Tag Archives: City of Edmonton

The arena formerly known as Rexall Place, owned and operated by Northlands.

City Council needs to get it right on Northlands Coliseum redevelopment

It has been about 10 years since the City of Edmonton seriously began studying the concept of funding the construction of a downtown arena, and 6 years since City Council voted to approve a financial deal with the Edmonton Oilers and its billionaire owner, Daryl Katz, to construct a new arena.

But despite the years of attention paid to the new arena, not much focus was given to the arena that housed the Edmonton Oilers since 1974. When the shiny new Rogers Place arena opened downtown in 2016, there was still no real plan for the future of the old arena, now known again as Northlands Coliseum.

The implications of the Oilers move downtown was huge for the Coliseum and Northlands and a non-compete clause agreed to by the City crippled the already disadvantaged older arena. Without the revenue generated from NHL hockey games or large concerts, the Northlands organization was placed in a dire financial situation.

Better late than never, Northlands released a Vision 2020 proposal in 2016. The plan focused on the entire Northlands property and proposed the Coliseum be renovated into a six-rink hockey arena. The idea was later considered financial untenable by City Council.

City Council has since cannibalized much of the Northlands operations and voted to close the Coliseum.

Now sitting empty and unused, the question facing City Councillors meeting at City Hall this week is what to do with the closed building.

As a resident of the area (I live a 10 minute walk away from the Coliseum in the Bellevue neighbourhood), it is frustrating to feel like this area of the city was an afterthought. But while it is important to recognize past mistakes made by the City on this issue, it is also helpful to look for solutions for the future.

Community input and engagement should play a critical role in determining the future of the Coliseum and the Northlands property. But the engagement should be meaningful. Meaningless buzz-phrases, like we saw included in a recent press release from the City of Edmonton on this issue are not helpful (ie: “tap[ping] into the magnitude of the opportunity for transformation”).

Meaningful engagement is important, because residential neighbourhoods and commercial districts in the area will be directly impacted by any future plans, just as they had by the past expansion of Northlands.

It was only a short 15 years ago that City Council approved the Northlands Redevelopment Plan, which allowed Northlands to bulldoze the four block single detached residential area known as West Bellevue and three blocks of North Cromdale. The 2003 Northlands ARP literally paved West Bellevue into the parking lot that sits on the west side of Wayne Gretzky Drive.

I am not sure what the best new use of the land would be, but I do not know anyone who thinks leaving the Coliseum boarded up and abandoned would be good for the neighbourhood. But an empty and abandoned lot fit for gravel and Used Car Dealerships is also not ideal.

The $15.5 million to $25 million projected cost to demolish the Coliseum may give some Councillors sticker shock, but it is pennies compared to the public funds invested into the downtown Roger Place arena.

As recent city council candidate Kris Andreychuk and University of Alberta professor John McCoy wrote in the Edmonton Journal on Oct. 20, 2017:

“Allowing the Northlands site to sit idle and empty will not only create an eyesore in a storied area of the city — the arena where we became the City of Champions — it will also stimulate a host of community-safety issues and drive away the small business owners who are the lifeblood of the community.

These are not easy times in Edmonton. But what cannot be denied is the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of Edmontonians and their ability to find solutions to our collective challenges. Northlands is a test for the City of Edmonton and local developers — there is much at stake and we need to get it right.”

The arena formerly known as Rexall Place, owned and operated by Northlands.

My quick reply to Don Iveson on Northlands’ Vision 2020 proposal

The following comment was posted as a response to Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson‘s comments on Northlands’ Vision 2020 proposal following the City Administration’s analysis of the plan. I hope to go into more details about Northlands’ proposal and the plans of the area in a future post.

Hi Don – Thanks for sharing your comments.

I agree that we must be realistic and act not only in the best interests of the city’s economy but also in the best interests of the residents who live in the neighbourhoods that surround Northlands.

As a homeowner in the area (we live three blocks away from Northlands), my biggest worry is that the 160 acres of land currently occupied by Northlands will become derelict if Northlands folds or the City takes over operations. A large unused space like this has the potential to have a negative impact on the surrounding neighbourhoods.

I am skeptical of some elements of the Northlands Vision 2020 plan, especially the proposal for the festival site but I support the idea of redeveloping the arena into a multi-rink or field sports complex.

It is frustrating to know that neither the previous City Council or Northlands had the foresight to create a plan before Mr. Katz moved the Oilers from Rexall into to their new downtown arena.

Dave

A satellite photo of Northlands and the residential neighbourhoods that surround it. (Source: Google Maps)

A satellite photo of Northlands and the residential neighbourhoods that surround it. (Source: Google Maps)

City Council is holding a non-statutory Public Hearing on August 31, 2016 starting at 1:30 p.m. to hear from the public about the Vision 2020 plan and the future of the Northlands site. Anyone interested in speaking at the hearing can register online or call the City Clerk’s office at 780-496-8178.

Big population growth means it’s time to redraw Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries

Alberta’s population has grown by 517,365 since the last time our provincial electoral boundaries were redrawn to reflect population growth. According to population estimates released on the provincial government’s Open Data portal this week, Alberta’s population reached 4,196,457 in 2015, up from population estimates of 3,679,092 in 2009, the last time boundaries were redistributed.

Over this six year period, Alberta’s two largest cities saw a huge population spike, with Edmonton growing from a population of 817,867 in 2009 to 950,421 in 2015 and Calgary from 1,107,192 to 1,293,023. Sixty-one percent of the province’s population growth is estimated to have moved to Calgary and Edmonton during this time.

According to these estimates, the combined population of Calgary and Edmonton represents 53 percent of Alberta’s population.

Population Growth in Calgary

While most of the province’s growth is estimated to have been in the two big cities, Alberta’s medium-sized municipalities have also grown. According to the population estimates, Strathcona County grew from 92,299 in 2009 to 107,104 in 2015, Airdrie grew from 38,704 in 2009 to 50,257 in 2015, St. Albert grew from 62,563 in 2009 to 71,096 in 2015, and Wood Buffalo grew from 63,376 in 2009 to 77,804 in 2015.

Some smaller rural communities, like Hanna, Oyen, Starland County, Stettler County, Swan Hills, and the town and county of Provost, actually saw a decline in the population since the electoral boundaries were last redrawn, according to the estimates.

Population Growth in Edmonton

In order to reflect this significant population shift, the Government of Alberta should take action to ensure the electoral boundaries are redrawn before the next provincial election, which is scheduled to be held between March 1 and May 31, 2019. Redrawing the province’s electoral boundaries to reflect population growth will ensure that Albertans receive more effective representation in the Legislative Assembly after the next election.

The 2009/2010 Electoral Boundary Commission estimated that the average population of Alberta’s 87 electoral districts was 40,880. Using the same formula, the average population according to 2015 population estimates would be 48,235, which is very close to 51,100 maximum allowable population in each electoral district (25 percent above the 2009 average).

As I wrote in Sept. 2015, Section 5 of the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act states that a commission be appointed following every second election and a minimum of eight years and maximum of ten years since the previous commission. Two elections have been held since the last commission was appointed only seven years ago. This timeline was skewed when Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice called an election one year earlier than was set in Alberta’s fixed election date law.

According to a statement made by Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler on Sept. 24, 2015, the currently existing legal timeline would not give the commission and Elections Alberta staff enough time to prepare for the 2019 election. Mr. Resler told an MLA committee that he would recommend the government introduce an amendment to the Act to shorten the timeline so a commission can be appointed before the eight year minimum period.

The government should amend the timeline to ensure the electoral boundaries are redrawn before the next provincial election. The government should also make changes other sections of the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act that would create a more fair process of drawing electoral districts and remove partisan appointments to the commission (I wrote about some of the changes that should be made in an earlier post).


The final report from the 2009/2010 Electoral Boundaries Commission included a handful of recommendations for future commissions:

  • The Legislative Assembly needs to seriously consider how urban and rural perspectives will be addressed in the future.
  • The Legislative Assembly should consider reassessing the resources allocated for constituency offices.
  • Future commissions should be appointed early in the calendar year.
  • The Legislative Assembly may wish to consider adopting a protocol for the naming of electoral divisions for the guidance of future commissions.

Don Iveson asks: Do you support LRT expansion?

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson took the the streets, and then to YouTube, to ask Edmontonians if they support expansion of Edmonton’s Light Rail Transit system. The campaign is part of Mr. Iveson’s bid to convince provincial and federal politicians to support the expansion of Edmonton’s light rail transit system, a key part of the city’s transportation infrastructure and a top priority for city council.

Facing enormous population and economic growth, and afforded limited resources as a municipal government, the City is struggling to fund LRT expansion to Mill Woods and west Edmonton (also known as the Valley Line). According to the City of Edmonton, daily ridership of Edmonton’s current north-south LRT Capital Line has grown from an estimated 42,160 in 2004 to 100,760 in 2013.

Edmonton LRT Ridership 2004-2013

Estimated Edmonton LRT ridership from 2004 to 2013 (graph from City of Edmonton 2013 LRT Passenger Count Report)

Hoping that the upcoming provincial budget could include funding for the capital city’s LRT, the mayor and city council are asking Edmontonians to put pressure on their MLA and MP by voicing support for LRT expansion. A second phase of this campaign is expected to be launched next week.

Don Iveson LRT Edmonton Expansion

A popular ad used on the LRT during last year’s mayoral election in Edmonton.

Although Mr. Iveson earned 63% of the vote in the October 2013 election, many provincial Conservatives, including Edmonton PC MLAs Thomas Lukaszuk, Naresh Bhardwaj and David Xiao, publicly endorsed his opponent, Karen Leibovici. Some political watchers suspect the results of the election did not sweeten the already sour relationship between the city and province. And while Premier Alison Redford has been cold towards the idea of granting cities more financial power, saying she’s “satisfied with the way things are,” her party should not forget that city voters are who they owe for their narrow re-election to government in 2012.

Earlier this month, while speaking to the all-party MLA Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future, Mr. Iveson explained  that expansion of Edmonton’s light rail transit system is critical for future growth of the capital city. While the committee was looking for feedback on the creation of high speed rail system through the Red Deer corridor from Edmonton to Calgary, Mr. Iveson argued that the inter-city project would only succeed if effective urban transit systems are already in place.

Mr. Iveson explained to the MLA committee that future expansion of Edmonton’s LRT network depends almost entirely on the availability of funding from the provincial and federal governments.

A short history of LRT expansion in Edmonton
Edmonton’s LRT line began regular service in 1978 and was extended to downtown and the University of Alberta in the 1980s and early 1990s. Expansion was then halted until the mid-2000s, when a new line to south Edmonton was constructed. New stations in north central Edmonton are expected to open in June 2014. The City of Edmonton’s population has grown from 461,361 in 1976 to 817,498 in 2012.