In 2030, what will become of Edmonton’s central core?
Maybe people will choose to work, live and play in the core instead of commuting from the suburbs. Perhaps the arena will be the hallmark that it’s touted to be and the airport lands will rise as the community of the future.
But no one really knows, but we do know this: Edmonton’s central core has received a shot of vigor and interest in the last decade, spurring growth and revitalization. What the foreseeable future holds is a long list of private, city and provincial development in what was the Hudson’s Bay Reserve lands – from the river valley to 127 Avenue, stretching from 97 Street to 121 Street.
What instantly springs to mind during the talk of downtown development is the arena and city centre airport redevelopment. But beyond that, there’s the Quarters redevelopment, a Jasper Avenue facelift, the Royal Alberta Museum, a new streetscape between Grant MacEwan University and the Alberta Legislature called Capital Boulevard and the northwest LRT line from Churchill Square to NAIT, to name a few. Condos, cafes and corner stores are popping up just as fast as they can among the core.
“Downtown is vital in determining what people’s opinions of the city is,” Mayor Stephen Mandel told Metro.
“(Some) people don’t understand why downtown is so important. But if they come down and see the festivals downtown, if they go to the Winspear or the Citadel or the art galleries, they can see why you have to have a vibrant downtown. … There’s a need for us as a city to relate to our residents why it’s so important to invest in downtown.”
So in 20, 30, 50 years, what will our downtown Edmonton look like?
One thing is clear in the mind of Jim Taylor, executive director of Downtown Business Association of Edmonton: downtown’s economy will be booming.
Though the business association only covers an 8 block by 11 block section of the city’s core, Taylor expects billions to be infused in the area through city, provincial and private developments. As condos go up, more street-level floors become dedicated retail space, and as more amenities are added, the more people are likely to choose central living.
“I don’t think the average Edmontonian has any idea of the magnitude of what’s about to happen in downtown. And I mean what’s certainly about to happen downtown, without even considering what may happen,” Taylor said.
Will downtown become more family friend? The Downtown Edmonton Community League (DECL) president Chris Buyze sure hopes so. As more high-rises go up in the core, he’d like to see more green space and pedestrian-friendly streets to encourage families to live in the urban core over the suburban sprawl .
“A lot of people (currently living downtown) are single and young. I’d say 50 to 60 per cent are singles between 18 and 40 years old or young couples,” said Buyze.
“In the last census, we had more people over the age of 100 than under the age of 10. But the neighbourhoods surrounding downtown are family friendly and it’s going to take efforts from those communities to make sure they continue to be family friendly.”
The current downtown revitalization is likely the largest and most coordinated effort the city has seen in the city centre, or anywhere else in Edmonton.
“The only other time when there might have been was starting in 1957 with the new City Hall and the redevelopment of the area around Sir Winston Churchill Square – there were a number of buildings all going up in that period – but I don’t think it was a coordinated development like the Quarters (or) arena project,” said city archivist Tim O’Grady.