As Northlands’ future continues to unfold, city council has taken up the baton. In late August, Mayor Don Iveson released a go-forward blueprint, with council poised to build on Vision 2020, Northlands’ initial plan for revitalization.
In a press conference, Iveson said the question looming over council’s decision is Northlands’ debt to the city for Expo Centre, completed in 2009.
“I believe Edmontonians would not support forgiving a debt this large. Nor do I think it is fair to expect residents to pick up the tab without a solid plan in place going forward,” Iveson said.
But he said he stands by Northlands and is unwilling to toss the whole plan. Iveson has asked administration to create a new re-development proposal that includes integration of the Expo Centre, Shaw Conference Centre and an interface with surrounding communities. Council has offered Northlands’ board a year deferral on the debt, with the possibility of a further year.
City coun. Tony Caterina said Northlands needs time to reinvent themselves. “Council’s decision to defer Northlands’ debt payment for the next year gives both them and the city time to formulate plans that will benefit both Ward 7 and the city as a whole,” Caterina said.
At the heart of Vision 2020 are three major upgrades: repurpose Rexall Place into a two-level multiplex arena, transform Northlands Park into a major festival site, and convert Hall D at Expo Centre into a 5,000 seat concert hall. These upgrades were pegged at $165 million.
But in late August, city administration gauged the actual cost to be $230 million. Northlands is also exploring the creation of residential and retail space in its campus area to seamlessly integrate with 118 Avenue.
The business community and citizens had their say at an Aug. 31 public hearing. While there was support for an ice multiplex, there were concerns about negative impacts on the neighbourhood, especially around noise from the festival site.
Caterina said while Vision 2020 hasn’t been supported in its entirety, the re-purposing of the Coliseum and Northlands Park were seen as necessary.
“It would not be in the best interest for the surrounding area, nor for the city, to have the site sit stagnant and become derelict,” Caterina said.
Joachim Holtz, executive director of Alberta Avenue Business Association (AABA), said businesses benefit from Northlands. He agreed the site shouldn’t lie dormant.
“Having Northlands moving forward as a sustainable going concern would be seen as a positive thing for us,” said Holtz.
Lori Coté, Northlands’ public relations manager, said the board will continue to work with city council.
“We believe in what is in the best interests of the city as a whole, including integration of Expo Centre with the Shaw Centre,” she said.
City administration has been asked to deliver options for the ice multiplex and the convention centre in early 2017.
Featured Image: Northlands’ debt to the city from building the Expo Centre in 2009 has been deferred for a year. | Kate Wilson
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