August 29, 2016

Let’s fight for this vital development on Edmonton’s north side

By KERRY DIOTTE

This development has to be done and be done right.

Edmonton’s city council owes it to the residents of our north-side federal riding of Edmonton Griesbach to approve Northlands’ Vision 2020 plan.

A good portion of my 100,000-plus federal constituents are counting on the City of Edmonton stepping up to support this vision.

Our riding includes many of the neighbourhoods in the vicinity of Northlands, including Alberta Avenue, Beacon Heights, Bellevue, Beverly Heights, Boyle Street, Cromdale, Eastwood, Highlands, Lauderdale, McCauley, Montrose, Newton, Parkdale, Rundle Heights and Virginia Park.

We know Edmonton has a shiny new downtown arena, built with taxpayers dollars, replacing the legendary Rexall Place that was operated successfully by Northlands.

We as a city owe it to residents in those communities to buy into the vision Northlands has come up with for its 160-acre campus that includes Rexall Place, Northlands Race Track and Casino and the Edmonton Expo Centre conference facility.

That vision includes turning Rexall Place into a multiple ice-surface facility, expanding the Expo Centre, building a new, small concert facility and putting in housing.

Not doing so means: There goes the neighbourhood(s)! Reports show dire consequences if we don’t get this right.

Failure to develop the Northlands site would reduce property values by up to 10% — homes that hard-working north-side Edmontonians invested their life savings in. This scenario would see the City’s residential assessment base shrink by up to $125 million.

The City of Edmonton has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in other sectors of the city including the downtown, Blatchford (the old City Centre Airport) and The Quarters. The Northlands area communities deserve the same benefit.

Indeed, when Edmonton city council agreed to construct the downtown arena it bought into the theory that the project would revitalize the downtown. Shouldn’t our communities surrounding the Northlands campus receive a similar benefit?

Those communities include Edmonton’s largest population of indigenous people and scores of new Canadians including a sizeable Somali community who live there and are trying to build new lives in this great city of ours.

This area also includes a thriving arts community centred on 118 Avenue that has breathed new life into old buildings. They have succeeded remarkably. I have to note that when we were looking to rent a constituency office for our federal riding of Edmonton Griesbach, the redevelopment of 118 Avenue has been so successful we could not find a single suitable space there. That’s actually good news.

This area is not a home to big-box stores or fancy corporate offices. It’s filled with small mom-and-pop businesses eking out an income in the shadow of Rexall Place. These folks deserve our support.

Some pundits are saying Northlands plan is too ambitious, there’s not a suitable business plan. It costs too much money. As a fiscal conservative, former city councillor and the Official Opposition’s deputy Urban Affairs critic, I sympathize with concerns about finances.

That said, where was the business plan when city council decided to close down City Centre Airport to build what was pitched as the ultra-green, eco-friendly Blatchford development? Latest plans there have deeply scaled back the so-called green initiatives. Where was the business case for that development?

The City of Edmonton went gung-ho on that plan regardless. Northlands Vision 2020, however makes good sense and is well thought out.

The not-for-profit, 137-year-old organization was forced out of the business of running major sporting events and large concerts with the approval of the new Rogers Centre arena downtown. That’s despite the fact the organization did an admirable, world-class job of those duties. Indeed Rexall, under Northlands management, was listed as the 27th busiest arena (indoors or outdoors) in the world!

Northlands and the tens of thousands of residents surrounding the 160-acre site deserve to have the City of Edmonton buy into a plan that would see Rexall turned into a six-sheet hockey tournament facility, an expansion of Hall D at the Expo Centre to allow 5,000-seats for hockey as well as rodeo, concerts and other events. It also calls for an outdoor festival site where the racetrack and casino is today as well as residential and retail development.

There’s been talk that the Edmonton Expo Centre doesn’t break even. Well, conference centres throughout North America tend to not break even. It’s the economic spinoffs that bring millions to cities by hosting events at them.

This is an ideal campus for urban renewal. It’s a stone’s throw from our downtown. It’s served by an existing station on a high-speed LRT line. It’s adjacent to Yellowhead Trail and has tons of parking.

A special city council public hearing takes place Wednesday Aug. 31 and I intend to be there in person speaking up for the vital north-side project.

If you’re a resident in the area or you own a business there, you too have a right to speak about this. If you care about thriving, sustainable neighbourhoods, please have your say. Tell city council what you think. Get on the speakers list to have your five minutes. Call the City Clerk’s office at (780) 496-8178 or email: city.clerk@edmonton.ca

To see more details about the thoughtful development, Vision 2020, go here:

http://www.northlands.com/vision2020/

Let’s make sure our north-side residents get the development they deserve. As your Conservative Member of Parliament I will fight to see we get this development done and done right.

(Comments? Questions? E-mail me at: kerry.diotte@parl.gc.ca)

Northlands Arena

Northlands Vision 2020

 


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  • Peter

    Kerry…I think that if you are going to spend $80 to $100 million on ice rinks the money would be much better spent on upgrading all the 1960’s shells like Kenilworth and Grand Trunk arena and spreading the money around the city vs an area that already has the Commonwealth and Clareview Recreation Centres…as far as the Expo centre goes we don’t need another 5000 seat facility when we have the underused Winspear Centre and Rogers Place that can be configured for that size of crowd…as far as developing a huge festival site there are very few bands that travel that can fill Commonwealth Stadium let along a much larger facility for a couple of concerts per year…the Race Track can be managed by River Cree Group for horse racing / casino if Northlands does not want to handle horse racing anymore…and the convention centre can be managed by the EEDC in conjunction with the Shaw Conference Centre to handle larger conventions …in my opinion the $200 + million ask by Northlands is way out of line as to what the city really needs and the land can be developed in due time as the market improves for housing / businesses.