale, an urban farm in north-central Edmonton, Ridgewood’s community garden, and outdoor rinks in Belgravia, Eastwood, Parkview and Woodvale were also supported.

Meanwhile, Vandal and Boissonanault also announced $17 million to support 11 Edmonton companies in manufacturing, clean energy and digital technology. Innovate Edmonton, NAIT and Startup TNT also were given a boost in hopes of creating opportunities for local businesses.

[email protected]

@laurby

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