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September 21, 2017
September 1, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Friday, September 1, 2017

Northlands loses again

Written by Jeff Samsonow

 

The Expo Centre

All the local newsrooms covered the story of Edmonton handing over control of Northlands’ Expo Centre to the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) but I think it’s worth a bit more of a look. We’re essentially watching an organization that’s existed longer than the city itself slowly collapse and disappear. The same City that is taking control of the Expo Centre away has contributed to Northlands’ slow-motion demise.

While it doesn’t seem like a direct connection, Northlands has really floundered since the City of Edmonton decided to build a new arena downtown, taking away the premiere tenant of the Coliseum and transferring most of the concert revenue in the same direction.

Northlands also decided to get out of the horse racing game (and likely its gaming money) when it tried to reinvent itself with a plan for 2020 following the arena decision. (Horse racing remains, but only until a new track opens by the airport.) That plan, and pretty much every idea in the last few years, went nowhere and you had an organization without any of its biggest money-makers. The financial woes have been forecast for a couple of years now.

Now, it’s a little more complicated when we talk about the Expo Centre, but I think it really does tie into this idea that Northlands has been left to fend for itself with a City focus on downtown over the last three council terms. There was also, of course, the idea that Northlands was its own beast, and perhaps more oversight from the City might have prevented such a major expansion of convention space that wasn’t particularly sought after. But, Northlands did build that $150-million Expo Centre and the City did back a large portion of its costs, which is what we’re talking about today.

Nothing this big happens in a vacuum. Sure, Northlands gambled on the Expo Centre when it might have thought itself invincible, but the lack of guidance from a City that sort of knew more space might actually be needed downtown plays a part. Then, as Northlands flailed and failed to find a new direction, the City was completely focused on the downtown arena and surrounding development.

Northlands Coliseum

There is a plan being studied right now on what the City can do with the old arena, and surrounding area. One option would be to build a small neighbourhood around the LRT station that currently sits beside the Coliseum. Another possibility that was floated for the arena, and now part of the Expo Centre, is to build a Hockey Canada centre. Years after the downtown arena decision, the failure of Vision 2020, and a decade after the new Expo Centre the future of Northlands has no clear direction.

It’s lost so much of the power it built over its first 130 years it doesn’t even control its own destiny. Let’s hope the EEDC and next city council are willing to offer more time to figuring out what to do with the remains of Northlands.


Squeaky wheels on Jasper Avenue

As we’ve talked about this summer, the City is testing out some possible changes to Jasper Avenue’s western stretches. It’s part of a plan to redevelop this stretch of Edmonton’s main street in a couple of years. The tests this summer are to see how traffic flows and how people might use the street if there was more space for walking, shopping and interacting with their neighbourhood.

Things were going pretty well. Sure, there were grumpy grumps writing about how trying anything new was a failure, but overall, the City was building up its data and people walking down Jasper were safer thanks to some lanes of traffic being taken back for human use. But then, horror struck west Jasper.

City officials say drivers were forced to wait for up to 45 seconds to turn right onto 109th Street.”

Yes, that’s right. Some drivers complained about “long waits” and the City starts making changes to accommodate them. It seems ridiculous that we’d only be talking about a few extra cars waiting any given minute in the busiest times of day, but here we are. Literally an extra 30 or so seconds for a few drivers and people walking are put back into harms way.

And, while some will tout this as a great example of how “flexible” the plan really is, the City’s own stats don’t really back that up.

Days after Edmonton could rightly pat itself on the back for opening up a new network of bike lanes downtown, it slides right back to its old car-centric ways. Disappointing.

I am interested, however, in this idea that some complaints swayed the City. Certainly the data isn’t on their side to show any kind of actual delays. So, if you’re at the corner of 109 Street and Jasper Avenue I recommend tweeting a picture of drivers leaning into the intersection, cutting across traffic to rush a yellow light and stopped mid-intersection on a red. Tweet that at @CityofEdmonton.

Maybe a few of these complaints will get the turning lane put back in favour of people walking.

*

Interesting to note on some of the coverage of this story is the absence of numbers. Stories like this and this make it seem like this is “drivers vs. pedestrians”. I know that mentioning a 34 second wait won’t convince some people how petty they’re being about endangering other humans, but I think it puts the City’s decision into context.

It’s a bit of “bothsideism” that equates the issues of people driving and people walking as equal. Except, people walking want to not get hit by a driver and people driving don’t want to sit for 30 seconds. Not so equal, when you put it like that.


Around the city

Epcor takes over our city’s drainage operations today, after a deal some thought went through with too little public engagement.

Edmonton’s downtown is winning more people over. The Downtown Business Association routinely surveys people living and working in the neighbourhood on what they like about the place and what they’d recommend to others. This year the survey also included people outside of the downtown, and overall the feelings about our city centre are positive and much-improved from a few years ago.

One thing people do have an issue with? Parking.

If we adapt to these changes and people understand it’s okay to walk a few blocks if you have to, then there is tons of parking available.”

People won’t walk a few blocks for parking?! Don’t make me use another gif making fun of you.

One of the calls to action from the report is about variety of housing and amenities, especially to keep and encourage more families to live downtown. We know that Edmonton, and Alberta, is way behind everyone else on this issue, and hopefully we’ll soon allow children to live anywhere their parents do.

MacEwan University is out nearly $12-million after staff were fooled into sending money to someone they thought was a legitimate vendor contracted by the school. Please ignore references to IT and tech security in too many of the news stories on this. Just because someone sent an email doesn’t make it a hacking emergency. It’s just a plain old scam.

This is just a nice story about two Beaumonts.

And, here come the election signs… Actually, it sounds like quite a few have already been up, and once Labour Day rolls around they can be on public property as well as private, so it’s going to get quite crowded out there, especially with a trio of open ward races for city council.


Back to school

Speaking of Labour Day, that means school is back! (And school zones, so we get a slight uptick in safety out on our neighbourhood streets.)

The Edmonton Catholic School District is opening five new schools this September. Edmonton Public is opening 11 new schools this year, with nine right away. This is a nearly unprecedented number of schools opening at all once, going back to since 1913.

Of course, more than one thousand Edmonton Catholic students are already back in school. So this weekend is just a long weekend to them.

One new school, named for an Edmonton Police officer recently killed in the line of duty will also use his badge number in their phone number.

All this talk about school and we can’t forget about school board elections this fall! Nominations close the same day as those for city council, but Dave Cournoyer’s already got a great list of websites and social media for announced candidates.


Public engagement

Executive Committee meets Tuesday morning, at 9:30 a.m. You can see the agenda online. Topics on the agenda include an update on the new plan to end homelessness, and how the City buys ads (which came from ads ending up on Rebel Media). The meeting will stream live from the River Valley Room.

With changes coming to the 109 Street corridor, and the 83 Avenue bike lane extending from Strathcona next summer, Knox-Metropolitan United Church is about to (potentially) become a mixed-use residential development at that corner in Garneau. You can learn more Tuesday night, 6 – 8:30 p.m., at the City Arts Centre.

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