Many know that I have been like a dog on a bone when it comes to revitalizing the Petrolia Mall in Greenfield. Our communities deserve better.
This tired, nearly derelict commercial centre was once a vibrant part of our community. When my neighbours and I formed the Fix Petrolia Mall Committee in 2012, we soon had hundreds of community members telling us about their dreams for a better shopping centre and healthier community. The community was very clear and consistent: they wanted grocery stores, bakeries, coffee shops and mixed-use housing (for seniors, for example).
Our efforts are paying off. No Frill Grocery is here and doing extremely well. The community is committed the way we had hoped. But we still have a long way to go.
It’s bigger than Petrolia Mall
The amenities that we lack in the still nearly empty Petrolia Mall are what many mature communities also lack. We’re beginning to see a drain of local businesses from strip malls to the edges of the city. Over in Blue Quill, Pleasantview and Ermineskin, the commercial centres are beginning to show age and major tenants are vacating. Unless we are careful and plan ahead, they could quickly become tomorrow’s Petrolia Mall.
Failure is not an option
I do not believe that these centres fail because people simply make choices to spend their money elsewhere (South Edmonton Common, for example), although that is part of it. They fail because of the way we plan and invest in our city.
I believe that politicians have lacked the political will to change the way our mature neighbourhoods develop. Developers, community groups and city planners seem to have a hard time collaborating with each other. However, we have the ability to change this.
The role of the political leader is not to dictate how developers or business owners should behave, but to create the conditions in which all stakeholders can find success. A strong political leader facilitates the cooperation and collaboration of these groups.
I am running for city council so we can be proactive. Once elected, I will bring together the current owners of the under-utilized strip malls in Ward 10, with community voices and entrepreneurs. Together with my continued leadership we can create amenable-friendly neighbourhoods and help the goals of our communities be realized.
Click here to lift your imagination about the future of older strip malls. The City Region Study Centre at the University of Alberta created Strip Appeal and is in partnership with the Fix Petrolia Mall Committee.