Jul. 18, 2012 - Issue #874: Musician’s Survival Guide: Songwriters on Songwriting
The Right Investment
It came as no surprise this week when the new budget for the downtown arena came in over the $450 million that was originally approved by council. For anyone who follows large-scale projects, or even renovates their own home, staying within a budget can be tricky. For this particular construction project, though, there are a few overriding concerns. First, the approved $450 million wasn't fully funded to begin with. There remains an undiscovered source to fund the $100 million left over after a community revitalization levy on surrounding businesses, $100 million from Daryl Katz and $125 million from a ticket tax. With the projected design coming in at $485 million, it just adds to the unfunded portion of the project. Where the money is coming from should be of concern to Edmontonians, and Albertans, since the city is placing its hope with the province, but the attitude toward the arena by some members of city council and the resulting design should also be concerning.
In a speech delivered to council in favour of the proposed design, Mayor Stephen Mandel stated, "Maybe we can once in a while put the concern behind us about pennies and nickels, and build this great city."
But as the budget for the project grows, the investment in the surrounding development seems to disappear. The idea that the arena would help to develop the downtown core, drawing businesses and people, seems to be a key attraction for many supporters of the project. Yet, at the $485 million price tag there is very little in the design for street-level stores and restaurants and no ground-level retail space facing outside. At this point it seems the hope and prayer is simply the fact that having the arena downtown will increase business development and draw in visitors despite a lack of pedestrian-friendly space incorporated into the design to get people active on downtown streets.
Without ground-level, pedestrian-friendly real estate available it sounds a lot like the current Rexall space, with all of its attractive business development in the surrounding community. While the older arena has failed to deliver community vibrance in Edmonton's north side, the redevelopment and investment in Alberta Avenue has, making it an attractive destination for pedestrians. Downtown's 104 St is pointed to repeatedly for creating a street-level environment with local businesses and pedestrians who are attracted to not only as visitors, but also as residents.
No one's arguing about wanting to build a great city; the debate is over what's going to result in that great city, and evidence right here in Edmonton demonstrates that big buildings don't deliver, but investment in people and communities does. V
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