The annual Way of the Cross event wove its way through downtown Edmonton on Friday but in the presence of a looming new neighbour: Rogers Place.
About 150 people of all ages attended the event, despite the snow and slushy conditions.
They sang and reflected about social issues at seven stations, such as Boyle Street Community Services and Hope Mission.
“It’s a chance for people to walk the streets of Edmonton’s inner city and think about social issues,” organizer Jim Gurnett said.
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Gurnett said the new arena, which has been opened for more than six months now, has changed the dynamic of the inner city and those seeking help for social issues.
This year, the route was altered so participants would walk alongside Rogers Place.
“It’s definitely having an impact on the lives of people that live in the neighbourhood.
“We thought that we would walk along it and around that area so we could invite people in Edmonton to think: it’s a wonderful place for a centre of entertainment but what are the other implications of it for the people that are affected by it?”
Gurnett said there are some anxieties about the long-term impacts of Rogers Place.
“They’re seeing a lot more of a different kind of people around. They wonder whether some of these agencies that provide services will be able to survive as this becomes a more economically desirable neighbourhood for them,” he said.
Jeremiah Basuric, a community engagement coordinator with the Mustard Seed, said it is obvious the new arena and the downtown revitalization has changed the atmosphere and feel of Edmonton’s inner city.
“There’s always tension in a new community,” he said.
“If I move to a neighbourhood, I still have to get used to it and they have to get used to me. But there’s always tension, especially when we don’t know each other very well.”
Basuric said the new route past Rogers Place is an opportunity for people to “walk together.”
“To have the arena beside us and other agencies beside us, we can be aware of it. Hopefully it’s a symbol we can walk between the two and we can live between the two.”