A recent article in Avenue magazine was just the optimism I needed to feel excited about living in Edmonton and see all the potential our great city has. There’s been a lot of fear-mongering and negativity because of falling oil prices, and after a summer job search from hell, this article was just what we all needed. Well timed, really. Top that off with National Geographic naming Edmonton one of the top 10 places to visit this summer, and the world is Edmonton’s oyster. (But seriously, HOW did that happen? Oh…Fifa.) Deadmonton is not so dead this summer, and I have a feeling we won’t be called that much longer. Edmonton is getting a facelift, and I couldn’t be more excited.
While the article in Avenue focused on residential development, real estate developers aren’t the only ones pouring in tons of money: municipal, provincial, and federal governments are as well. As I was researching the downtown development, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of harmony. Governments, real estate developers, commercial developers, and large corporations are all working together to revitalize downtown. When the idea was first proposed that government funds help develop the arena, the idea was met with controversy. But since then, it has become apparent that this alliance will be mutually beneficial for both the Katz Group and the City of Edmonton. Beyond a simple redevelopment project, the Edmonton downtown revitalization project is an example of how governments and private enterprise can effectively work together.
If you’re like me, you’ve been here a looooong time. And when this becomes the coolest city in Canada, you bet I’ll be saying “well I lived here first!”. Edmonton was always pretty great, we just lacked a cool downtown. We’re all burrowed into our homes during winter, but as soon as the sun comes out, Edmontonians like to come out and play. The festival and summer culture of this city is outrageous. What the Truck, a relatively small event last year, reportedly boasted 3-hour line-ups this year. Even in winter-time we have great events like the Silver Skate Festival.
The river valley is unlike any other. In case you didn’t know, we have the largest river valley in North America. The river valley makes it possible to enjoy mountain biking, cross-country skiing, running, and other outdoor activities without having to leave the city. It’s basically like living in a cabin in the woods and a big city at the same time.
We already have great shopping at WEM and Southgate, an amazing art gallery, and all the wonders that come with Old Strathcona. The University of Alberta boasts gorgeous historic buildings and modern new facilities. The newly lit-up bridge adds a unique look to our city. All we lack is a really cool downtown. But don’t worry, it’s coming. According to estimates in the Edmonton Journal, our downtown will be soaking in an “unheard of” 4.8 billion dollar development bath.
All the development thangs
If you live in Edmonton, you’ve probably hear about the Downtown/Rogers arena, which will be the new home of the Edmonton Oilers. But have you heard of the Winter Gardens or the amazing plaza that will provide a year-round gathering place with heated patios? Say goodbye to curling up in a ball this winter and say hello to all-season dining! The arena district will also have great shopping and a fancy Delta hotel.
The biggest problem that I see with Rexall Place is that there is nowhere nearby to go out after the big game or concert. Rexall Place gets a huge amount of traffic, and the area isn’t able to capitalize on it afterwards. With the arena being downtown, crowds will paint the town red in the arena district and in other bars downtown. I’m confident this alone will liven up the downtown.
But wait: there’s more. Design & consulting giant Stantec has partnered with the Edmonton arena district to build Edmonton’s largest tower (62 storeys, or 69 according to some insider speculation on the Connect2Edmonton forms). The new tower will boast office space for Stantec as well as residential condo space. The municipal airport really gave us the short end of the stick by imposing height restrictions on our skyline. Now that the municipal airport is done away with, our city can finally start to boast monster towers like the Stantec Tower or the Pearl. And hopefully many more to come.
The city has also taken on a revitalization project of The Quarters (I LOVE that name!) which is near Canada Place and the Shaw Conference Centre. The new Hyatt hotel is slated to be completed by 2016 and adds an iconic sparkle to the downtown skyline. The Hyatt will also feature office space on the top floors and retail space below. Very exciting news for the city as it is the first hotel built in downtown for two decades.
But we’re also going to become extremely cultured
The worst part of living in Edmonton is that sometimes it just feels like there’s nothing to do other than go out for dinner and go to Launch Pad. I would really appreciate more snobbish and high-brow things to do, wouldn’t you?
The new Royal Alberta museum is under construction downtown by the CN tower and is expected to be complete by 2017. Any guesses on what they’ll do with the old building? Your guess is as good as mine. My money is on turning the Royal Alberta into a music/concert/event space.
The historic Bay-Enterprise Square Building, located right on Jasper Avenue, is being updated to showcase the University’s museum collections and serve as a venue for local artists as Edmonton currently lacks small to medium-size gallery space.
The Galleria Project is a project proposed by the University of Alberta to create office, classroom, and performing arts space in downtown Edmonton. The project will add four theatres to the downtown core. This just in: full support from city council.
The Stanley A. Milner library is also getting a facelift. It will remain open while it is modernized. You’re not allowed to sleep in the library anymore, but you are definitely allowed to go enjoy the coming interactive wall and current Makerspace.
Other bonuses include actually being able to get around and a really cool new financial building
One of the coolest projects in Edmonton is the Kelly-Ramsey Building. While they are building an entirely new, ultra-modern building in the finance district, right beside Scotia Place, the bottom four floors maintain the façade of the historic Kelly-Ramsey Building.
With the metro line almost in completion (the Macewan, Kingsway, NAIT addition), the design for the Valley Line begins. The Valley Line will stop in major areas like Mill Woods and West Edmonton Mall.
Watch out Calgary, your best friend is about to get hotter than you
I’ve always thought of Calgary and Edmonton as having a frenemy relationship – Calgary always gets all the attention and thinks she’s all that while sweet ol’ Edmonton kinda just chills in the background. But all of a sudden it’s that ever-transforming summer after high school and Edmonton just came back from a trip around the world and becomes the college hottie. And you know, Calgary’s still along for the ride because Edmonton is still Jenny from the block.
All of these projects should, in part at least, be complete by 2020. The sheer volume of investment and construction poured into the city all at once is unprecedented. Edmonton will have the newest, and one of the most modern, and most architecturally innovative downtowns in Canada. Combine that with our existing strengths: the river valley, Old Strathcona, festival city, and there you have it. I rest my case. Edmonton will be the coolest city in Canada by 2020. Take that, Calgary.
In a highly political graduation speech, Mr. Greg Robinson implored the 2012 Strathcona High School graduating class to “have bigger dreams than Alberta has had in the last 20 years”. He called Alberta a “pothole society”, because, as the title suggests, people were only interested in repairing potholes instead of building anything new. And since then, the city has become interested in much more than just repairing potholes. It finally feels like our city has vision and energy. And it’s been a long time since I heard anyone say “I can’t believe they’re spending money on that when there are potholes to fix!”
If you want a comprehensive list of the proposed and existing projects for the next couple of years, check out this journal article.