Community services

Investigation reveals concerns over relocation of community services from Boyle Street to McCauley

Some residents of Edmonton’s McCauley neighborhood are concerned about the arrival of yet another social agency in the area, which they say is already dealing with the effects of social disorder and crime.

Boyle Street Community Services plans to move into a building at 100th Street and 107A Avenue next year from its current downtown location at 101st Street and 105th Avenue.

The nonprofit announced the move last December, and soon after, a group of McCauley residents drafted a survey to gauge neighborhood sentiment about it.

Anna Bubel led the survey, 800 copies of which were delivered by hand or sent by e-mail.

Bubel has compiled the results of the informal and unscientific survey of some 187 responses received.

“There’s not just one opinion,” she said. “Just over half either said adamantly ‘no’ or opposed it.”

The findings, which were shared with CBC on Monday, suggest a third of respondents said they would be okay with the development if there were conditions, such as a legal agreement that would see Boyle Street address impacts on the community.

Concentration of agencies

The main concern, however, is the high number of social agencies in the area, Bubel suggested.

McCauley is home to a number of organizations, including Boyle McCauley Health Centre, Bissell Center and Mustard Seed, which provide services to homeless people and people with mental health and addiction issues.

Bubel wonders why the city doesn’t have a policy that regulates agency concentration.

“We’ve seen record-breaking responses to the opioid crisis and constant sirens and EMS over the past year. We’ve seen abandoned housing. We’ve seen fires and arson,” she said. “Can you imagine hundreds more people arriving in the Chinatown business district? It probably won’t improve the situation.”

Yasushi John Ohki, a McCauley resident and executive director of the Green Violin Community Development Company, said he supported moving Boyle Street to the neighborhood, but noted that views on the move were divided.

“There are social agencies, businesses, residents, visitors, community organizations and religious groups in this area, and all have mixed opinions even within their organizations.”

The Chinatown Business Improvement Zone conducted its own survey, but those results are not yet available, executive director Wen Wang said Monday.

The city is taking action

Bubel shared the results of his investigation with the city’s planning department and the council. Anne Stevenson.

O-day’min ward councilor Stevenson said the city is working to improve conditions in the area on several levels.

“There are layers of challenges in these neighborhoods,” she said.

“I’m really encouraged that the city council is investing in greater cleanliness, in public restroom strategies, in dealing with derelict and derelict properties.”

She said Boyle Street consulted with the city before purchasing the property and that the intended use of the building matches existing zoning, although the agency still needs a development permit to proceed with construction.

“Development permits always take a while, but that seems to me at this point more procedural than a significant hurdle,” Stevenson said.

Community members can challenge the development permit, she added, likely through the subdivision and development appeal board.

Boyle Street has been around for 50 years, offering a variety of mental health and addictions advice and services, cultural supports, housing referrals and youth programs.

Boyle Street bought the site from McCauley after the Oilers Entertainment Group agreed to buy his existing downtown land for $5 million.

The Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation then donated $10 million to Boyle Street for renovations to McCauley’s building.

A Boyle Street spokesperson, Elliott Tanti, said the agency had spoken to about 50 groups directly affected by the project and planned to have further discussions in the near future, throughout the building phase.

“Boyle Street is committed to meaningful and ongoing engagement with key stakeholders, including local residents, businesses, community groups and ZACs,” Tanti said in an email Tuesday.