News / Edmonton

City to force downtown Edmonton landowners to give up lots for park

Park would spur development in the core: City.

Duncan Fraser, who’s leading the charge on downtown park plans, says the park would spur development in the core.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

Duncan Fraser, who’s leading the charge on downtown park plans, says the park would spur development in the core.

A city committee is backing a plan to turn gravel into green space by creating a new park downtown.

Councillors on the urban planning committee voted Wednesday to support a process that would force four downtown landowners to sell their gravel parking lots to build a new park in the core. 

The park would replace 18 surface gravel parking lots — an area slightly bigger than Churchill Square — on both sides of 107 Street between Jasper Ave and 102 Ave in the so-called Warehouse District. 

“These sites have remained undeveloped for at least two decades,” said senior planner Duncan Fraser. 

City officials said attempts to negotiate with property owners have been unsuccessful, resulting in the push for expropriation. 

For the push to become official, city council will need to approve the plan on Tuesday. 

Catalyst for downtown revitalization

Planners say the park would help spur residential development downtown. 

“It’s what planners call beach-front property, if you will,” said Gary Klassen, deputy city manager with sustainable development, referring to the way recreational space could draw families into core neighbourhoods.

“We need this kind of development to occur in the area.”

Following the meeting, Coun. Scott McKeen told reporters the park would have larger benefits for families than Rogers Place. 

“It’s a more important catalyst project than the arena for creating a neighbourhood downtown,” he said. “I’m really thrilled. I’ve heard countless times from downtown residents how they aspire to have a full neighbourhood downtown.”

A look at where the downtown Edmonton park would be located.

Courtesy / City of Edmonton

A look at where the downtown Edmonton park would be located.

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More Green Space Needed

According to downtown residents, more green space in the core has been a long time coming. 

Chris Buyze, president of Downtown Edmonton Community League, told Metro in November that parks are important for the growing number of people calling the core home. 

“For people living in high-rises, parks really become living rooms,” he said. “They may have a small balcony, but they don’t have a private yard or green space. So, it’s really important for the viability of residential-downtown for the long-term.”

Planning the park

Forcing all four landowners to sell could take a year, as city staff try to negotiate a fair price. But if no agreement is reached, both parties will head to court to settle possible disputes. 

However, planners said they are close to a deal with one of the largest landholders. 

“One would hope (that potential deal) sets the benchmark,” Coun. McKeen said. “I’m hoping the city can get this done sooner rather than later so we don’t have to involve the courts.”

After the land is potentially assembled, planners would consult local residents on park designs, which will likely include a dog run and a play area.

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