The City must find solutions — fast — to the growing problems of crime and homelessness downtown.
Those sentiments were loud and clear at a panel discussion on the future of downtown held Thursday at the Westin Hotel.
“It won’t work if don’t do something immediately and urgently,” said Kevin McKee, the CEO of Pangman Development Corporation, which administers the Enbridge Centre, the rental residences at Augustana and is part of a team working on a new development that could see up to 1,000 new residential units built by the new Warehouse Park. To a round of applause from the roughly 200 people in attendance, he said developers, business owners and residents can’t wait six months or so for city council to “navel-gaze.” He said the issues of crime and safety are very real, and it’s better to launch programs to address them right away, even if some of them fail.
Basically, inaction isn’t acceptable.
Edmonton Police Deputy Chief Darren Derko told the people in attendance at the NAIOP (a commercial real estate development association) luncheon that “crime rates have really spiked” on 118th Avenue, Chinatown and downtown.
“We need to get a grip on it where we can control it,” he said.
What’s at play, here? Why does downtown feel less safe than it did before the COVID pandemic? A lot of people may have come back to the office, but only part-time. The hybrid work week is real, and that means fewer people out and about during the morning rush or at lunch hour. It means fewer people going out after work for drinks or an early dinner. It means more retail vacancies, because of the reduced foot traffic. And, that invites crime. It creates places for people to use drugs.