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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Year in Review: Edmonton 2013

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Since our blog’s official launch back in April, this year has far exceeded the expectations for Spacing Edmonton. I want to thank you all for your support and a special thanks to our writers for their contributions. I have compiled this year’s highlights in Edmonton urbanism. Feel free to add your personal additions and thoughts in the comments below. Have a Happy New Year!

  •  Emotions Running High with Local Heritage

There has been an unprecedented amount of headlines around local heritage this year: the 81 Avenue Heritage Vista was lost to a building of questionable architecture, the Walterdale Bridge will soon be dismantled without much recognition, the Rossdale Power Plant was nationally listed as an endangered site, and we lost a excellent art-deco building in the process of rebuilding the Kelley Ramsey. Not to say all is doom and gloom: the Alberta Hotel has been wonderfully rebuilt, the Rossdale plant was spared thanks to public pressure, a outdoor neon sign museum is currently under development, and the landmark High Level Bridge celebrated its centennial this year. Still, all of these events raise the issue of Edmonton’s habit to continually tear down its past rather than recognize and build upon it.

  • The Molson Redevelopment

Speaking of heritage, the controversial Molson redevelopment left a sour note with many urbanists and neighbouring residents alike. The proposed power centre did not align with the City’s Transit-Oriented Development guidelines (it applies despite no presence of an existing LRT) and the approved rezoning does not even guarantee delivery of the developer’s promises. Still, the previous council felt that this was the best deal that the City could get and that it was better than nothing. Was this the right decision or would it be best to wait for a better development?

Click on the following links to read Kyle Witiw’s past coverage on the planning process, the Molson Brewery’s heritage, and his post-decision commentary. Be sure to also see Omar’s piece examining the politics and workings behind City’s administration and its approach to the redevelopment.

Preliminary office/commercial development proposal for the Molson/Crosstown lands. Image courtesy of the Oliver Community League.
Preliminary office/commercial development proposal for the Molson/Crosstown lands. Image courtesy of the Oliver Community League.
  • The Arena Deal

After much drama and negotiation between the Katz Group and City Council, a deal was finally made back in May. The Oilers owner sold the naming right’s of the arena to Rogers and it will be known as Rogers Place. Will the development fulfill its promises for future reinvestment to downtown infrastructure through the Community Revitalization Levy? Time will tell.

  • Municipal Elections

Edmontonians went to the polls with overwhelming confidence to elect our new mayor Don Iveson. Dave Cournoyer sees this as a generation shift with growing optimism for better city-building. Mack Male also notes a change in language that will likely define local politics for the next four years. We also saw many new faces in council including Michael Oshry, Bev Esslinger, Scott McKeen, Michael Walters, and Andrew Knack. Unfortunately, the low representation of women candidates running for council is deeply concerning.

Making his way through an excited crowd.
Don Iveson making his way through an excited crowd. More photos by Tom Young here.
  • Make Something Edmonton

The Make Something Edmonton campaign officially launched this year to showcase Edmonton’s unique entrepreneurial spirit and help define the City’s identity. Whether you agree with it or not, the movement has gained some traction and stirred quite a bit of discussion around our existing branding. My take on this? I think there is some merit to the idea, but as local urbanist Carmen Douville said in her Creative Mornings talk, city-making is best done with others.