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Ritchie zoning hearing dominated by community concerns surrounding new Boyle Street health hub


A Monday zoning hearing at city council impacting the Strathcona area of Ritchie was dominated by debate on a forthcoming social agency's potential overdose prevention site.

Boyle Street Community Services confirmed to CTV News Edmonton it has signed a lease to run what it describes as a health-care hub on the western edge of the Ritchie neighbourhood. That site is slated to open in early spring.

In addition, Boyle Street is also in the process of obtaining the proper licence and illegal drug exemptions to operate three overdose prevention booths at the site. That process is still underway and is subject to approval from the provincial government.

Nestled between Alhambra Books and Viva Clayworks, the health hub will take over the former site of Marbles salon.

Debate during the zoning hearing about the potential impact the drug overdose prevention site and health hub would have on the west Ritchie area emerged after city administration brought forward a revision to the current zoning provisions to "modernize" them to "changing market conditions."


Sindi Addorisio, the health hub developer with Boyle Street, said the new location would work as a "microsite," offering referral services for housing, recovery and addictions services and basic medical care once a week provided by a doctor or nurse practitioner.

Regardless of if the overdose prevention booths are approved, Addorisio said Boyle Street is forging ahead with opening the health hub to provide the other support services.

"There definitely is a need in that area for those gaps and services," Addorisio said, adding that analysis of Alberta Health Services and Edmonton fire response data showed Strathcona was one of four areas of the city needing more overdose prevention.

While there is a Mustard Seed location down the street offering outreach and referral services, Addorisio said further help is needed to address the gaps that vulnerable Edmontonians are experiencing in accessing support.

"We spent months looking at different locations and talking to different landlords and this site was the site that sort of fit," she added.


The west Ritchie area zoning changes focused on expanding the potential site uses in the area for commercial activities like breweries, cannabis retail sales, urban indoor farming and urban gardening.

That proposal also included changing the rules that require housing developments to have commercial units on the ground floor.

A City of Edmonton diagram showing the zoning area council was considering revising on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023 (Source: City of Edmonton).

It ultimately passed 10-2, with councillors Jennifer Rice and Karen Principe in opposition.

Representing The Station on Whyte, a residential property on 102 Street and Whyte Avenue, urban planning consultant Elisa Stamatakis said the building has struggled to meet the bylaw of filling ground-floor commercial units.

"While the ground-level retail based on 82 Avenue, Whyte Avenue, has functioned well," Stamatakis explained, "unfortunately, the retail units along 102 Street have not been successful at attracting or retaining businesses."

The Station on Whyte building on 102 Street as seen on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023 (CTV News Edmonton/Jeremy Thompson).


Since city council was reexamining permissible uses for land in west Ritchie, several area residents and business leaders wanted councillors to consider restricting the definition of what health services can be provided in the area.

Several concerned Edmontonians noted they supported the expanded commercial uses but wanted the rezoning bylaw to restrict overdose prevention or supervised injection sites.

"Permissible uses are the things that we are talking about today and the bylaws do not prohibit a health service which clearly is in contradiction of the area redevelopment plan," said Rob Bligh.

Bligh, owner of an area business, Klondike Insurance Agencies, and community advocate involved with Scona Concerned Citizens, said the city plan envisions west Ritchie as an urban village and that zoning considers the unique boomtown storefronts.

That vision, set by city council in 2011 during a bylaw update, has since made the area a "phenomenal destination," Bligh added.

"We don't want to see things go into the area that would halt all of the success that we've all worked towards," he said. "A lot of people have invested their livelihoods to date and it has been very successful in this area."

Several community advocates, including Rob Bligh and David Olson, speak to city council during a zoning hearing on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023 (CTV News Edmonton/Jeremy Thompson).

David Olson, a commercial real estate agent working in the area, told council there are better spaces in the area for social support.

"It's a tough topic to talk about," Olson said in an interview. "Nobody wants to be opposed to something that helps somebody else."

In December, Olson estimated around 90 per cent of commercial leases were filled in the area.

After the news first broke later that month about Boyle Street's new health hub, much of that enthusiasm had disappeared, he added, and "made a lot of people nervous."

"I am here to help bring business to Edmonton," he told council. "I don't want it to not succeed."

Coun. Andrew Knack, representing Ward Nakota Isga, said health services zoning rules apply to the entire area surrounding west Ritchie.

"So any concern around what might be contained within health services would apply around this entire development," Knack added.

While he understood area business owners' and residents' concerns, Knack said overdose prevention site regulation falls within provincial jurisdiction.

"I am comfortable with the zoning that would potentially allow this to happen," he said.

"And I am comfortable with the fact that the provincial government has a process in place that would allow them to decide if this specific concern, if this specific use, might work on this site or any other site around there," he added.

Jennifer Rice, Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi councillor, said she was torn between supporting the zoning change, which reduces red tape for new businesses and concerns the city wasn't doing enough to retain area business — should a supervised consumption site open there.

"We do not want to continue to hurt our business due to security concerns," she said.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson Top Stories

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