THE PRICE HAS TO BE RIGHT
Good projects if we can afford them
henough of this pipeline doom ‘n’ gloom!
‘Tis time to be a tad optimistic about Edmonton’s future. (I’ll try to be optimistic. In my heart of hearts, I am dead worried about the future of my children in this province.)
Three major landuse projects are underway in the downtown.
If properly done, prudently funded, they should gently contribute to the city’s economic well-being and quality of life.
The one I like best — the Central Warehouse Park
— is well underway.
The City of Edmonton is creating a big (1.4 acres — about a square city block) new, traditional city park in the downtown.
It’s north of Jasper Avenue, from 106 Street to halfway between 107 and 108 Streets. Think of the surface parking lots behind the big Boston Pizza building (at Jasper and 106 Street), behind Audrey’s Book Store and Doan’s Restaurant (at Jasper and 107 Street).
Three reputable developers plan to build condo/apartment towers around Central Park: Westrich Pacific (Ultima, Encore), Edgar (The Hendrix, Maclaren) and a Maclab/john Day/ Pangman partnership.
The park is underway. Land is being assembled. It’s relatively cheap, and construction funding is secured from the downtown Community Revitalization Levy.
Opening in 2022, Central Park will give the downtown needed greenery, calmness and play space. Walking from Jasper Avenue to Macewan University and the Ice District will be more pleasurable.
The astounding thing about the Ice District, around Rogers Place Arena, is its realization as planned.
After decades of downtown stagnation, few believed Oilers owner Daryl Katz and his Ice District vision of skyscrapers, highrises, hotels, restaurants, retail, recreational and community plazas would ever come true.
Danged if the Ice District isn’t emerging near exactly as envisioned. One office tower is finished (and sold), two enormous highrise towers are now nearing completion. The only glitch was the Cineplex decision to pull its movie-theatre complex out of the fourth tower being built on the site of the old Greyhound bus depot. That forced a re-design, delaying construction.
Otherwise, the Ice District is developing as promised. The only thing Katz and partners will lose sleep over is the slowdown in luxury condo sales on the upper floors of the Marriott and Stantec towers.
The attraction of the Ice District has had a ripple effect. The 19-floor HSBC Bank building on 101 Street, snuggled in beside the ICE District, is being fully renovated. AIMCO (Alberta Investment Management Corporation) has bought the building and will be the lead tenant. Why is AIMCO moving? To be close to the new heart of the downtown.
The river valley’s West Rossdale Plan is inspired by The Forks in Winnipeg and The Halifax Waterfront.
The idea is to make our river valley, directly below the downtown, an attractive mix of parkland, riverside promenades, residential living and recreational possibility.
The problem is too many cooks, too many moving parts. The Rossdale plan has done little but spin its wheels since 2011.
No vision (with funding) has emerged for EPCOR’S enormous and long-empty Rossdale Power Plant — the project’s keystone. There’s the water-treatment plant, RE/MAX Field, Indigenous people’s ancestral graveyards and gathering spots, the community of Rossdale itself, real-estate developers sniffing around.
Plans have come and gone. Politicians keep changing their minds. Interest groups push differing agendas. As always, urban planners (who abhor cars and parking) say a gondola between Old Strathcona, Rossdale and downtown will handle transportation needs. Good luck with that.
Talk is the city’s road planners — those lovers of mass transit and bicycles, haters of the convenience of the private vehicle — want to blow up and re-engineer the perfectly good traffic patterns feeding into the downtown from the beautiful, multi-lane, new Walterdale Bridge.
Meanwhile, the one completed piece of this puzzle — the $24 million cityrun funicular — is frequently closed because of cold-weather issues (they didn’t know?) or (surprise, surprise) vandalism.
Good projects, all. But any incoming provincial government with any sense of fiscal responsibility — given falling revenue, skyrocketing debt and ever-increasing health and education costs — will have to defer non-essential spending for years to come.
Squawk away, big-spending, big-city mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi. It will do no good. Some of these projects will just have to wait, because the only solution to Alberta’s deepening financial straits is short-term pain for long-term gain.
The latest proposal for Ice District is special lighting for the towers.