A Bold Vision for the Future of Northlands

coliseum_crop.jpg

Yesterday the City of Edmonton voted to take control of the Coliseum and the Northlands Park. The next City Council will have to – very quickly – determine what to do with these two facilities.

The guiding principles that need to be applied to this project are simple - does the project serve Edmontonians, and does it serve the immediate community.

As it stands, Northlands is in a lull, and not serving either of these two principles.

There is no question the Coliseum has fallen into disrepair in the last few years. Northlands was cash-strapped, and there just was not the resources available to maintain and upgrade the building.

The heating and ventilation systems need upgrading, to be sure. But its primary deficiencies are largely aesthetic. Precast exterior walls with no windows are a legacy from a bygone architectural era. Stained walls. Chipped floor tiles.

Worse, it has no viable future as a 16,000 seat arena. Even if we wanted to, you cannot maintain and operate an area on the basis of six rodeo events a year and a curling event every eight years or so. As an arena, the building is not viable.

But the Coliseum has great bones. Its structure is sound. The ice plant is less than ten years old.

And ... it is bought and paid for.

We need to remember that the cost of a five storey building with a 70,000 square foot roof is not trivial, and to simply blow up this building might be a rush to judgement.

What else can we do with this building? What else can it be?

Can it become the hotel that the Expo Centre needs to improve its viability? Can it be renovated to provide a combination of covered parking to serve the Colisuem LRT station, and multi-family housing? Can we put two rinks in the basement at minimal cost, using the relatively new ice plant that sits there today, and add other recreation centre activities on new floors above?

It is distinctly possible that the viability of any renovation of this building does not make economic sense. But I believe we need to explore all potential possibilities. The City of Edmonton struggles with the costs of constructing new infrastructure. We simply don’t have the money to build all the structures we might want as a city.

Does it makes sense to demolish a building we already own, with a strong, sound structure that will last for decades to come?

On the other hand, there is no other reasonable choice for Northlands Park than to repurpose most of the facility into in-fill housing. Most of the barns are falling down already, there is nothing to be saved there. The grandstand roof has failed. We might look at preserving the grandstand seating and repairing the roof, but only if we identify a need for a small scale, outdoor arena with a seated capacity of 5,000-10,000 people. Even at that, renovation of the grandstand may be less viable than simply building a new facility.

The land which the grandstand occupies has value as another in-fill opportunity. In the early 2000’s, land along the south and east edges was converted primarily from single family residential homes to parking, to support the Expo Centre project to come. That land could be converted back to residential uses, however the services now there serve a parking lot, not residential use. Repurposing this land will require development that resembles a new development.

That isn’t a bad thing, its just something to remember as we discuss the best path forward for the south end of the old Northlands site.

The return of the Northlands site to city control is an exciting opportunity for us. We need to find a way to acknowledge the significant role that these lands played in the evolution of Edmonton. Going back to the Sales Pavilion and the Edmonton Gardens, these lands have play host to countless events central to the development and growth of our city.

Let's try to find the balance approach that pays tribute to this history, while at the same time leveraging these assets for the greater good of our city.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Edmonton Beach

beach_mid2.jpg

Edmonton Beach – The Accidental River Valley Development, and the Lesson It Provides


Edmonton Beach, the Accidental Beach, Cloverdale Beach or my personal favourite, the Sand District.

This beach is an unintended by-product of the construction of the new Walterdale Bridge. The two temporary dams that allowed the erection of the two bridge towers resulted in the deposits of river sand along the south bank of the river. When the construction dams are removed, it is likely that the river will revert to its original channel, and the beach will erode and disappear – unless we take steps to preserve it.


And we should preserve the beach. This will require conversations with the various federal bodies that protect our waterways, and we will require a plan to allow safe access, parking and litter control that respects the property of nearby residents. Edmonton Beach would be a great addition to our roster of river valley parks like Ward 9's Terwillegar Park and Fort Edmonton Park (both with great footbridges).


But unlike our other parks, Edmonton Beach will allow people to interact with the water. And I believe that is the real lesson.


I believe we need to apply what we have learned. People want to get down to the river, to watch it, walk along it, maybe wade in it, maybe even fish in it. And I think it is time to expand those opportunities.


I would like us to build on the Edmonton Beach experience. Let’s allow limited commercial development between Government House Park and Louise McKinney Park. I am not advocating big malls or side roads. Let’s just enhance what we already have, and allow a coffee shop here and a wine bar there. Maybe an ice cream shop or a bike rental shop. We need only look at the sea wall in Vancouver or The Forks in Winnipeg to see what people-places our river valley could become.

And while we are at it, let’s clear some of the brush away from the banks along the multi-use trails on the north side, and from Saskatchewan Drive on the south side. Imagine what it could be like if you could stand along Saskatchewan Drive on July 1, and watch the fireworks from the high river bank while watching the LED show on our two signature bridges.


Edmonton owes its history, its very existence, to the river. We have done an admirable job of preserving the natural environment of the river. It is now nearly possible to traverse the entire Capital Region, from Fort Saskatchewan to Devon, on multi-use trails. But enjoyment of a riverbank stroll should not be limited to bicyclists and joggers. And making a small urban stretch of our river valley accessible and enjoyable will not compromise the long stretches of untouched riverbank.


Edmonton Beach has shown us what the river could be to Edmonton. It’s time to make use of our largest untapped asset.

 

 

Add your reaction Share

Why I'm Running

family_crop.jpg

In meeting with many of you in the community, one of things I’m often asked is why I’ve decided to run for City Council.

 

Running has been an aspiration in the making over my lifetime.

 

My wife and I have been life long residents of Edmonton. We have raised three children in Ward 9. During that time, we have met many wonderful community leaders and have appreciated the progressive, pragmatic, balanced and forward-looking representation we have received from Bryan Anderson in Ward 9 at the City Council table and from former Premier and MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud, Dave Hancock. I want to see that same approach to elected office continue.

 

I’m running because, as a young man, my parents taught me that one of our great responsibilities as engaged citizens is to find meaningful ways to contribute to our community.  To leave the world we inhabit better than we found it.  To give back.

 

I’m running to help Council stay accountable to you, their electorate. To ensure that we are a city which encourages innovation and entrepreneurialism so that our diverse business community can thrive.

 

I’m running so that we have responsible and forward-looking investment in infrastructure and development that will support the continued growth of the city.

 

I’m running to be the voice for Ward 9. To ensure that our challenges, some of which are at a critical crossroads (like transportation), are not only raised to the top of the priority list but resolved by listening to the voices of our residents.

 

I’m running because Edmonton is amongst the best places in the world to live. To work. To raise a family. And we all play a role in helping to keep this positive momentum going.

 

Truly, I’m running for my family, and yours. So that our children and grandchildren can grow in a community that they’re proud to call home.

 

I look forward to meeting you over the coming months and continuing the conversation about what’s important in our community.

 

 

Add your reaction Share