Judy Allan is passionate about Alberta Avenue. She has worked in the community for almost 13 years as the Avenue Initiative Coordinator with the City of Edmonton. We sat down with her to chat more about the We Believe in 118 Initiative.
Q: Why was there a need for the We Believe in 118 Initiative?
JA: About 15 years ago, Alberta Avenue (118th Ave) had a bad reputation and had become quite run down. There were several wonderful gems in the area, but few people knew about them. The Business Association, along with many community members, lobbied the City to invest in the area to improve the quality of life for those living there, and to improve the economic vibrancy for the businesses that call 118th home. We Believe in 118 was born!
Q: What are some of the campaigns and projects We Believe in 118 initiated?
JA: Many projects were undertaken to change the perception of the area. The Edmonton Neighbourhood Empowerment Team had a We Believe in 118 logo designed, and we created a sign for storefront windows. This gave the businesses a voice that clearly said "there is something here that is good, we just need to tell others”. We Believe in 118 became a rallying cry for the people who lived and worked in the area to come together and work towards a clean, safe, vibrant area.
Shortly after, a coalition was formed that included Edmonton Police Service, Neighbourhood Empowerment Team, Avenue Initiative, Arts on The Ave, Alberta Avenue Business Association, community members and business owners. The coalition went on to implement campaigns aimed at making the area safer; Eyes on the Alley placed large images of local’s eyes on dumpsters; a rally was held to urge business owners to remove weapons and drug paraphernalia from stores; and a social media campaign called “Dear John" aimed at creating awareness about the sex trade. For the most recent campaign, Shop Smart, Shop Alberta Ave, information on predatory retail was sent area-wide to business owners on how to keep their store safe and welcoming.
Q: What was the community's reaction to We Believe in 118?
JA: It was very well received. The majority of business owners responded positively to the project and were happy to display the sign in their window front.
Q: What is the biggest change you've seen in the community?
JA: There has been significant physical change over the years, but projects like We Believe in 118 have helped turn the perception of Alberta Avenue around. People now talk about the great restaurants, stores, festivals and events. It has drawn the businesses and community together.