By Jen Cameron, Sydnee Bryant, Caroline Barlott, Steven Sandor | August 1, 2014
For the third consecutive year, Avenue reached out to its readers, asking them what they thought are the city’s best neighbourhoods. For the third year in a row, more readers voted for Strathcona than any other.
We’re at the point where we can call Strathcona a dynasty – at least when it comes to Edmonton neighbourhoods.
But, while Strathcona made it a top-neighbourhood three-peat, there was some moving and shaking in our Top 10. Two neighbourhoods made their debuts in our Top five – Glenora and Downtown. Ironically, the two are very different from each other. Glenora is all about sprawling lots, large homes and low density; downtown life is about living in small spaces and embracing the urban lifestyle.
Below, we present this year’s Top 10.
For the third year in a row, Strathcona remains No. 1 in our Best Neighbourhoods survey. The area, which turns 102 this year, is beloved for its bustling year-round farmers’ market, walkability and abundance of shops, restaurants and bars – there are more than 600 businesses in the area. And while the area was also voted the city’s “most overrated” in our survey, it’s tough to deny its year-round charms. In summer, the patios overflow with people; in winter, residents and honorary residents flock to festivals like Ice on Whyte.
Old Strathcona also works hard to retain much of its historic vibe because it is one of Edmonton’s “most significant early communities,” according to the Alberta Register of Historic Places. That makes it a heritage district, meaning the City can regulate signage, among other things, to ensure the classic look of the area remains intact.
However, some of the area’s older fixtures, such as the Walterdale Bridge, are currently getting some TLC from the City. Construction on the century-old landmark started in spring of 2014 and will continue until the bridge is fully replaced.-Sydnee Bryant
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The city’s most heavily populated neighbourhood has been around for more than 100 years, but it continues to evolve. Soon, there will be even more Edmontonians jumping on the Oliver bandwagon, as plans to move the historic John T. Ross building and build a 29-storey residential complex in its place move forward. Despite the neighbourhood’s evolution, the core of what makes the neighbourhood so popular – its diversity, historic homes, proximity to downtown, view of the river valley and variety of retail options – still remains. Residents also enjoy a variety of restaurants right in their own backyard, from the elegant Italian Cibo Bistro to the casual but tasty Elm Caf. –S.B.
There was one question that we got more than any other in response to our first two Best Neighbourhood surveys: “Where’s Glenora on the list?” For two years, the Edmonton neighbourhood we most associate with wealth and power in Edmonton – the neighbourhood the Ghermezians call home, the place where Peter Pocklington lived on St. Georges Crescent – didn’t make the list. But this year, mansion-filled Glenora came in at No. 3.
Glenora’s many postcard sites include the Royal Alberta Museum and Alexander Circle, where sprawling homes surround a fountain.
Glenora was planned to be an exclusive community. Entrepreneur James Carruthers began developing the neighbourhood in 1906; his restriction was that no home worth less than $3,500 could be built in Glenora. In 1909, the Alberta government paid for Government House, the official residence of the lieutenant-governor. More than a century ago, Glenora was considered the city’s prime spot for power-brokers. Little has changed. –Steven Sandor
A decade ago, you would have walked through downtown on a Saturday – and it would have felt like a ghost town. Downtown was a Monday to Friday, nine-to-five space. But, oh, how things have changed. On Saturdays from spring till autumn, 104th Street is filled thanks to City Market Downtown. A slew of new businesses have opened on 104th, Jasper Avenue and throughout downtown. Great restaurants – from Tres Carnales to Corso 32 to Tavern 1903 – have made downtown a dining destination for foodies and visitors to the city.
New condo developments and the 28-storey EPCOR tower have changed downtown. When it opened in 2011, it was the first new office tower that downtown has seen in 22 years. And, of course, the arena will further transform the area when it opens in 2016. According to Ian O’Donnell, chair of development for the Downtown Community League, membership has moved from 25 to 40 a few years ago to “well over 250, now.” –S.S.
It’s a neighbourhood displaying the best of both worlds – a trendy shopping area courtesy of 124th Street and quiet, tree-lined streets with heritage homes that are full of character. The trees and homes have been around for decades, but 124th Street keeps the area current, drawing people from all parts of the city into the unique shops, cafes and restaurants that flourish in the area. On one side, it’s bordered by the river valley, while well-kept homes and yards lead you up to 111th Avenue – it’s like a throwback to old neighbourhoods that were full of charm and easily traversed by foot. –Caroline Barlott
Gracing the list for the third year in a row is one of Edmonton’s oldest neighbourhoods. Named after Manitoba Mtis Laurent Garneau, the area is steeped in Edmonton’s history and home to Alberta’s century-old university. Some of its appeal is undoubtedly its stock of affordable housing options for students. With cafe culture alive and well, and old trees looming overhead in front of historic homes, Garneau’s ideal for carrying out daily routines on foot or enjoying pleasant strolls. Not far from downtown, Hawrelak Park or commercial businesses, the area remains a highly cherished, culturally rich region in Edmonton. –Jen Cameron
Strathearn pairs great views of the North Saskatchewan river valley with a location that’s hard to beat. Nature is right at the doorstep of everyone in the community, but the neighbourhood is also close to both downtown and Whyte Avenue. Soon, the area will be even more accessible with the LRT slated to run through it. A small strip mall houses the Red Ox Inn and Societ francophone des arts visuels de l’Alberta, an organization dedicated to demonstrating the importance of arts in the community. Reminiscent of the 1950s, the strip mall reflects the feel of the neighbourhood. –C.B.
Gazing over the river valley on the North East side of the city, Highlands hits the list three years running. With strikingly beautiful homes built before the First World War, Highlands is a historically proud neighbourhood. It celebrated its 100th birthday in 2012, and the area sits just outside the city centre on the banks of North Saskatchewan. The quaint French restaurant and bed and breakfast La Boheme adds a defining charm to 112th Avenue. Typically a low-density residential area, Highlands remains a tightly knit, know-your-neighbour type of community, perfect for indulging in active lifestyles. With wonderful walking and hiking trails, golf courses and pleasant parks, it’s no wonder it’s a recurring Top 10 neighbourhood. –J.C.
Last year, Windermere, one of the city’s newest communities, was in the No. 9 spot. But this year, older Ritchie won out, with its well-established homes and its history that dates back to before Edmonton joined with Strathcona. In fact, the neighbourhood’s name is a testament to its age – its namesake, Robert Ritchie, was a mayor of Strathcona. Residents are close to the boutique shops of Whyte Avenue, and the natural space of Mill Creek Ravine. But they’re in a quieter part of the area, with small bursts of nature, including Ritchie Park. –C.B.
While Crestwood has dropped two spots from last year, the neighbourhood has still managed to snag a spot in the Top 10 three years in a row. Maybe it’s the area’s green space, the proximity to the river valley or its festive spirit – it is the home of Candy Cane Lane, one of Edmonton’s most beloved winter traditions, after all. Regardless, one thing remains clear: The home of Edmonton’s oldest community league isn’t falling out of vogue anytime soon. –S.B.