Edmonton launches downtown revitalization campaign

By News Staff

Edmonton is vowing to revitalize its downtown area while improving public safety.

The city launched a pair of programs and a marketing campaign Wednesday to bring life to downtown – beyond just the Edmonton Oilers playoff run.

The “Meet Me Downtown!” campaign is a combination of a “vibrancy fund” and grant dedicated to get more people to visit, eat and shop in that part of the city.

“This will allow more festivals to come downtown,” said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi during Tuesday’s state of the city address, hinting at the upcoming revitalization announcement. “It will allow more animation of back alleys, public spaces, to attract more investment into downtown.”

Downtown Edmonton has been plagued by security issues, with many residents choosing to keep away from that part of the city after dark. It’s also the epicentre for the city’s homelessness crisis.

And downtown was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with several businesses still having a difficult time due to the many office workers working from home.

$5 million fund, $1.5 million grant

Businesses and organizations can apply for funding as part of the $5 million “vibrancy fund.”

To be eligible, projects must prove they can achieve one of four goals: increasing the number of people living downtown; developing local tourism and infrastructure; promoting downtown businesses or events; or activating economic opportunity.

Proposals for funding will no longer be accepted only once the $5 million is entirely allocated.


A separate $1.5 million grant aims to support events, activities and festivals occurring downtown this year. Businesses and organizations that can attract visitors downtown are eligible for funding.

“We know that our downtown businesses and partners are working hard to make downtown a vibrant and enjoyable place to be,” said Tom Girvan, the director of Downtown Vibrancy and Safe City, in a statement. “These funds will help support our partners, allowing them to do what they do best, and give Edmontonians across the city more reasons to experience all that our downtown has to offer.”

Meanwhile the marketing campaign is also aimed at attracting Edmontonians to the downtown core. Ads, social media posts, pamphlets and stickers will feature Marvin, an emoji who will be the face of the campaign.

WATCH: Beyond the playoffs: Business leaders look long-term at downtown revitalization

But it doesn’t all depend on municipal initiative, believes the mayor. At Tuesday’s state of the city address, Sohi said Edmonton’s downtown would need a boost from the province.

“We need support for downtown, for business districts,” he said. “We put that in the budget, asks that were not delivered. We need support for supportive housing.”

The mayor urged Edmonton residents to ask their provincial representative what they’re doing to help Alberta’s capital fight poverty and crime.

Marvin the meatball

Along with the money comes Marvin and his friends, although some question just how welcoming the emoji is.

Marvin the meatball, part of Edmonton’s Meet Me Downtown campaign. (Photo Credit: Adam Ziccarelli, CityNews)

“Something that would be more welcoming. There’s so many amazing graphic artists with creative minds that could do something better than a cross between a cookie and a pizza with two hearts for eyes,” said Kenneth Kushner, a downtown resident.

Others believe an emoji that reflects downtown would have been more appealing.

“It doesn’t have anything that speaks to downtown for me. Just squiggly circle with hard eyes and weird things on its head,” said Connor Gaughan, a downtown resident.

According to the city, the design aims to engage and encourage Edmontonians to visit downtown more often.

“The idea is to make something that is accessible, kid-friendly, and that can get people excited about coming downtown,” said Jenny Renner, communications advisor for the City of Edmonton.

—With files from Darcy Ropchan and Adam Ziccarelli

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