The problem with Capital Boulevard’s “grand view” of the Alberta Legislature building

I’m excited about Capital Boulevard, the transformation of 108 Street downtown into a premiere address worthy of a capital city like Edmonton. The City of Edmonton is investing $17.6 million in the project, slated to be finished by the 100th anniversary of the Alberta Legislature building in September 2012.

When completed, Capital Boulevard will feature broad tree-lined sidewalks, enhanced street and sidewalk lighting, mid block pedestrian crossings, bike racks, and street furnishings such as benches.

The project will be completed in two phases. The first is south of Jasper Avenue to 99 Avenue, and the second is north of Jasper Avenue to 104 Avenue.

Capitol Boulevard

The redevelopment plans have drawn inspiration from signature streets and views around the world. Here are a few examples, starting with the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Another is St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

San Francisco’s City Hall is another example (opposite view here).

One of the great things about those examples is a clear line of sight down the street to the focal point. The view of the building is unobstructed. That’s something we have currently on 108 Street.

Capitol Boulevard

And losing that view is what concerns me.

The new ceremonial street will highlight the connection of the provincial legislature to the capital city and celebrate the shared history between Alberta and Edmonton. It will provide a grand view from MacEwan University to the Alberta Legislature.

A grand view perhaps, but no longer of the Legislature building! The plan is to have five sites of public art in the middle of the street between each avenue.

Here’s a rendering of what it would look like:

This rendering is off to the side, and the public art is the white mesh piece in the centre. My guess is the final art installations (which to my knowledge remain unfunded) are not going to be small, which means they’ll definitely obstruct the view of the Legislature building. Part of the problem is that the Legislature building is at an elevation of ~2160 feet and Jasper Avenue is at ~2180 feet. That’s why in my photo above, you can only see the top of the building. Put almost anything in the middle of the street and it becomes taller than the street-level view of the Legislature building.

The street is going to be called “Capital Boulevard” because of the Alberta Legislature building. So why would be obstruct the view of it?