Why Edmonton Will Be The Coolest City in Canada By 2020


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

The Edmonton Arena District concept. Photo credit: Edmonton Oilers.

The Edmonton Arena District concept. Photo credit: Edmonton Oilers.

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 Royal Alberta concept. A modern twist on the museum's original design. Photo Credit: Alberta Infrastructure.

The Royal Alberta concept. A modern twist on the museum’s original design. Photo Credit: Alberta Infrastructure.

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.

Stanley Milner concept. Did they HAVE to make it rainy? Photo credit: Arch|TB

Stanley Milner Concept. Anyone else see a smushed Darth Vader profile? Photo credit: Arch|TB

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


Kelly Ramsey Building

The Kelly Ramsey building incorporates the historic façade into an ultra-modern skyscraper. Howard Roark would not approve. Photo credit: Metro News


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.


Nicole Hammond


  1. Very informative, i had been hearing whispers, thank you researching and collecting them all in one place. You are right Edmonton has always been quietly awesome, but more than another city I’ve been to, you have to work for it here.

    • They are, Edmonton is in the middle of a huge ten year plan to irradiate homelessness, and we’re already making huge strides. By 2020 we should have one of the lowest homelessness rates in North America. Don Ivesons seems to really care about the issue of homelessness in this city. And it’s not just government working towards it either, last year stratchona high school broke the Canadian record for a high school fundraiser ($350,000). Just wait

      • I think you mean eradicate not irradiate the homeless:) I have lived in Edmonton 95% of my life and I plan to be gone for good within 5 years. I see these developments as benefiting a small group of business interests #1, everyone else second. I am glad changes are coming, maybe they can hire their first city planner because the layout is horrendous. For example. 20 years to finish the Whitemud completely, Henday is new and yet under almost constant construction and still isn’t a ring road due to the NE area being a nightmare of construction. Will that road ever be completed?

        I think they need to finish existing projects, then work on new ones. Just my 2 cents, there’s no way I am staying here, too sick of the snow:)

        • Dave I agree with you
          All this projects looks to me like a total bullshit, will the kind of roads I see in this horrible city, I am afraid to say its worst than a remote village in Europe,
          Not hard feelings but if Canadians don’t know how to make roads then they should hire experts from Europe because the roads here really suck

  2. Good article! I appreciate the reference to Howard Roark 😉
    I’m curious, how did your job search go?

  3. Eh. Edmonton you are only a decade too late. Also have so much beige and awful city layouts to deal with.

  4. In addition to all of this the Edmonton tech scene is growing daily, with great initiatives like the EPL Maker Space and Startup Edmonton there are more tech and video game companies appearing every day.

  5. Pretty much all they are doing is spending money that the city should be spending in better transit to polish the turd that is known as City Centre. It’s just going to be the same crappy, jobless industrial city but now with a few million dollars more in debt and an unemployment rate that hasn’t stopped growing. #YEGSucks

    • If you’re talking about City Centre Mall, there’s nothing that the city can do about it. It’s owned by Oxford and they ultimately have the final say in what happens. What the city can do, however, is to keep improving the infrastructure throughout the city (especially downtown) which will entice Oxford to make the improvements to the mall.
      As far as joblessness goes, we have one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the country (at 5.8% in August, below the provincial and national averages). Amid the crash, our city is actually retaining more jobs than other centres that are dependant on oil.

    • Please share your data source for unemployement rates…. last time I checked YEG is still going strong. Majority of Canadian/ North America would love our “rough times”.

  6. I’m also extremely excited about the arena project. Working at a bar downtown I expect a lot more traffic, as do management because they are hiring a ton of new people now just to basically be idle and get trained until it picks up after the arena is built.

    Now if only we can find a way to curb oilbros aggression in and outside bars postmidnight.

  7. I can’t believe they are building another museum when there is a perfectly good museum (built to last century’s due to the stone and marble) when there are potholes to fix

  8. The Art Gallery is horrible. I not sure why they don’t get exhibits like Toronto does (warhol, bowie, frida) With luck, if the city get’s bigger, and the province stops just seeing itself as a place to work in the oil fields maybe more interesting people will move to the city. Right now it’s filled with basic, vanilla blue collar folk who dream of a conventional life of walking around West Edmonton Mall on weekends because its exciting;/

    • Well said. To add to your point, I think it’s sad that they think walking around west end mall is not only exciting, but also unconventional cuz it’s the “biggest” mall in Canada ?

    • I would say WEM is more a tourist attraction for outsiders. If your a local and really want to see Edm real culture going to WEM is not the place. Judging by your comment I assume your either new or dont get out much. Your right though Edmonton is built on aviation and oil but has become far more diverse and dynamic. “If you complain without providing a solution your whining” Teddy R.

  9. Great article!
    For me, Edmonton already is the coolest city ever. I haven’t been outside of Switzerland for almost 10 years before i decided to visit the great white north in march 2014, mostly because of the Oilers.
    I love winter, so i just felt like home. Went to 3 games, WEM, Aviation museum, Downtown, Valley zoo (-37°C), met a great family from SW yeg, i’ve had the time of my life and instantly fell in love with this city and its people.
    Meanwhile i was in town a second time this april along with Calgary (Ew!), Jasper, Banff, Vancouver (meh) and the next trip (yeg only) is just 97 days away! I can’t wait!

  10. Nice job Nicole! There is a huge positive vibe coming from you in this article. I am sure that your optimism about our city will spread around 🙂

  11. I’m moving to Edmonton from New Brunswick in a few days and I’m quite excited. You forgot to mention the Oilers drafting Connor McDavid too! Will definitely help the city’s spirits for the team. As far as the unemployment rate goes trust me, there are much worse places in Canada. I’ve been living in N.B. for the last 13 years and I can’t wait to leave. It took me a year of searching to land a full time job (which still payed minimum wage at 10.00 an hour) Can’t wait for Edmonton!

  12. um, this is like…. um other cities 50 Years ago??!?!?!?! If Edmonton needs to be a city ppl are attracted to, it needs to do way more than that. Our transit system is still horrible. With all these “amazing” buildings, how do you expect ppl to go to these “oh so amazing” places. Seriously who wrote that article in national geographic? National geographic Edmonton?! Lol. If I’m a tourist, I would never visit Edmonton, it takes an hour to go anywhere. I’ll just be wasting money and time. Plus Edmonton is not elite in anything. Seriously. Nothing in it can be boost to be one of the top/best ….. of the world. (Maybe recycling? I dunno, but a tourist is not interested to fly here just to look at our garbages) and no not even summer. And yes I know of all those festivals we have, I research them at work. And if you think those are amazing and so cultured, I must take you traveling. I don’t have anything against ppl likening Edmonton, but don’t throw words to a city that does not deserve it.and stop lying to yourself that this is a great city to make ourselves feel good. We will never improve that way. We have to admit and be aware that we are in a cave to get out of the cave. Great research. But Great shopping in wem and Sg????? My friend I must bring you shopping in other cities. Don’t you …. Think wem have lots of brands, please… The fashion and products here are like 5-10 years behind the actual coolest cities in Canada and the world. The transit system, OHMYGOD. ( yes I really hate the transit here) when my mom visit me from our original city, she told me the transit, the bell and the tickets etc. is what she saw when she was very very little, and is used majorly only in my grandma’s generation… Soon after she was born it was faded out with other more modern technology. The new way of merging the lrt line is horrible and impractical. Which makes me wonder do they do no research in other cities that have multiple train lines??? This is what bothers me bout Edmonton, we don’t know we are in a cave. We say nice things to comfort ourselves but never go out of the cave and look at what’s out there. If you did, then you know what I’m talking about and how undeserving these flattering words are to our city. We need to know WHY people call us deadmonton and not just say oh we are having new stuff so we are not deadmonton anymore… Don’t forget, as we are developing, other cities will be developing too! Did we just think that other cities will send and watch until we can catch up and come close so that Edmonton can finally be the coolest city in Canada?? ==”” And by 2020? More like 2100…. Not sure about staying in this city. If you think about moving to a true city, stay away from Edmonton. I don’t know how they define a city, but Edmonton seems like village to me… and that is fine, some peoplelikethe quieter, peaceful lifestyle, then Edmonton is good place for you.

  13. Thanks for writing this article! Well written and lots of good news about Oil town and City Of Champions


  14. Loved your article and the positive tone that most Edmontonians are feeling right now. We will always have the grumps complaining about roads and road construction but if we can become a city where our youth stays and creates, then we can shake the “dig it out and sell it” resource mentality and start a critical mass of modern business people starting small companies that use brains instead of brawn to create wealth.

  15. This will look exciting if they have plans on working on the road networks
    North American including Canada and Edmonton in particular have one of the worst road constructions on earth. I never seem to understand y
    Some claim it’s the weather I say lies since I am from Sweden n it’s colder there but the roads r perfect
    You guys should think on learning how to make better roads

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *