The City of Edmonton’s call for ideas for the exhibition lands garnered over 60 submissions, and on June 21, city staff presented them at the public ideas review held at the Edmonton Expo Centre.

During two sessions, attendees gave feedback on which ideas they liked (and didn’t like), laid out how those ideas could be arranged on the site on an aerial map, and worked with a designer to sketch their vision.

Popular ideas included a permanent indoor and outdoor market space, festival grounds with an outdoor stage, a food hub, a playground/waterpark, and an artificial lake. Other ideas with strong support were an Indigenous culture and wellness centre, urban agriculture, renewable energy generation, and restaurants.

Corola Cunningham attended the session to provide input and work on possible scenarios.

“I just think this is an opportunity, and a wonderful spot for the Indigenous Culture and Wellness Centre that the city and the Indigenous community are in engagement with right now.”

Students in Grades 2 and 4 from Mount Royal School wrote down some of their thoughts, too— farmers markets, a spray park, homes for the elderly, a camping area, an ice cream stand, and even a slime store.

Lyall Brenneis, manager of the exhibition lands transformation project, said that the public ideas review is an important step. City planners will now work with the ideas and the feedback they’ve received and develop possible scenarios, evaluating their feasibility with a goal of presenting a short list to the community in the fall.

“The intent is to not be as prescriptive as some area redevelopment plans have been; this is what we call a master plan, a higher-level vision, understanding that it may take time to build out,” Brenneis said.

Agora Borealis is a group casting a development vision, including a repurposed Coliseum building. In their concept, the Coliseum would be converted to student and seniors housing, with close access to groceries, shopping, and restaurants.

Mike Butler, government relations representative with the group, appreciates the consultation.

“We really think it’s an amazing process that they’re listening and connecting with people on what they want to see in the neighbourhood, and it’s something that we feel is very important, to re-develop the Coliseum.”

City council voted in March to close the Coliseum and is investigating demolition, but Agora Borealis is trying to convince council to reverse their decision.

The sheer size of the lands—over 200 acres—means it’s possible many of the submitted ideas could become reality. Some people, like community member Graydon McCrea, want to see the area preserved as a large grasslands park, with an Indigenous campsite open to the public and a possible lake.

“I think this is a very rare opportunity to develop a large central space within the city and to create something that would be completely unique,” said McCrea. “Most people who live in the cities will never in their life get to see a traditional grasslands space.”

Featured Image: Corola Cunningham places a sticker next to an idea for the Indigenous Culture and Wellness Centre during the public ideas review on June 21, 2018. | Cadence Bergman