the katz group has its big block of cheese day.

I like to believe that most of the things worth writing about in this world have already been covered in an episode of the West Wing. While the topic of this video clip of Big Block of Cheese Day may be slightly more outlandish than the idea of a downtown arena district, it is the last 2:26-3:10 point that reminds me of this debate.

Last night I attended the Katz Group‘s open house at the Art Gallery of Alberta promoting the concept of a new Downtown Arena District. While I do not oppose the idea of a downtown arena, I have become frustrated with the lack of details in the Katz Group public proposal. I had hoped that by attending the open house that some of my questions about costs, funding models, and zoning would have been answered. Unfortunately, I walked out of the exhibition with more questions than answers.

The minute I walked into the lobby of the Art Gallery it became very clear that the Downtown Arena District is a political campaign. The professional branding, warm colour patterns, the drawings of futuristic downtown starchitecture, and the focus-group-tested-sounding talking points of the hosts signaled to me that the Katz Group was clearly delivering a political sales pitch. Rather than actually providing new information on costs, funding models, and zoning, guests were welcomed by Katz Group executives or associates dressed in $3,000 suits who testified to the virtues of a new Downtown Arena District. “Why downtown? It has to be downtown.

As obvious as it was to me that this was an unbridled exercise in persuasion, I worry that it may be working. As a good friend of mine pointed out, with the municipal election less than six months away, the Katz Group may be on their way to convincing Edmontonians that the Downtown Arena District is such a good idea that no cost – even the $400 million handout that they are seeking from the City – is too much for such a well-marketed idea.

I was very pleased to read that most of City Council, including both of my City Councillors (Jane Batty and Ben Henderson) remain skeptical of the Katz Group proposal. I hope that our elected Councillors do not give into the flashy marketing of this well-financed campaign and continue to demand answers from a group that is acting as if it already has its hands on the City of Edmonton’s cheque book.

9 replies on “the katz group has its big block of cheese day.”

If Council goes ahead with this plan it won’t be because they “give into the flashy marketing” Dave, it will be because their 2010 campaigns will be bankrolled heavily by the Katz group.

Don’t kid yourself, contributions mean everything. This idea is only on the table because Katz was one of the 2 biggest contributors to Mandel’s 2007 campaign. And Mandel is only running again because he still owes Katz this arena. His foot dragging and repeated musing about leaving politics should us all that Mayor Mandel would rather not run again, if the choice was truly his. But he owes certain people certain things…

Taxpayers and voters call the shots in this city, not psychotic billionaires and their fawning transparent sycophants perpetrating their next confidence job.

We will not pay a dime for this arena.

We are bringing it down.

That’s kind of a laughable claim in a city that rarely ever ousts incumbent council members, regardless of their political stripe.

With something like 70% of eligible voters skipping the last municipal election, and those that do vote largely reelecting the same “names they read in the paper”, taxpayers and voters don’t seem to call any shots in this city.

I wish it weren’t so, but it is what it is.

Ha! Great video clip to go along with this post Dave. Very apt. What I find odd is some people’s acceptance of reviewing the design, location and concept before understanding who and how it’s going to be paid for. That wouldn’t work in your own life if you were buying a house.

You wouldn’t go out, buy a piece of land, hire an architect to design your house, hire a foreman and then go to the bank and see if you can get approved for the mortgage.

I’m getting increasingly nervous as the Katz PR machine continues to roll on… as people like the DJ’s on the Bear morning show talk about how they think the area is a good idea and that if you talk about tax payers – “you just sound like an old man.”

Is Katz paying The Bear to advertise for them too? Since these DJ’s generally tend to back up options (often in the form of satire) with solid information – and they arn’t in this case… it makes me wonder. Unfortunately, the audiences of these media outlets have considerable influence on a large portion of Edmontonians.

I was on the fence about the issue until lately when I too became frustrated about the lack of solid information. If they have to work that hard to sell it – odds are, it’s not that great.

I can’t say for sure if this is a good idea or bad — the process has started and the details will come. Boosters or detractors are way ahead of themselves here… I’m a supporter in concept but I won’t be getting too excited until plans are tabled.

As for the delays in ironing out these details, keep in mind this is a $1B investment. I’ve never planned such a project, but I’m guessing it is complicated!

What bothers me is that there is a trend to oppose without the full plan being unveiled. Be critical of the delay if you want but stating rigid opposition to the project without knowing the investment details and potential returns is premature.

I think people in general are way ahead of themselves. NO money no way? well I think that we need to understand what the potential longer term pros and cons are. I don’t ride LRT but I pay for it, I don’t have kids in school but I pay for that, I don’t use the library or any of a 100 services in Edmonton because on par there is value in quality of life. Ever go to an Eskimos game? no you pay for the stadium and the new fake grass. I hope you see my point.
Should we see what kind of property tax this might bring in over the next 20 years compared to the parking lots that currently take up that space. I think we should. Should we enhance the city with venues that add to quality of life to bring in concerts shows and yes hockey, lacrosse and possibly soccer. I think we should look at it. First you se what it can be, then you decide if you want that, then you take the modified design and price it out and find funding models.
Should Katz and private industry back the whole thing perhaps but then should the citizens reap the extra tax revenue from the property and business tax. I would have to say based on the NO MONEY NO Way group the city should only get the pennies in taxes they get now. After all Fair is fair.

I can’t believe nobody remembers how City Council was rail-roaded into providing incentives and tax-holidays to Triple 5 Corp. when they were pitching the “new” Eaton Centre development. We were supposed to get office towers and residential towers and a “major” hotel in that development. Didn’t happen.

Look, if there was a market for more office towers and residential towers in the downtown area, don’t you think someone would be building them already, without any kind of assistance from city taxpayers?


To answer your question: there is no extra tax money to reap, so the point is moot. It’s simply a re-location of current or future development.

This is the falacy they would like you to believe. That without increasing incomes or tourism that economic development can be created.

Don’t believe me? Consider this. TNT tickets is a ticket re-seller located in the hotel across the street from Rexall Place. If a new arena is built downtown they will pick up and move their operations downtown next to the new arena.

Same number of jobs, same office space, but re-located to the arena district.

That’s not economic development, that’s a shift of the location of the current economic activity. But what makes it worse is that if the city buys into a Community Revitalization Levy, the taxes that TNT used to pay through its rent that was going to pay for police, fire, LRT, etc, would then be used for the loan on the arena, leaving you and other Edmonton taxpayers paying a higher tax bill to cover the loss. So, in essence you will be directly paying for the arena.

So, if your sole goal is to shift current economic activity from elsewhere around the city to a 13 acre parcel in the downtown, great, but is that worth $400 million, $600 million?

But don’t think for one second that there’s an actual economic benefit.

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