“SOUTH EDMONTON COMMON is a retail power centre located in Edmonton, Alberta. When fully developed, it will spread over 320 acres and contain some 2.3 million square feet of retail space, making it the largest open-air retail development in North America.” [Official Website]

South Edmonton Common, Alberta, Canada
South Edmonton Common. Click for bigger/more images. 


Sharon Zukin in “Whose City, Whose Culture?” questions what happens to public space when it falls into private hands?  She suggests that retaining public control is essential to maintaining public culture, which is “socially constructed on the micro-level.  It is produced by the many social encounters that make up daily life in the streets, shops and parks — the spaces in which we experience life in the cities.”For me, Zukin’s article is just a starting point for an investigation into public culture much closer to home — Edmonton, Alberta, where I used to live.  In the south of the city lies South Edmonton Common (SEC), a recent but significant addition to the city landscape.

  1. Who decided to build SEC?
  2. How did the decision take place?
  3. Who benefits from SEC?
  4. What is the effect on public culture of SEC?


Michael Phair, former Edmonton city councillor:

“It’s a mess.  It’s ugly as sin.”

“I do fear that when giant box stores go out of fashion, it will become a waste of space.”

Dr. Robert Patrick, University of Alberta, urban planning expert:

“Alienated space.”

“Not a welcoming space.”

“Very difficult to interact with other humans.”


South Edmonton Common and Edmonton Research and Development Park Area Structure Plan

Edmonton Traffic Statistics — Comparing 2001 to 2006 traffic flow maps is particularly striking for 23rd Avenue and Gateway Boulevard

Edmonton Motor Vehicle Collisions — 2005