City Council approves downtown arena land purchase, postpones final decision on the project

The downtown arena project took a big step forward today as City Council voted to purchase the land proposed as the site for the project and the Katz Group made some concessions in order to further the negotiations. With options on the land expiring at the end of the month and a decision required by October 21, Council had to move quickly. They decided to postpone a final decision on the arena project until October 26, however.

City Manager Simon Farbrother provided an update on this week’s meetings in New York and the ongoing negotiations between the City and the Katz Group. You can view his presentation in PDF here. The highlights include:

  • There was no change in the maximum price approach (still $450 million), nor in the user fee (ticket tax) of $125 million, nor in the City’s contribution of $125 million ($45 million to come from the CRL).
  • There was no change in the location agreement of 35 years.
  • While the Katz Group reconfirmed its commitment of $100 million to the arena, the funding has been restructured as a $5.5 million lease for 30 years.
  • The LRT connection now has an estimated cost of $17 million.
  • The cost for the pedway over 104 Avenue (also known as the winter garden) will be split evenly between the City and the Katz Group, with the City contributing a maximum of $25 million.
  • The City will now operate the community rink.
  • The design process will now potentially commence before the province has confirmed any contribution.
  • The City will spend $20 million over 10 years to market itself through advertising at Oilers games (this is over and above the $450 million and will be introduced in a future City budget).
  • And the biggest change, the Katz Group agreed to waive the requirement for a non-compete clause with Northlands.

With Council agreeing to purchase the land and the Katz Group agreeing to waive the non-compete requirement, the project certainly feels like it is back on track. Terry Jones called Mandel the MVP and Katz the first star in the arena project. There is still the outstanding $100 million, however, and both parties will continue to pursue provincial funding for that.

For more on today’s meeting, check out David Staples’ column and Paula Simons’ blog post. And don’t miss The Charrette’s look at 311 call statistics.

Today’s Council meeting was the talk of Twitter, as expected. This graph shows the frequency of tweets posted over the four hour meeting:

Here’s a word cloud of all the tweets posted in Edmonton during the meeting:

The non-compete clause was definitely a big topic of discussion. For its part, the Katz Group issued a simple statement from Executive Vice President John Karvellas after today’s meeting:

We respect the City’s process and appreciate the time Council and Administration devoted to the arena project in today’s special meeting. We have the basis of an agreement that will enable us to move this project forward, subject to the approval of City Council on October 26, 2011. We continue to believe, as we have from day one, that this project represents a great opportunity to help revitalize our downtown and ensure the Oilers’ long-term sustainability in Edmonton.

The next step will be a non-statutory public hearing on October 24/25, with Council set to make its final decision on the arena project on October 26. As I mentioned earlier, if you want to voice your opinion on the deal one way or the other, the number one thing you can do is email your City Councillor.

Edmonton’s Downtown Arena on the precipice

Today is another big day for Edmonton’s downtown arena project. City Council will be meeting this afternoon to once again discuss the project, with a particular focus on the outcome of this week’s meetings in New York with Gary Bettman.

My sense is that the project is in danger. And I’m still trying to understand how we got here.

I used to think the arena was basically a done deal. It seemed like all of the right pieces were in place. The arena was listed as one of the catalyst projects in the Capital City Downtown Plan and that document was successfully approved. Edmontonians got engaged at public meetings and open houses. The City embarked on a high profile public consultation process. The Katz Group met with anyone who would listen (and they continue to). Council had questions and they got answers. Surveys showed significant support for the project, up from previous surveys. Organizations started becoming more vocal about their support, with letters from the Downtown Vibrancy Task Force and Yes 4 Edmonton. In May, the “agreement framework” was approved. In August, the Downtown CRL concept came forward and seemed to be well-received. The latest stats on calls to 311 suggest that more people support the project than oppose it.

Certainly there have been challenges along the way, but it seemed to me that most of those challenges were related to the details. For a while now it has felt like the arena was going to be built, it was just a matter of how and when.

But now? Well, it doesn’t look so good anymore.

The meetings in New York were taken by many to be a sign that negotiations between the City and the Katz Group were about to go off the rails. Mayor Mandel hasn’t been his usual optimistic self lately either. Two new websites launched this week to try to push the project forward, Heart of the Capital and Build the Arena. And my preliminary analysis of tweets about the arena shows that lately, the majority of tweets are about supporting the arena rather than opposing it. Edmontonians seem worried. The October 31 deadline is inching ever closer, but it feels like we’re getting further and further away from the goal line for this project.

Tweets about the arena in Edmonton for the first twelve days of October

I share the Katz Group’s growing impatience, even if I don’t agree with the way they have gone about things. I don’t envy Council’s position, but I’m confident they’ll make a decision that is in the best interests of the city (though likely not today). At this point, I just want some certainty. If we’re going to build the arena, great, let’s do everything we can to ensure it is a success. If we’re not going to move ahead with the project, fine, let’s refocus and get back to work.

For a decent overview of where we’re at, check out the Journal’s summary. You can follow this afternoon’s discussion on Twitter, or you can connect to City Council’s streaming audio and video. If you want to voice your opinion on the deal one way or the other, the number one thing you can do is email your City Councillor.

Edmonton’s downtown revitalization: now linked to the arena more than ever?

Back in May, the City of Edmonton and the Katz Group agreed on an agreement framework. A month later, City Council asked a number of questions about that agreement, which Administration answered in a report (PDF) that went back to Council on July 20, just before the summer break. Unsurprisingly, a few of those questions were related to the Community Revitalization Levy (CRL). The answer was that Administration would return to Council with more information, including the new CRL boundary, with a target date of August 31.

Today, that date became official, not to mention a whole lot more complicated. Here’s what a media advisory titled “Proposed Downtown CRL could fund revitalization” said:

A vibrant downtown is a key ingredient of a great city. Gary Klassen, General Manager for Sustainable Development, will be available to speak about a report on an option for a boundary for a downtown Community Revitalization Levy which could fund revitalization.

That media conference will take place tomorrow at noon (right in the middle of the I (heart) yegdt BBQ taking place right outside City Hall in Churchill Square). The report itself will be made available at 11am.

The gist of it is this: the City is proposing a larger, downtown-wide CRL to fund not only the arena but also a number of other “catalyst” projects in the downtown (as outlined in the Capital City Downtown Plan). I can’t confirm this just yet, but my understanding is that the proposed CRL is big – as in $320 million big. It’s a smart piece of political maneuvering, when you think about it. How do you get councillors who are opposed to or on the fence about a CRL for the arena to support one? Add in a whole bunch of other stuff they would likely support. It’ll be especially interesting because with the summer break a number of the councillors have no idea this is coming.

I think there are two ways to look at this proposal.

One perspective is that the proposed CRL is a good thing because the catalyst projects will finally receive funding. Projects like the Jasper Avenue New Vision, At-Grade LRT, the High Profile Bikeway System, and the Warehouse Campus Central Park all sound great, but don’t have any funding attached to them. The proposed CRL could be used to fund all of these in addition to the arena. Some projects would certainly benefit as they’d sort of “catch a ride with the arena” and would get their funding without too much added trouble. And since they are all part of the plan to revitalize downtown, the CRL is a good fit. That’s what it was intended for, after all.

The other perspective is that the proposed CRL is a bad thing because it basically holds downtown revitalization hostage. You could see the proposed CRL as a message that either Council agrees to fund the arena, or the other projects don’t receive funding. The 2012-2014 Capital Budget is coming up for discussion later this year, and some of these projects (or elements of them) would have been part of the budget discussions. Now it seems they would just come along with the arena, or….what? It’s not clear what the alternative might be. Additionally, projects funded through the CRL might not actually receive any money for years (a CRL takes time to approve), whereas if they were funded through the budget process they could receive funding as early as January.

Take the Alley of Light project, for instance. It was slated to be up for discussion as part of the Capital Budget, with a line item of $500,000. Now it would fall under the Green & Walkable Downtown catalyst project. In a way this is a good thing – the Alley of Light might receive the funding under the CRL without too much debate. On the other hand, don’t we want Council to be clear about what they’re funding? I want Council to stand up for the Alley of Light, to say that it is absolutely worth the $500,000, and that it will have a positive impact on our downtown. I don’t want it to get funded “under the radar” just because the arena did. Likewise I don’t want the arena to get funded just because we want the other projects.

Not to mention that the proposed CRL is especially risky given that The Quarters CRL is immediately to the east. How likely is it that the required development will take place in both areas to generate enough tax “lift” for the CRL to work?

Ever since the beginning, the Katz Group has made it clear that this project is about downtown revitalization. To them, downtown revitalization doesn’t really happen unless the arena happens. Now with the proposal of a downtown-wide CRL, it seems that the City has bought into that idea wholeheartedly. Next Wednesday, we’ll find out if City Council has as well.

UPDATE: The report is now available. Details: “over the 20 year term of the levy is expected to generate an additional $1.18 billion in new tax dollars (net present value of $600 million) of which $788 million is based on appreciation of the existing assessment base (net present value of $385 million).”

The Katz Group won’t build an Edmonton arena outside of downtown

The Charrette has a good discussion of the recent arena news. You’ve probably heard by now that the Katz Group is now on record saying they would consider alternate locations if the downtown arena doesn’t move ahead:

“We continue to believe that the best solution for the city and the Oilers is a downtown development and we remain committed to those negotiations. However, to the extent that we cannot be certain of the result of those negotiations, we are open to alternatives to find another long-term home for the Oilers in the Edmonton region.”

At this point a statement like that is nothing but political maneuvering. The Katz Group has never indicated they would look to build elsewhere prior to that statement, so I find it hard to believe it’s true. Here’s a look back at what I mean.

The Katz Group issued a press release on March 25, 2008 voicing its support for a new downtown arena complex. John Karvellas, Rexall Sports President, said:

“Rexall Sports shares the Committee’s view that a downtown arena complex can help revitalize Edmonton’s core and become the centrepiece for a number of major developments in the adjoining area, as similar projects have done for other cities.”

On August 31, 2009 the Katz Group appointed Patrick LaForge as its principal point of contact. He said:

“At the end of the day, we envision a vibrant downtown with new housing, retail, office and public space, hotels, residential housing and other amenities, all anchored by a world-class entertainment and sports venue. We envision a neighbourhood that is well-integrated with public transit, livable, walkable, environmentally responsible and a benefit to downtown, surrounding communities and all of Northern Alberta.”

On September 29, 2009 the domain name was registered. The website didn’t launch until February 24, 2010. Here’s what I said at the time:

Annoyed with the domain Katz is certainly not the only person working to revitalize downtown #yeg.

Here’s what Bob Black said in a speech on February 9, 2010:

“In all of the public opinion research we have done, the opportunity to revitalize downtown is what has people most excited about this project. It is also the reason why the mayor and the city have made revitalizing downtown one of their top priorities.”

In a speech to City Council on July 21, 2010, here’s what Daryl Katz had to say:

“I believe we have a once in a generation opportunity — through the Oilers, and through the need for a new arena — to do something transformative for downtown and for our city.”

In December 2010, the answers to questions from Council were released. Councillor Thiele asked the Katz Group: If no new downtown arena district is built in Edmonton and the Oilers will not play in a renovated Rexall Place, where will they play? The response:

“Our singular focus is upon negotiating a mutually satisfactory agreement with the City of Edmonton that will facilitate the construction of a new downtown arena.  We are confident that this can be achieved.”

And here’s what Bob Black said on May 18, 2011 when the Katz Group and the City agreed on an agreement framework:

“From the beginning we have approached this project with the twin objectives of creating a major engine to drive the revitalization of downtown and of creating a model for the long term sustainability of the Oilers in Edmonton.”

So, after all that, they release a simple statement saying they’re exploring alternatives? I call bullshit.

But perhaps, as The Charrette pointed out, the damage is done. Either they’re lying about looking elsewhere, or they’ve been lying to us for three years about how important downtown is.

Edmonton’s Downtown Arena moves ahead with agreement framework

The Katz Group scored a major victory tonight as City Council voted in private to approve an “agreement framework” for the proposed downtown arena. The framework is the basis for the two sides to negotiate a formal Master Agreement, which will require final approval by City Council. While not a final binding agreement, tonight’s deal nevertheless allows the project to move forward.

Here is the full motion and amendments as voted on back on April 6 (tonight’s was largely the same – see here):

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The vote tonight succeeded 8-5. Who voted in favor of the framework? Who voted against?

For: Mandel, Krushell, Loken, Leibovici, Batty, Henderson, Anderson, Sohi
Against: Sloan, Gibbons, Caterina, Iveson, Diotte

The document outlines $350 million in funding for a $450 million arena. Where does the other $100 million come from?

Answering questions from the media tonight, Mayor Mandel would only say “other orders of government.” There is no confirmation on where the remaining amount will come from, but it is hoped that the Province will support the project.

How much of the total cost will be funded by a CRL?

The motion only states that $20 million be directed at the arena from a CRL. The remaining $105 million (the City’s maximum contribution will be $125 million) could come from direct tax revenues. However, the agreement framework page states that $45 million would come from a CRL. The final mix is likely to change.

What happens to Rexall Place and Northlands?

The motion specifies that City administration will continue “to work with Northlands to ensure the City understands their financial challenges and how these can be addressed.” Answering questions this evening, City Manager Simon Farbrother said that Edmonton cannot sustain two arenas. It would appear that Northlands has lost its seat at the table.

Will the City own the arena? Will it receive the revenue?

Under the agreement, the City would own the building and land. The Katz Group would be responsible for all maintenance, upgrades, operating and capital expense costs. The City also retains the right to access the facility four weeks a year. As for revenue, the motion only states that the City “negotiate options for potential revenue sharing.”

What will the arena look like?

The City stated tonight that the arena will contain 18,500 seats and 350 parking stalls. The design process will still need to happen once the project moves ahead.

What are the next steps?

The City and the Katz Group will now work to complete the Master Agreement. They’ll also be working to secure the remaining $100 million, likely from the Province.

Twitter was buzzing with the news tonight. Here are a few of the tweets that caught my eye:

#yegcc just came back in public – voted on a motion to approve a framework for #yegarena deal – details to be kept in private. Passes 8-5.

News conference upcoming at City Hall for major #yegarena announcement.

City announces framework to build arena!

City and Katz Group agree on agreement framework to build arena #yegarena #yeg

The City of Edmonton and Katz Group agree to framework that “sustains NHL hockey in #yeg for 35 years.” #yegarena #Oilers

Mandel stresses optimism, forward momentum, believes holes in plan will come together now that framework of deal in place. #yegarena

This arena will built just when the construction labour and materials market explodes. I’m guessing it comes in at $700 million. #yegarena

This arena situation is just like the airport situation; everyone knew it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when. #yegarena #yeg

NOTE: #yegarena dissenters. A friendly reminder; you have until JULY 17th to file your plebiscite application. Just saying.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens next! Much more to come, stay tuned.

Proposed Downtown Arena: Response to Council’s Questions

Back in July, City Council asked questions of Administration, the Katz Group, and Northlands regarding the proposed downtown arena district. A lot of questions. Today, the responses to those questions are being made available in preparation for the December 10 meeting (read them here). Here are a few questions and answers that I have extracted.

Mayor Mandel asked Administration: How many parking stalls are in downtown Edmonton that are within 8-10 blocks of the new proposed arena site?

Data from a parking study prepared as a background report for the Capital City Downtown Plan (Capital City Downtown Plan) in 2008 and recent calculations indicate approximately 46,100 total parking stalls exist within a 10 block radius from the proposed arena site.  Of these, approximately 2,700 are on-street metered parking, 17,300 are off-street surface parking, and 26,100 are located within a parkade (i.e. structured parking).

Councillor Caterina asked Administration: Why was the 5th best location chosen rather than #1 – Jasper Avenue, #2 – Northlands, etc.?

The confidential HOK Study does not prioritize the proposed locations.  Rather, it identifies the essential components required to attract major sporting and entertainment events and identifies location issues and the criteria necessary for a successful facility development.  The proposed location for the district is a viable choice when factoring in the various criteria identified in the HOK Study, particularly related to the challenges/opportunities of land assembly.

Councillor Leibovici asked Administration: Can a condition of a CRL be a guaranteed revenue stream?  In other words if projected development does not occur as anticipated can the City require that the Katz Group provide a guarantee to cover debt servicing costs?

A risk assessment is part of the requirement for the CRL.  The CRL plan must identify expected and alternative funding sources in the event the development does not occur.  Alternative revenues to make up any shortfall in expected revenues from a CRL would be discussed as part of a negotiation with the Katz group.

Councillor Leibovici asked Administration: What are the projections for the Edmonton Convention Market? Part of the answer:

From Mike Fitzpatrick, VP & General Manager of the Shaw Convention Centre: The Shaw Conference Centre is routinely turning away convention business due to a lack of downtown convention space; when that happens these events are almost always forced to select another city.  In the nine months from January to September 2010 we have already turned away 13 future convention bookings.

Councillor Sohi asked Administration: Have discussions taken place with the Province regarding the CRL model?

Administration has had preliminary discussions with the province on the use of a CRL for arena development.

Councillor Anderson asked the Katz Group: Is the $100 m Katz dollars cash or land?

There are a number of ways to deliver $100m  in value, but we recognize that this will have to be done in a fashion that is acceptable to the City.

Councillor Iveson asked the Katz Group: Please explain exactly how a Location Agreement works from the Franchise perspective, including the contemplated duration of the agreement.

A location agreement would be a term of the lease pursuant to which the Oilers would play in the new building.  It would bind the Oilers to playing only in that building for the full term of the lease.  We are prepared to sign a long term lease in a new downtown arena that would bind the team to Edmonton for the  term of that lease.  We expect a term of 25 years or more.

Councillor Sloan asked the Katz Group: Forbes has shown consistently over the past 3 years that the Oiler net operating income is better than the Calgary Flames anywhere from $3 million to $10 million per year?

That is not accurate based on our information.

Councillor Sohi asked the Katz Group: Are two arenas viable in Edmonton?


Councillor Thiele asked the Katz Group: If no new downtown arena district is built in Edmonton and the Oilers will not play in a renovated Rexall Place, where will they play?

Our singular focus is upon negotiating a mutually satisfactory agreement with the City of Edmonton that will facilitate the construction of a new downtown arena.  We are confident that this can be achieved.

The complete list of questions and answers is available here. At the December 10 meeting, Northlands will be giving a presentation, the questions and answers will be discussed, and Administration will be talking about the public consultation that took place.

The issue will come before Council again on January 17. You can see more information here.

Recap: Downtown Arena Public Consultation Session

Last night was the first of four City-hosted public consultation sessions on the proposed downtown arena. The sessions aim to gather input that will be provided to City Council. Roughly 150 people visited the Robbins Health Learning Centre throughout the evening, though only about a third of those stayed for the facilitated part of the session.

Proposed Downtown Arena Consultation

The first two hours of the session followed an open house format, with information displays, handouts such as a backgrounder (PDF), City officials available to answer questions, and opportunities for individuals to write questions or comments on sticky notes or in drop boxes. Promptly at 7pm, Margaret Bateman made a brief presentation (PDF) on the consultation process. The next two hours were facilitated discussion groups, where everyone had the opportunity to provide specific feedback on five key questions. Here are the questions as they were presented this evening:

  1. What’s your position on building a downtown arena?
    • If supportive, why?
    • If not, why not?
    • If conditional, why?
  2. If a new downtown arena project were to proceed, what do you think is important to consider in terms of:
    • Design?
    • Downtown connection and impact?
    • Impact on surrounding communities?
    • Community benefits/engagement?
    • Impact on the future of Rexall Place?
    • Any other issues?
  3. What about using a mix of private and public funding to fund a downtown arena?
    • Are you open to this? Why?
    • Not open to this? Why not?
    • Open under certain circumstances or conditions? If so, what are they?
  4. What do you think about other possible funding sources to cover arena costs? (some or all of these are options)
    • A ticket tax
    • A personal seat license or luxury box license
    • A community revitalization levy (which would require the facility be publicly owned)
    • Funding for non-arena infrastructure from other levels of government
    • Additional private investment
    • Any other sources?
  5. Do you have any final thoughts or views for Council?

I attended a “stakeholder” consultation last Thursday that followed a similar format, but asked slightly different questions. The first question in that session was: “Do you support building an arena to revitalize Edmonton’s downtown? If yes, why? If no, why not?” Talk about a leading question with a big assumption! Needless to say I was very pleased to see that the City (along with consultation partner Calder Bateman) had tweaked the questions this time around.

Proposed Downtown Arena ConsultationProposed Downtown Arena Consultation

My discussion group started off fine, but quickly descended into disagreement as a few very vocal members wanted to skip to the funding question right away. The City officials on hand handled the situation very well, and before long our group was back on track generating some useful discussion (the other groups didn’t seem to have any issues). Here are some of the comments from the group that I wrote down:

  • Unclear that the arena would actually bring people downtown
  • The arena will not generate tourism
  • Skepticism about an influx of commercial development surrounding the arena
  • Transit would need to be greatly improved, concern about the lack of an LRT stop right at the arena
  • What would happen to Rexall Place?
  • General feeling we would lose Canadian Finals Rodeo and maybe other events
  • Lots of concern over traffic congestion, some concern over parking
  • Feeling that the current ticket prices are already too high
  • Quite a bit of skepticism about the effectiveness of a CRL
  • Thought that spending the money on existing recreation centres would result in higher benefit to the community

As far as I could tell, my group was the most negative about the arena. The others seemed cautiously optimistic, and when everyone came together at the end of the evening for Margaret Bateman’s recap, that seemed to be the consensus. There was concern over treating the arena as the key to revitalizing downtown, and there was obviously lots of concern over the funding model, but there also seemed to be some optimism that the project could be a very good thing.

Proposed Downtown Arena Consultation

There are three more public consultation sessions currently planned:

If you can’t make it to any of those sessions, you can fill out the online questionnaire, call 311, or email

For more information, check out the City of Edmonton’s site, the Katz Group’s site, and the Why Downtown? site. You can follow updates on Twitter using #yegarena.

Whether you’re for or against the arena, or even if you’re unsure, it’s important to make your voice heard!

Recap: Katz Group reaches out to Nextgeners on the Edmonton Arena District

Last night the Katz Group hosted an “off the record” meeting downtown to talk about the proposed Edmonton Arena District with “nextgeners”. Most of the nearly 60 people in attendance heard about the event through the Edmonton Next Gen’s weekly newsletter. Given that the last news update on their website was posted on July 23, I was curious to hear what Bob Black had to say.

Bob’s presentation lasted just under an hour, and was followed by a question and answer session. The newest piece of information to me was related to some concepts the Katz Group has come up with for street activations. The concepts are very much a work-in-progress, and will be shared more widely in the future after they are further developed.

Both Paul and Bruce have already written about the meeting, but here are my notes and favorite quotes (all quotes are attributed to Bob Black):

  • Much of the presentation was a recap. The district is 12 acres on the north side, 4 acres on the south side.
  • The current plan is for the arena to be centered on the north side, surrounded by a practice rink, office towers, and other development. The south side could host a hotel and a condo building.
  • As Bob walked through diagrams and concepts, he made sure to point out changes they have made based on feedback.
  • “We believe our project can contribute significantly to putting Edmonton on a new foundation for business.”
  • Bob called the July meeting with City Council “a watershed moment” in the history of the EAD project, because it gave them a process to follow.
  • “We think there’s more opportunity for live entertainment in Edmonton, and we intend to put it into the district.” Bob described two additional live entertainment venues that would be part of the complex, in addition to the arena itself. He talked fondly about the old Sidetrack Cafe.
  • “The project will be phased. To expect that all 16 acres be developed at once is not realistic.” In questions after the presentation, Bob confirmed that the arena would be built first, but couldn’t give specifics about the rest of the development.
  • Bob talked about the seasons, and explained the idea of a sidewalk-arcade. In the summer, activity would spill onto the sidewalk. In the spring/fall, the arcade could have roll-down shades, and in the winter, it could even be heated.
  • Bob also talked at length about the winter garden, perhaps the most controversial part of the proposed development thus far. He explained that it was created to solve a critical design issue – they don’t want to impair traffic on 104 Avenue, and they want to ensure the safety of patrons after large events. He mentioned the current “lemming” effect after hockey games, where large groups of people quickly “get the heck out of dodge.”
  • The winter garden is intended to be a year-round gathering place, and the Katz Group clearly sees it as the centrepiece of the development. Bob called it the “statement piece” and said it could be Edmonton’s “postcard snapshot”.
  • The winter garden would be roughly 1 acre in size, suspended 32 feet above 104 Avenue. Despite criticism that the winter garden moves pedestrian traffic off the street, Bob said that it “ties the arena into the downtown”.
  • The presentation did touch on the Oilers and its finances. “The Oilers are the only team in the NHL that do not receive non-hockey revenues.”
  • In response to a few questions about what the development would look like and how it would be funded, Bob said: “Until you have a project you can’t make the full investment required for architecture and costing.” He did spend some time explaining the CRL as well.
  • Bob proactively tackled the notion that we could simply retrofit Rexall Place. He explained the expense that would be required, and pointed out that renovating Rexall wouldn’t allow the Katz Group to achieve its goals. “We’re looking to change the nature of entertainment in Edmonton.”
  • In response to a question about what would happen to Rexall Place, Bob replied: “What happens to Rexall if the project goes ahead is not up to the Katz group.” He also pointed out that Northlands has not shown any desire to dialogue on the issue.
  • Parking of course came up in the presentation. Bob’s slides showed that there are roughly 8470 parking spaces available within a 10 minute walk from the EAD, and roughly 5075 within a 5 minute walk. Bob said the current plan is to build between 1500 and 3000 parking stalls in the EAD.
  • When asked about the Greyhound bus station and other surrounding development that might be considered “urban blight”, Bob said he has high hopes that Gene Dub will do something with the land when the bus station lease expires.
  • When asked about sustainability, Bob said the vision is to be “absolutely green”.
  • The very first question that was asked of Bob was what happens to the less fortunate who may be displaced by the development, or who simply can’t afford to access the facilities. Bob reiterated that some elements of the EAD are intended to be public gathering spaces, and did confirm that dialogue with agencies and other partners is ongoing, but said that “you can’t always reach every demographic.”
  • Some of the projects Bob referenced as potential examples during his presentation include: Hudson Yards in New York, Rockefeller Center in New York, British Museum in London, BCE Place Galleria in Toronto (which is actually classified as public art by the City of Toronto), and Fulton Street Transit Centre in New York.
  • Bob finished with his call to action, asking anyone with values similar to the Katz Group, to help. “We believe now is the time where Edmonton needs to be bold.”

Edmonton Arena District Meeting

The Katz Group has gotten a bit of a free ride in the media over the summer thanks to the City Centre Airport issue, but they’ve used that time to continue consultations with a wide range of individuals and organizations.

Check out the #yegarena hashtag on Twitter for updates.

I should point out that I did have permission to tweet and write about the event. I don’t think it was really meant to be off-the-record; the Katz Group just wanted the chance to chat without the media around. But of course, nextgeners like me are never far from an Internet-enabled device!

Recap: Public Meeting on Proposed Arena & Entertainment District in Downtown Edmonton

Last night at MacEwan’s City Centre Campus the City of Edmonton held a Public Meeting on the proposed Arena & Entertainment District (on ShareEdmonton). I don’t know what the final attendance numbers were, but my rough guess is that about 100 people were in the room. There were a number of City representatives on hand, led by Scott Mackie from the Planning & Development department. Councillors Batty and Henderson also attended. From the Katz Group, Jim Low, Bob Black, and Steve Hogle were all there, along with Simon O’Byrne from Stantec, and Ray Davis from Bunt & Associates.

Public Meeting on AED RezoningPublic Meeting on AED Rezoning

The purpose of the meeting was to provide information on and to gather feedback about a proposed rezoning from DC2.500 to a new AED zoning. Such a change would require an amendment to either the existing Capital City Downtown Plan or the new one that Council is expected to approve this summer.

The night started with a brief presentation from Scott Mackie, as well as introductions of all the representatives:

Next Jim Low gave an overview:

The final (and very long) presentation was from Simon O’Byrne (only about the last two minutes are missing):

That was followed up by questions and comments from the audience, which I unfortunately had to miss (but it was live-tweeted, see below). I’m not sure why the Katz Group and its representatives got to talk for 45 minutes; I thought that’s why they held their own open house a couple weeks ago? Maybe that’s just how these things go.

Here’s a map of the area that the Katz Group would like rezoned:

Here are the tweets tagged #yegarena that were posted two hours before, during, and two hours after the public meeting (in reverse chronological order):

You can get the full version here. Here’s a quick Wordle I made with that data (removing usernames and the hashtag):

Both @journalistjeff and @bingofuel did an awesome job live-tweeting the meeting!

If you’d like to learn more about the rezoning process, you can do so here. I was pleased to see the City actively promoting its Planning Academy at the meeting. The proposed rezoning is tentatively scheduled to go to a public hearing on June 28, but that date could change – stay tuned to #yegarena for updates.

Public Meeting on AED RezoningPublic Meeting on AED Rezoning

You can see the rest of my photos from the event here.

UPDATE: Check out Jeff’s excellent recap here.