Whyte Avenue businesses contemplate relaunch: ‘We’re going to need more space’

Nicer weather combined with easing COVID-19 restrictions mean one of Edmonton’s busiest neighbourhoods should be springing back to life.

The impact of COVID-19 has left Whyte Avenue near empty, but with Phase 1 of the province’s relaunch plan underway, some area residents are starting to come back out.

“I think it’s exciting! I’m a nurse myself, so I think we have to be careful but I think a little bit of return to normal will do everybody really good,” Suzanne Turcotte said.

While the popular avenue is no where near as busy as it once was, some area businesses are embracing the change.

“We’re opening up for the first time in these crazy times,” Nathan Brass, front of house manager with Blowers and Grafton, explained.

“We’re just doing our best to keep everything to about 30 per cent capacity, just want a slow rollout and be cautious with everything.”

“Coming out of COVID-19, we’re going to need more space,” said Cherie Klassen, executive director with the Old Strathcona Business Association.

“Coming out on Whyte Avenue and people are walking by, we don’t have two metres, but we have six lanes of roadway that maybe we can spill out… taking up some of that space.”

It’s an idea Ward 8 city councillor Ben Henderson supports.

“One of the things we’ve been asking the city to look at was the ways in which we can use the sidewalks, and perhaps the road, in a different way to create not just space for the patios — because that’s just one piece of the puzzle — but also space for pedestrians so they can move safely and get to all the businesses up the avenue,” Henderson said.

Henderson says he has presented this idea on several occasions and it is under review by city operations.

“If you open up and start bringing people back to work and they can’t get enough customers in or there’s not enough business, that’s going to give us another challenge,” Henderson said.

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