No other city in the Americas has as many people living as far north as Edmonton. It’s a seemingly random observation, but one that impacts almost every part of the capital of Alberta—Canada’s energy heart.
For example, its livelihood: as the blue-collar service hub of Canada’s energy industry, Edmonton is the city closest to the in/famous (depending on who you talk to) tar sands of Northern Alberta, the largest deposit of bitumen on earth. The city has profited mightily off of petroleum, ranking #29 in our Prosperity category—a jump of eight spots over last year, despite low oil prices and pipeline delays preventing extracted fossil fuels to reach the West Coast, and export to China, at full capacity.
As you can imagine, not doing anything at full capacity isn’t sitting well with a city whose residents globally rank #17 in GDP per capita.
Still, Edmonton’s plentiful, well-paying jobs have propelled the city to a #27 global ranking for People, including #14 in Educational Attainment and #52 for foreign-born residents.
The environment for a molecular evolution from chilly productive resource town into a curated hotbed isolated sufficiently to do its own thing has been here for years. The University of Alberta (ranked #46 globally), healthy immigration and the government dollars that come with being a provincial capital have already created a place known around the world as “The City of Festivals.” From Fringe theater to street performers to an increasingly important international film festival, there are more than 50 large, city-sanctioned events every year.
A recent downtown revival has now catapulted the city into the “urban renewal” conversation that has been happening in other North American industry cities. The catalyst has been the new Rogers Place arena downtown, occupied by the National Hockey League Edmonton Oilers, captained by one of the best players in the world the likes of which the city hasn’t seen since Wayne Gretzky helped win four of the team’s five Stanley Cups throughout the ’80s.
The result is the Ice District, packed with the independent and curated—a poke bar, decadent and handmade Jacek Chocolate Couture, incredible Mexican at Rostizado, and a design-forward Edmonton souvenir shop called Habitat Etc. The fascinating Royal Alberta Museum—long an overlooked gem in this city of many cultural pursuits—has moved to the ‘hood as well, in the heart of Edmonton’s downtown arts district. The new JW Marriott next door is one of the most luxurious and high-end openings for the brand in the past year.
This, of course, to say nothing of the traditionally buzzing university district of Whyte Ave., where drinking holes are now local breweries (Situation Brewing) and where the Varscona boutique hotel is setting the bar higher for sophisticated revelry. But you still have to watch where you step on Saturday night. Edmonchuck (yes, there’s a lot of Slavic ancestry in town) isn’t getting too big for its ball cap just yet.