Stephanie Chai

Top 40 Under 40 2018

Photography Curtis Trent

Age: 32

Job Title: Manager, Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board

Why She’s Top 40: She’s changing the way people view downtown and the city at large.

Stephanie Chai’s job is to think long-term. As a project manager with the 13-member Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB), she helps guide a 30-year growth plan for municipalities in and around the Capital Region. Given such scope, there aren’t many tangible, day-to-day results. But what her professional life lacks in immediacy, her personal life more than makes up for, with tangible results to spare.

As a volunteer with the Local Good, Urban Interventions and Media Architecture Design Edmonton, Chai creates galleries and events in urban spaces most people overlook. She worked with the volunteer group, Blink, in August 2013 to help transform the top of the Vinci Park 103 parkade into a 400-person, grass-tiled party, with food, games, dance lessons and a screening of Grease. The event was a fundraiser for the Boyle Street Community Services’ Downtown Proud, a program for keeping the city core clean. Chai says that everything she does “is about collaboration, and reimagining spaces. I started as director with the Local Good three years ago, and they’re an incredible team, unlike any I’ve been part of. And my job with the EMRB allows me to be part of something much bigger than myself.”

Chai can’t even step out her door without thinking of ways to improve Edmonton’s streets. Directly north of her home in the Fox One condo tower, the neighbouring parkade makes a four-foot gap stretching the entire block. Where most saw a quirky architectural accident, Chai and her husband, fellow Top 40 recipient Christopher vander Hoek, saw an artistic opportunity. They made the Secret Alley Gallery, a one-day pop-up gallery that drew over 600 people to view and bid on 21 pieces of original art lining the alley walls, a beautiful conversation starter about urban space with all proceeds going to the artists. The theme was Eyes on the Street, a fitting description of the exhibit itself and what Chai does every day.

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