Edmonton City Centre Airport Design Competition Finalists

Today Simon Farbrother, City Manager, and Phil Sande, City Centre Airport Executive Director, announced the five finalists in the City Centre Airport Lands Design Competition. These finalists will now work until the end of the year on their plans to redevelop the 216-hectare site into a sustainable, transit-oriented community.

City Centre Airport Design Competition Finalists

From the press release:

“We had an overwhelming response to our request for qualifications,” says Phil Sande, Executive Director, City Centre Airport redevelopment project, City of Edmonton. “We’ve received 33 submissions with a wealth of experience in innovative sustainable design, urban design and redevelopment, engineering and architectural design.”

The five winning firms are (in alphabetical order):

  1. BNIM, Kansas City, USA
  2. Foster & Partners, London, UK
  3. KCAP, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  4. Perkins + Will, Vancouver, Canada
  5. Sweco International AB, Stockholm, Sweden

The contents of their submissions is confidential, so all we got to see were the covers of the proposals. The City also suggested the following visuals: BNIM, Foster & Partners, KCAP, Perkins + Will, Sweco International AB.

Local firms involved in the proposals include Williams Engineering, Bunt & Associates, Cohos Evamy, and Calder Bateman.

City Centre Airport Design Competition Finalists

Their submissions were based upon the Master Plan Principles that City Council approved earlier this year. The review committee included: Simon Farbrother, City Manager; Gord Jackson, Acting Manager of the Policy and Planning Branch; Rick Daviss, Manager of Corporate Properties Branch; Peter Hackett, Exec. Professor School of Business, VP Research and a Fellow of the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta; Chris Henderson, CEO of Delphi Group, Canada’s leading strategic consulting firm in the environment and clean energy sectors; and Todd Latham, President of Actual Media Inc. which produces ReNew Canada, the infrastructure and renewal magazine. James McKellar, Associate Dean, External Relations Academic Director, Program in Real Estate and Infrastructure, Schulich School of Business, York University ensured the review process was transparent and fair.

Some additional notes from the press conference:

  • The first phase of the build out could be completed by 2024.
  • Preliminary results of the environmental evaluation show three small sites with limited contamination potential. The findings thus far were described as “very positive”. More information will be available in about 3 weeks.
  • Each firm will receive an honorarium of $50,000 to participate.
  • Phil said that consideration of Edmonton as a Winter City was important, and was something the finalists both embraced and have experience with.

Edmontonians will get to review all five submissions at the end of the year. The review committee will then be joined by Lars Franne, Retired Project Manager, Hammarby Sjöstad Sustainable Redevelopment, Stockholm, Sweden, and potentially others, and will make a recommendation to City Council, who ultimately has the final decision.

It’s great to see this project moving forward!

UPDATE: Here are the biographies of the five finalists (in PDF), provided by the City.

Who’s behind Envision Edmonton?

Last week, the City Centre Airport was once again in the news thanks to a “new” group calling itself Envision Edmonton. Though City Council voted to close the City Centre Airport nearly a year ago, the issue has never really gone away. First there was the delay to accommodate the Edmonton Indy, then there was the lawsuit from Airco (they lost their bid for an injunction to stop the closure last week). The Edmonton Flying Club has also filed suit trying to keep the airport open.

With the AEG turning its attention toward the oil sands, it’s almost like the local media were salivating for someone to reopen the issue. Here’s what the Envision Edmonton press release said:

In response to Mayor, Stephen Mandel’s challenge issued during his State of the City speech – to convince City Council that the City Centre Airport should stay open – a group of local business people stepped forward to propose alternatives.

A group of concerned Edmontonians created “Envision Edmonton” – an independent community organization formed specifically to develop a suitable and economically viable plan to revitalize the City Centre Airport.

I’m really disappointed with how this has been covered in the local media so far. Here is how they reported the “news”:

I’m sure there was a 60 second piece on the evening news that day too. If you read through those stories, you’ll find that they don’t provide much information beyond what was contained within the press release (as is so often the case, unfortunately). Here are some of the questions that sprung to mind immediately that were not answered:

  1. Who’s behind the group, and is it really new? Have they been involved in the issue in the past?
  2. Where have I heard that name before?
  3. Where can I learn more about the group and its proposed alternatives?

Simple stuff really. Maybe those questions didn’t come to mind for the writers and editors working that day, or maybe they found that answering them was too daunting a task (that might be a valid excuse actually, given that Envision Edmonton still doesn’t have a website…yes, seriously). To be fair to Gordon Kent, his piece did at least treat the group with some skepticism.

It gets much better though. All of those stories use quotes from or paraphrase the press release, which is pretty standard. I’m wondering how they chose what to include, however. Here’s the last paragraph of the press release:

Envision Edmonton is primarily funded by individuals and businesses, many of which have no direct investment in or association with the City Centre Airport, but who are instead dedicated exclusively to helping to make Edmonton a great city.

That’s a pretty cut-and-dry statement, and it ties in nicely with my first question. So I set out to find the answer. Turns out it is completely false (not the last part of course, I’m sure they all want to help make Edmonton a great city).

Here are the Envision Edmonton board members:

  1. Charles Allard (Chairman)
  2. Ian Barrigan
  3. Dr. Joseph Fernando
  4. Phil Milroy
  5. Barry Breckenridge
  6. Bob Bentley
  7. Dr. Kerry Pawluski
  8. Ralph Henderson
  9. Ed Schlemko
  10. Eugene Strilchuk
  11. Bruce Ritchie
  12. Dean Braithwaite

No direct investment or association with the City Centre Airport huh? Right.

I also have answers for the other two questions I mentioned above. The name “Envision Edmonton” has been used a few times, but was probably best known as the former name for the City of Edmonton’s Strategic Plan. That certainly raised my eyebrows. Of all the names they could have picked, they went with the name of an important City document.

Where can you learn more about Envision Edmonton? That’s a good question. For now you can follow them on Twitter, or you can check them out on Facebook. I suspect you’ll hear more about the group later today after they hold another press conference, this time to actually unveil next steps (the last press conference was a meet-and-greet I guess). Here’s what I think you’ll hear:

  • Envision Edmonton will announce that they are launching a campaign to gather 78,000+ signatures to force a plebiscite.
  • One alternative, not many as the press release stated. They will announce loose, high level plans to expand business activities at the City Centre Airport, while retaining (and perhaps improving) medevac facilities.
  • A website. Maybe. It is 2010 after all.

What you probably won’t hear but might want to know:

  • The group has been raising a lot of money to support the campaign. I have heard numbers as high as $700,000. Their total budget, confirmed by Charles Allard, is $500,000. They’re also actively recruiting volunteers.
  • They have been making the rounds, and not just locally. Some members of the group visited Yellowknife back in May to try to get the GNWT on board.
  • Over the last few months they have been making an effort to leave comments on blogs and post updates on forums (example 1, example 2).

If you know something else that I’ve missed, let me know.

I invite you to read my posts on the City Centre Airport. In particular, you should read this post that outlines some responses to the most common questions (medevac, economic activity, etc) and contains links to additional documents. You might also want to read Scott McKeen’s column from last week. There are also lots of links to resources at NotMyAirport.ca.

UPDATE: As expected, Envision Edmonton announced plans today to get 80,000 signatures to keep the City Centre Airport open. Their campaign website includes the proposed plebiscite and other information. Part of their proposal is a new LRT route, running alongside NAIT to the east of the airport. The group has already raised half of their budget, and will start an ad campaign on TV and radio later this week. I asked Charles if they get the signatures and it goes to a vote and citizens want to close the airport, what’s next for Envision Edmonton? He told me “we’d have to respect the decision of the electorate”. Gordon Kent from The Journal asked a ton of questions, including lots about the funding. He is suggesting (and is correct in doing so, I think) that this could be the most heavily funded campaign in the fall election, more than any other race. He also asked if many of the members or funders of Envision Edmonton are involved with the City Centre Airport. Charles told him no, but as you can see above, that’s just simply not true.

Start offering bus service to EIA from Century Park!

The Transportation and Public Works Committee will be discussing the issue of transit service to Edmonton International Airport (EIA) today. Let me start by saying that I would certainly take a bus to the airport from Century Park if it existed, and that I think public transit to the airport is extremely important. Or as Councillor Don Iveson said so well:

This is one of those litmus tests of whether we’re a city or a town.

I’d like us to be a city.

There are two key reports that are relevant here. The first was written by the Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board (ETSAB), and it recommends that an experimental ETS bus service operate from Century Park to EIA. You no doubt heard about it in the news. The second was written by the Transportation Department, and it recommends that the City of Edmonton not proceed unilaterally with operating service to the airport.

As part of its report, ETSAB did a survey of about 600 passengers in October 2009 and found the following:

The highlight result is that a remarkable 53% of passenger respondents said they are likely or very likely to use airport transit to and from Century Park. Only 1 in 4 of these EIA passengers (13% of all passengers) need actually follow through with their indicated likely usage, and the service will be profitable. Only 1 in 8 of these supporters (7% of all passengers) need follow through for 50% cost recovery level to be achieved.

The accuracy of that survey was not demonstrated, and the Transportation Department’s report rightly pointed that out.

Transportation’s report also makes note of the Capital Region Board’s role in all of this, and I agree it makes sense for surrounding communities to take part. That said, I think Edmonton should be proactive about transit service to the airport.

Beyond that, the report from Transportation just doesn’t add up. Here are the questions I have about it:

  • Why is there such a focus on 100% cost recovery, when the rest of ETS operates at about 45%? Only “special event service” and charters are subject to 100% cost recovery, and even with planned fare increases to $3 by 2013, cost recovery is only expected to rise to about 54% (see Transit System Fare Policy C451D for more info)
  • Why are three new buses required and why would the total cost to acquire them be “at least $1.5 million”? First of all, based on 2008 data (large PDF), the City has no lack of spare buses. With a fleet size of 821 40’ diesels, there are at least 146 spare buses available at any given time, 19 of which are reserved for emergency deployment. So wouldn’t it be cheaper to find a way to reduce the number held for maintenance from 127 to 124? And even if we did want new buses, where does the $1.5 million figure come from? Based on the May 2008 report (large PDF) that discussed trolley buses, the cost for a diesel bus in 2010 was expected to be $425,000 whereas the cost for a hybrid was expected to be $650,000.
  • Of course, the type of bus chosen has an impact on operating costs, which for some reason are $254,000 more in the City report than in the ETSAB report (even though ETSAB used a figure provided by ETS). That same report on trolley buses found that maintenance costs for the hybrid and diesel buses are similar, but that the hybrids use 15% to 20% less fuel.

And perhaps most importantly, why do both reports focus on a ticket price of just $2.50? Especially considering adult fares are up to $2.75 now. I’d be willing to bet that most people who’d use the service would be willing to pay more. I don’t think $5 or perhaps even $10 is out of the question.

And then, on top of all of that, there’s this article in the Edmonton Sun:

The city’s transportation department is proposing to build a dedicated bus lane along the future LRT corridor from city boundaries to the Edmonton International Airport.

So they’re saying bus service to the airport is too expensive, but they want to build an expensive dedicated bus lane for bus service we don’t even offer? To be fair, this was in response to what could be done to move people were the City successful in its bid for EXPO 2017. Still, Transportation boss Bob Boutilier was quoted as saying:

“There are opportunities to build up that ridership now. The cost of building a bus way is a lot less than an LRT route but people will see the value as ridership crawls up and progresses to a higher capacity.”

I can think of a way to build up ridership right now – start offering bus service to EIA from Century Park!

Edmonton City Centre Airport Lands Master Plan Principles

A report went to City Council today outlining the vision and principles for development of the City Centre Airport lands.

The ECCA lands will be home to 30,000 Edmontonians living, working and learning in a sustainable community that uses 100% renewable energy, is carbon neutral, significantly reduces its ecological footprint, and empowers residents to pursue a range of sustainable lifestyle choices.

You can download the report here. A few of the highlights for me:

  • The challenge is to be experimental, not to wait for the perfect solution to arrive.
  • Common goal is defined by: design excellence, empowering people, reducing consumption, offering lifestyle options, innovating, measuring achievements.
  • Examples mentioned: Vastra Hamnen (Western Front), Malmo, and Hammarby Sjostad, Stockholm, both in Sweden, and One Planet Communities.
  • The goal is to achieve LEED Gold certification for all buildings, and to encourage LEED Platinum.
  • Under transportation: LRT is a focus, of course, but also “designs to discourage high speed traffic”, “bike paths and multi-use trails to provide fully connected routes”.
  • Technology is identified as a key component of the Master Plan: “A key to success in adapting new technologies will be the engagement of three major local players: EPCOR, the University of Alberta and NAIT.”
  • Our climate is highlighted: “It must be recognized that Edmonton has severe winter conditions, which bring their own challenges, but these need not stand in the way of achieving sustainable development.”

The report also highlights the historical significance of the lands, and states that the Master Plan must embody that through preservation, naming, interpretation, and designation:

  • Identify opportunities to re-use hangars as recreation facilities or other community facilities (e.g. farmers market).
  • Explore the idea of a “mall of museums” that would acknowledge the historical significance of structures such as Hangars 8 and 11 that are all on the Inventory of Historic Resources in Edmonton.
  • Acknowledge the history of the site through naming opportunities for thoroughfares, places and buildings that are associated with the past.

The Master Plan process will be guided by a new steering committee, and is broken into the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and Request for Proposals (RFP) phases. In the RFP stage, the City is looking for 3-5 proposals. Selection would be made by “an independent jury of distinguished professionals.” Excluding formal approvals by Council, the entire process is expected to take a year.

I think the report is a great first step, but there’s still a long way to go. In the background section, there are lots of specific targets, such as the One Planet principles that include “100% of power coming from renewable energy”, “98% reduction in solid landfill waste”, “82% reduction in CO2”, and “20% of materials manufactured on site”. The section that outlines the Master Plan is largely devoid of such targets, however. I found only a couple:

  • At least 20% of the housing units built must be affordable housing.
  • Achieve an overall density of 25 units per acre minimum.

To get an idea of what 25 units per acre looks like, check out this PDF (4 MB).

Council will be discussing the report today. You can watch or listen live online here.

Tony Caterina on the issues in 2009

It’s not surprising that City Councillors are often in the news, offering comment, explanations, and other thoughts on the latest decisions and issues. Some are generally in the news for positive reasons, others, not so much. Ward 3 councillor Tony Caterina is one of the members of council who seems to be mentioned for negative reasons more than positive ones (thanks to Dave for the photo). I mean, he’s even got his own hashtag on Twitter to track all of the bizarre things he says and does! I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at Caterina’s quotes throughout 2009. Ideally I could just point you to his voting record online, but we’re not there yet, so quotes will have to do!

A note on the data: I decided to make it simple and to only look at quotes from the Edmonton Journal. I searched the Canadian Newsstand database (anyone with an Edmonton Public Library card can access it for free) for “tony caterina” in the Edmonton Journal for any date in 2009. A total of 71 articles were found, up to December 3rd. For each one, I looked for direct quotes. I also added some quotes from articles written after December 3rd.

First off, here’s a Wordle of all the quotes:

And here, by subject, is a selection of Tony Caterina quotes on the issues in 2009. You can download all of the quotes I found here in PDF.

On the City Centre Airport:

"We’re talking about closing aviation down, and businesses, and putting people on the unemployment line. Really, that doesn’t make sense."

"In regards to economic development, it’s critical … here we are contemplating getting rid of something that’s already here. That just doesn’t make sense to me."

"If we’re not going to talk about the possibility of improved aviation service, what are the possibilities? From our perspective on council, we will want to push for that to be part of the debate."

On the Edmonton Indy:

"It’s not a cost, it’s an investment into promoting Edmonton as a world-class city. We made a decision as council to support this event because it is world-renowned … Given the exposure we have had, it’s money well spent."

"The publicity, you can’t even put a price tag on it. The Indy is being seen by countries around the world."

On EXPO 2017:

"The prudent thing would be to get a…firm commitment from the province and the federal governments (that) if this bid is successful, they are prepared to support the $2.3 billion."

On Budget 2010:

"We have gone all year asking administration to work on this budget, three per cent (plus) two per cent for (neighbourhood) renewal. They have certainly done that. It’s a very fair budget to everyone. If we don’t accept this recommendation on this after a full year’s work, then going forward from this, any time we ask them to do something, where’s the credibility?"

On Jasper Avenue:

"The pedway system is there. Certainly, we’re not going to get rid of that, but there probably needs to be better planning for the buildings that are going up. The main floor has to be commercial, more so. They should be concentrating on getting merchants back on the street so people have a reason to be outside, and not just in the pedway system. To bring people back on the street, you need something for people to attract them -clothiers and shoe shops."

On the York Hotel:

"They make everybody else look bad. The majority in the…industry are good operators, but you have the few who, they can’t comply or won’t comply."

On cats:

"I don’t know what it is about me, I’ve always denied that I like cats but I’m always the first one they come to."

"When it’s a cat involved, there are more people saying ‘just keep Fluffy, I’m not paying 250 bucks for it. It seems dogs have more value."

On infrastructure:

"We’ve been so far behind in infrastructure repairs. The more we can get done, the better. There are a little sharper pencils putting the prices out. This will help go a long way to making sure we come in with a very very reasonable tax rate for next year."

On the U-Pass:

"There’s enough residual benefits, from (lower) carbon dioxide emissions and fewer vehicles…We subsidize (student) tuition, we subsidize transit, we subsidize all kinds of things, but they’re an important group."

On the new ward system:

"Even with the system that we have now, you’re running against each other. There’s always a chance that one incumbent, as happened in the last election, or both, could be defeated. I don’t think that’s an issue for consideration."

On bike trails:

"There’s a limited amount of money and we have to look after higher priorities. Edmonton already has a lot of paths for a winter city — about 1,000 kilometres of bike trails and roads — so I think we’ve done a good job."

On the Citizen Panel:

"How many members, how many panels, do we need? We might as well just ask the public where to put the money. That’s a big part of the councillor’s responsibility. It sounds good to have public involvement, but at the end of the day that’s what council is here for."

On the idling bylaw:

"All it’s going to do is pit neighbour against neighbour. I would have to agree with my constituents that have phoned in to say this sounds like the silliest thing we have done here in a number of years. I think this is a little excessive. People in general are good. They understand the environment and will do what they can in order to mitigate their contribution to … pollution."

On bloggers (thanks Dave for saving it):

"A number of bloggers — who knows where they come from — are treated as gospel."

As you can see, not all of the quotes are negative. As an aside, I think Scott McKeen wrote more about Caterina than anyone else this year. He must love him 😉 In quite a few articles, Caterina is mentioned as the only councillor to vote for or against something. He likes to be different, I guess! I couldn’t find a quote, but earlier this year Caterina said he worked longer hours and spent fewer nights at home when he worked in the private sector. That’s no surprise though, as Caterina apparently likes to get out of his duties as a city councillor.

Some other related reading you might be interested in:

Anyone else looking forward to more fun with #toncat next year? Election day is October 18, 2010.

Edmonton’s improved online City Council meeting agendas & minutes

A little over a week ago a new online system for Edmonton City Council’s meeting agendas and minutes went live. The long overdue update brings a number of improvements for public access, notably an integrated view of all information on the same screen. As someone who frequently accesses the agendas and minutes, I’m really happy the old system is gone, and at least so far, I think the new one is great!

The previous system for managing agendas and minutes, built in-house about 15 years ago, was called OCCTOPUS (Official Council and Committee Tracking Output Publishing and Updating Services). If you’ve never used it, consider yourself lucky! Based on Microsoft Word documents, OCCTOPUS was clunky and awkward to use. To get at the details for an agenda item, you often had to click through four connected Word documents. It always reminded me of the ETS Trip Planner, which loves to spawn dozens of new windows.

If you want to see the old system, check out the minutes for the November 10th Council meeting. Then compare that to the new system, by looking at the minutes for the November 24th Council meeting. I think you’ll agree that the new one is much better!

Some of the improvements & features of the new system include:

  • No more Word documents! Agendas and minutes now appear in HTML.
  • You can access the agenda, minutes, supporting materials, and archived video for a meeting from within the same screen.
  • Archived video and supporting materials (often PDF reports) appear in column on the right side and open with a single click.
  • If you really want to, you can get a print view of the agenda or minutes with a single click.

Aileen Giesbrecht, Director of Governance and Legislative Services in the Office of the City Clerk, told me that the project to replace OCCTOPUS started in the summer of 2007, and in the fall of 2008 SIRE Technologies was awarded the contract. SIRE provides “legislative management technology” for county and local governments, and offers a number of off-the-shelf solutions or modules. According to Sarah Ellington of SIRE Technologies, the City of Edmonton is using three such modules: Agenda Plus, Minutes Plus, and Workflow. Each of the modules have been configured to meet the City’s requirements for formatting, business processes, etc. The City of Edmonton’s implementation is the first major SIRE project in Canada.

The biggest challenge in getting the new system in place, according to Aileen, was simply “finding the time to make it happen.” The work isn’t finished yet, either! The project currently improves access primarily for the public, and Aileen and her team are now working on improving access internally too. She said the related internal systems being implemented will help with ease of use and will support the City’s paperless strategy.

The proposed 2010 budget for Corporate Services (PDF), which mentions $164,000 for operational maintenance and support of SIRE, offers some additional insight into what’s next:

Operational funding of SIRE will allow for: Maintenance of SIRE software, including ‘Agenda and Minutes Plus’ and web integration between SIRE and our current ‘Thunderstone’ web-based search function; licences associated with SIRE software, including access for Councillors (‘Agenda To Go’), as well as access for City Clerks and other Administrators, Bi-annual updates to the SIRE software suite; and one staff position to coordinate and maintain the entire SIRE system.

The new system isn’t perfect – it still uses Windows Media for video, and it would be nice to be able to click directly from an item on the agenda to the corresponding item in the minutes – but it’s much better than what we had previously. I think it’s great that the City is working to improve access to information for citizens, and I hope this is just the beginning (think: open data).

Edmonton City Centre Airport closure delayed

Back in July, City Council voted in favor of phased closure for the City Centre Airport. The first runway (16-34) was scheduled to be closed by April 30, 2010, but today Council voted to delay that until October 2010 so that the Rexall Edmonton Indy can be held next year (only Councillor Batty voted against the decision). You know, the race that cost taxpayers $5.3 million last year (figures for the 2009 race haven’t yet been released). I guess this means the design competition will also be delayed.

Just last week a report suggested that air traffic may be closed for four weeks to accommodate the Indy. The only other alternative that was presented was to spend the money on a new track, a decision that probably wouldn’t have gone over very well with anyone.

The current contract with the Indy Racing League expires after the 2010 race, but City Manager Al Maurer says that discussions about a longer term agreement are underway. If the 2009 figures don’t show a big improvement from 2008, it’ll be hard for City Council to justify a renewal.

I think City Council missed an important opportunity today to reinforce their decision to close the City Centre Airport. Additionally, they’re in danger of setting a bad precedent of delays. What happens the next time Tom Hendricks or someone else goes to Council to ask for more time?

I hope this is the first and last delay in the closure process. We’re watching you City Council.

UPDATE: The Journal reports that the delay would be until July 31, 2010 not October 2010.

UPDATE2: The text of the motion is as follows:

That the City of Edmonton cooperate with Edmonton Regional Airports Authority to ensure that any closure of Runway 16-34 would not take effect until after the 2010 Edmonton Indy and Alberta Aviation Museum’s Airfest 2010.

You can download the minutes in Word here.

Edmonton City Centre Airport Decision: Phased Closure

City Council voted today to implement a phased closure of the City Centre Airport. The motion put forward by Councillor Gibbons described two phases and passed by a vote of 10-3. I’m happy with the decision that was made today, and I commend Council for taking a courageous step toward ensuring the City’s Vision and Strategic Plan are realized.

Here is the vote breakdown for adopting the motion (which you can download here):

Councillor Karen Leibovici (Ward 1) Yes
Councillor Linda Sloan (Ward 1) No
Councillor Ron Hayter (Ward 2) No
Councillor Kim Krushell (Ward 2) Yes
Councillor Ed Gibbons (Ward 3) Yes
Councillor Tony Caterina (Ward 3) No
Councillor Jane Batty (Ward 4) Yes
Councillor Ben Henderson (Ward 4) Yes
Councillor Bryan Anderson (Ward 5) Yes
Councillor Don Iveson (Ward 5) Yes
Councillor Amarjeet Sohi (Ward 6) Yes
Councillor Dave Thiele (Ward 6) Yes
Mayor Stephen Mandel Yes

Council started discussing the issue at 1:30pm, and didn’t wrap up until nearly 6pm. There were at least four rounds of questioning, driven largely by Councillors Caterina and Sloan who were vehemently opposed to the motion. After the questioning finally ended, Councillor Caterina put forward a motion to refer the issue to Administration which was soundly defeated.

Three amendments were made to the original motion. Councillor Iveson’s two amendments were “friendly”. Councillor Krushell’s amendment stated that after scheduled service licenses expire at ECCA in June of 2012, that they not be renewed. All three amendments were approved, and as soon as the final motion is online I’ll link to it which you can download here (PDF).

It became clear as Councillors gave their final remarks that the motion was going to pass. I thought Councillors Henderson, Iveson, and Krushell made excellent comments about why this decision needed to be made, speaking in particular about the future. Councillor Leibovici mentioned the role of social networking in this debate (more on that in a future post). Mayor Mandel used his time to make it clear that “this is a closure motion.” Councillor Gibbons used his time to get a dig in at Councillor Caterina, saying “if you can’t win, don’t bring it forward.”

After the vote passed, a motion from Councillor Sloan was brought forward that called into question the legality of Councillor Gibbons’ motion (the City’s legal counsel gave the OK hours earlier). It also requested that quarterly updates be provided to Council on legal issues related to the City Centre Airport. The motion was split – the first part was defeated, the second part (quarterly updates) passed.

What happens next?

The following will happen immediately:

  • Runway 16-34 will be closed. General aviation business activities will be adjusted to accommodate a one-runway airport. Medivac service will be maintained.
  • As a result, a GPS landing system will likely be added to runway 12-30.
  • The parcel of lands adjacent to runway 16-34 that can be surrendered to the City once the runway is closed will be identified.
  • Negotiations will begin with NAIT and the Province of Alberta to allow for NAIT expansion.
  • The City of Edmonton will create a development office and will work to set out long-term visioning plans for the ECCA lands in their entirety. The plan will be presented to Council by November 2009.
  • Plans for realignment of the NAIT LRT line based on the closure of 16-34 will be provided to Council no later than September 2009.
  • The downtown plan will be adjusted to take into consideration the immediate removal of the overlay height restrictions.
  • The City of Edmonton will develop a communications strategy to inform the public about the impact of this decision.
  • The City Manager will negotiate with Edmonton Regional Airport Authority (ERAA) to make mutually acceptable lease amendments.

The following will happen sometime in the future:

  • ERAA will work with Alberta Health Services on a long-term system design to facilitate Medivac operations at the Edmonton International Airport or other regional airports.
  • The final closure date will be determined by City Council with input from ERAA when the lands are required to support the long-term land development plan.
  • After the final closure date is set, environmental remediation will take place.

What does this mean?

Council decided today to close the City Centre Airport. They stopped short of attaching dates however, which makes the motion much weaker than it could have been (during my live-tweeting I called it “gutless”). Both Mayor Mandel and Councillor Henderson addressed this in their final remarks, stating that Council’s intentions should not be misinterpreted – the intention is to close the airport.

I fear the lack of a timeline will open the door for this to be discussed again in the future, however. At what point are the lands “required to support the long-term land development plan”? Who decides that and brings it forward, especially if the City is to be the developer of those lands? I do believe that the direction is clear, that the airport is to be closed, but the lack of a final closure date makes me uncomfortable.

It’s important to realize that we’re a long way from seeing the airport completely closed. New communities are not developed overnight, and especially not world-class, transit-oriented ones. The City needs to take the time to come up with a solid, exciting plan that Edmontonians readily support.

Final Thoughts

I think Council made a bold statement today. By voting to close the City Centre Airport, Council made it clear that they’re willing to do what it takes to ensure Edmonton’s future is bright. I think today’s decision was an important step in the push to create a more vibrant, sustainable, innovative, and livable Edmonton.

The City Centre Airport will be closed, and that’s good for Edmonton.

UPDATE (7/9/2009): You can download the final version of the motion here (PDF).

Letter to City Council regarding the City Centre Airport

Here’s my letter to Council:

Dear Mayor Mandel and Councillors:

I listened to the public hearings on the City Centre Airport Lands last week with great interest. You heard from a large number of Edmontonians and received a great deal of information related to the airport. Unfortunately, the only thing that everyone could agree upon was that the status quo at the City Centre Airport is untenable. Which leaves two options: expand scheduled service, or close the airport.

Except that expanding scheduled service is not a viable option. There is no evidence to support the notion that Edmonton as a whole would benefit from faux-competition between the City Centre Airport and the Edmonton International Airport. In fact, expanding scheduled service would almost certainly be detrimental to both airports, and therefore to the city.

The only rational, responsible decision is to close the airport.

The arguments you have heard against this decision are flawed. Medevac patients would not be affected by closure as time critical patients could be accommodated at other facilities. Few would be inconvenienced by travel delays – the Villeneuve Airport is just ten minutes further from Downtown Edmonton than the Springbank Airport is from Downtown Calgary. Most of the economic activity facilitated by the airport would not disappear, but would instead shift. There is absolutely no factual basis for the assertion that closing the City Centre Airport would negatively affect Edmonton’s economy, let alone affect it more than the loss of one of our major sports teams.

Closing the City Centre Airport is an incredible opportunity. Removing the height restrictions of the Outer Surface will help to re-invigorate our downtown. Expansion of the existing NAIT campus will remove the need for that institution to build elsewhere, helping to curb urban sprawl. Intensification of the airport lands is wholly consistent with the City of Edmonton’s Strategic Plan and vision for the future. Importantly, this can be accomplished while celebrating the historical significance of Blatchford Field. Our city has a rare chance to build a transit-oriented community on the airport lands that is integrated, livable, innovative, and sustainable.

I urge you to vote in favour of closing the City Centre Airport.

Thank you.

Contact your City Councillors to let them know what you think about the City Centre Airport.

Winter Light 2009 by the numbers

At tomorrow’s City Council meeting, John Mahon, Executive Director of the Edmonton Arts Council, will share the Final Report on Winter Light Festival 2009. This year’s festival is being described as successful, so the Community Services Committee will recommend:

  1. That one time funding of $450,000 from 2009 Council Contingency, to fund the Winter Light Festival 2010, be approved.
  2. That Administration, in consultation with Edmonton Arts Council, prepare a base funding budget submission of $750,000 for continuation of a winter festival.

Let’s take a look at some numbers from the final report (in Word format):

  • Beginning on January 8 and ending on March 21, 2009, Winter Light produced 9 events, supported 3 existing winter festival events, 1 City winter event, and produced 15 community workshops.
  • Roughly 12,000 people attended the 9 events produced by Winter Light.
  • Over 62,000 people attended all Winter Light related events.
  • The estimated impact on the local economy was $1.7 million.
  • A total of 55 local producers, marketers, artists and recreation workers were directly employed by Winter Light.
  • To continue with the model used this year, it will cost the city $750,000 in 2010 and $675,000 in 2011.
  • Private sector fundraising will attempt to raise at least 10% of the total budget to be used in 2011.
  • An audience survey showed 50% of respondents were between the ages of 30 and 45, roughly 15% were between 18 and 30, and 32% were aged 45 to 60.
  • Over 94% of respondents said “yes” to the question “Do you think Winter Light was a good investment for the city?”
  • The winterlight.ca website received 3 million visits in 3 months.
  • There were more than 800 print, radio, television, and website articles mentioning Winter Light.
  • Over 1500 people subscribed to the Winter Light mailing list.

And some numbers related to expenses:

  • Deep Freeze Festival received $27,000 from Winter Light.
  • Ice on Whyte received $15,000 from Winter Light.
  • Silver Skate received $37,000 from Winter Light.
  • Total revenue for Winter Light 2009 was $808,500 (all but $28,500 of which came from the City).
  • Total expenses were $807,672.
  • A total of $119,031 was spent on a marketing campaign which included outdoor advertising (billboards and buses), print advertising, radio advertising, and electronic advertising.

The report also includes a goals & aspirations assessment. Here’s a wordle of the report (with Edmonton, Winter, and Light removed):

Back in March I wondered if Winter Light 2009 was a success. I concluded that while the concept is sound, there’s lots of room for improvement when it comes to the execution. Final attendance numbers were much lower than originally estimated, which I think supports that argument.

The challenge for Winter Light 2010 (if approved) will be to increase attendance and impact without increasing expense. Hopefully a strong foundation was established this year for accomplishing that.