Jasper Avenue New Visions

Tonight I stopped by the first of two open houses for the Jasper Avenue New Visions initiative. Part of the Capital City Downtown Plan, the project aims to develop a vision to re-establish Jasper Avenue as the main street of Edmonton. I have worked on Jasper Avenue for over five years now, and while there have been some changes in that time, they haven’t been significant (though lately this has been changing). I was curious to see what the future might hold.

The consultants on the project are Toronto-based Urban Strategies, led by former Edmontonian Mark Reid. Other firms involved include Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg of Vancouver, and Edmonton-based ISL Engineering & Land Services, Armin A. Preiksaitis & Associates and HIP Architects.

Jasper Avenue New VisionsJasper Avenue New Visions

The open house took place in the main floor atrium of Enterprise Square. Along one wall was satellite imagery of the areas being considered by the project, and next to that were a bunch of flip chart sheets with lists of challenges and aspirations created by the team throughout the day. There was a projector and a bunch of seats setup, and not far from that was the 3D styrofoam model of Edmonton’s downtown. The remaining walls and separators were plastered with drawings, maps, and other designs.

Mark gave a brief presentation to the dozen or so in attendance, and then led everyone around the room to talk about some of the posters and drawings, finishing with the 3D model. Here are some observations from the event (and about the plan):

  • The project focuses on Jasper Avenue from 97th street to 111th street.
  • The heart of the project is the Central LRT Station, which is being planned for rehabilitation in 2013.
  • There’s a combination of infill development, large development areas, and open spaces in the concepts.
  • Edmonton’s estimated population for 2041 is 1,158,872. The goal is to attract 6% of the growth or 24,000 people to downtown. That translates into roughly 75 twenty storey apartment buildings.
  • Jasper Avenue is wide enough to support seven lanes of traffic. In comparison to other downtowns, the amount of pedestrian space on Jasper Avenue is incredibly small.
  • In fact, almost every feature of Jasper Avenue is geared toward vehicle traffic. Any redevelopment needs to shift the focus to pedestrian traffic. Think back to the Stanley Cup run of 2006, and this becomes crystal clear. I took video of both Whyte Avenue and Jasper Avenue – Whyte was full of people, Jasper was full of vehicles.
  • Height restrictions due to the City Centre Airport are a challenge, but not as big as you might think. The strictest height limitations are west of 109th street. However, Mark did admit that the airport is one of the main reasons our skyline lacks a recognizable, tall structure.

The timeline for the project is as follows:

  • Phase 1: Concepts – November 2008 to May 2009
  • Phase 2: Finalizing the Urban Design Concept – May 2009 to June 2009
  • Phase 3: Preparing the Public Realm Concept – June 2009 to September 2009
  • Phase 4: Preparing the Preliminary Design Drawings – September 2009 to November 2009

One of the more interesting displays was a timeline describing Jasper Avenue from the early 1900s up to now. It started as the commercial district for the city, centered between 96th and 99th streets. By the 1930s, Jasper Avenue had become a prestigious business address. Through the 1960s, higher scale development started, a number of historic buildings were demolished, and vehicles were more prominent. Suburbanization through the 1980s led to the decline of Jasper Avenue, and the launch of initiatives to help revitalize the street. Today, we’re starting to see renewal though continued outward growth poses major competition.

What will it be like in 2020?

You can see the rest of my photos from tonight here. The second open house is tomorrow from 2pm to 4pm in the main floor atrium of Enterprise Square (10230 Jasper Avenue).

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