City of Edmonton hears the call for new Boyle Street Community Services Building – Edmonton


Boyle Street Community Services is moving forward with plans to swap its current facilities for a newly renovated building, but it is facing opposition.

The organization plans to leave its home on 105 Avenue near Rogers Place and move two blocks north to a building on the corner of 101 Street and 107A Avenue that in recent years housed a laser tag facility. .

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On Thursday, the City of Edmonton Subdivisions and Development Appeal Board heard from 16 appellants.

Lawyer Janice Agrios, representing the Chinatown and Area Business Association and the Chinese Benevolent Association of Edmonton, spoke first.

She said everyone recognizes the importance of the work done by Boyle Street and said the appeal is for land use plans that comply with zoning regulations.

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Agrios pointed out that the Katz Group – which owns the Oilers Entertainment Group which operates Rogers Place – helped fund the project and described it as a win-win.


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Boyle Street delighted with community donations for new home


But, she said, consideration for Chinatown and the McCauley neighborhood was overlooked.

Agrios said the new building is zoned for commercial use, not for the social services Boyle Street provides to the city’s most vulnerable.

“This is a large 75,000 square foot drop-in center, which offers programming of various social support services and other services for homeless people,” Agrios said.

“It doesn’t provide PRA and it’s not a permitted use under zoning.”

Agrios said the way Boyle Street applied for this nomination was carefully designed to meet current area restrictions.

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“In order to allow zoning on this site, the ARP must be amended and the site must be rezoned.

“If the city council decides that they want this site to be for a social agency, a drop-in center or a day shelter, the city council has the power to authorize it.”

Boyle Street executive director Jordan Reiniger said they applied with the same uses as in their current building.

Reiniger said this is a fairly common question when applying for a development permit.

“There are a lot of fundamental misunderstandings about the work we do, and you can even hear in submissions callers not really understanding the intended use of the building,” Reiniger said.

“It feels like Boyle Street is a soup kitchen, where all we do is people go there to warm up – but in reality, the fundamental driver of our work is finding ways to s engage in healing.”

Boyle Street serves over 12,000 people. According to the organization, there are approximately 2,900 homeless people on the waiting list for housing in Edmonton. That number has more than doubled since March 2019, BSCS said.

Earlier this month, Reiniger said the organization’s current building is inaccessible and “literally in ruins,” so this new project couldn’t come at a better time.

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Click to play the video: “Boyle Street Community Services is moving”


Boyle Street Community Services Relocation


He said the center provides access to this healing through Indigenous activities and ceremonies.

“That’s really what drives what we do, and the facilities that we build are through relationships and connecting with people so that we can give them access to those services.”

As of November 1, BSCS said it had reached 75% of its fundraising goal of $28.5 million so far, without any government assistance.

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The Aboriginal name given to the new community center on Boyle Street is okimaw peyesew kamik. In English, the Cree name translates to “King Thunderbird Centre”.

Other members of the central Edmonton community have expressed concerns about the impact this will have on businesses.

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There are fears that there will be more social disorder like vandalism, broken windows, vagrancy and no-shows/urinating around the building – resulting in damage to businesses and personal property.

Ed Lam of the Funkieness Association of Alberta said that over the past six years security has deteriorated around their school.

“We see many cases of vandalism, hate crimes, burglaries and thefts.”

“These cases worry our teachers and volunteers. We take every precaution to avoid these encounters, but the proximity of homelessness makes our community and our school vulnerable,” Lam said.


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Edmonton’s Chinatown Business Association concerned about relocation of Boyle Street shelter building


McCauley Community League President Alice Kos told the board that this had turned into an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ issue – but she said that was not the case.

She wants to see an increase in services for people struggling with homelessness and addictions. She doesn’t want to see an existing service moved away from the ICE district.

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“I am so proud to live in an area that is doing its part, but access to food, housing and support services should be in every neighborhood. McCauley is generous – make every quarter generous.

Kos said Boyle Street was not the only vulnerable group. Through tears, Kos said Chinatown was vulnerable and the McCauley neighborhood was vulnerable.

Kos said the proposed development will have a negative impact on the region.

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Frog Lake Cree Nation Chief Gregory Desjarlais made the three-hour trip to Edmonton in support of Boyle Street. He said it was an opportunity to work together and people should embrace the new building.

“A lot of the homeless people who use the service are First Nations, and I believe they can’t get into that courthouse, and so there needs to be representation from the leaders of the treaty area,” said Desjarlais.

“I believe we have to look for a solution and not try to knock down a project that has already been approved by the city.”

Desjarlais said the size of the facility is necessary due to the number of homeless people in Edmonton, the new center is part of the solution.

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The board will render its decision in writing within 15 days of the hearing.


Click to play video: “Boyle Street Community Services in Downtown Edmonton is moving to a new home”


Boyle Street Community Services in downtown Edmonton moves into new home


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