On Wednesday, City Council had a chance to discuss the West Rossdale development and refine a vision for the area we’re now calling ‘River Crossing‘.
River Crossing’s new vision asks us to step back and consider the Rossdale development in the context of the wider area and the incredibly significant role the site has played in our city’s history. For many years we were overwhelmed by the complicated pieces that made up the area and wondered if it would ever be possible to see a financial return on our investment at that bend in the river. River Crossing shifts our perspective to something much bigger and much more important: a storyline for a transformative development.
At the end of the Wednesday’s meeting, City Council unanimously passed a layered motion that allows us to move forward and to (finally) start making some key decisions. Among these are confirming the province’s interest in lands for a Legislature promenade, analyzing how existing city-funded infrastructure programs might be leveraged to help improve the development picture, and focusing our efforts on city-building priorities rather than just trying to turn a profit on the real estate.
Baseball fans will also find comfort in the fact that we are going to actively seek out a team for Telus Field (via an RFP), but if we come up short we will have no choice but to move on to a Plan B that re-imagines baseball, and the park, in an entirely different form.
I’m also excited by the ask of City Council for a historical interpretation plan that will help bring the River Crossing’s rich history to life. The story of our city was first written in the River Crossing district; not only were the earliest fur trading forts located in the area, but archaeologists working on the Walterdale bridge project discovered a 1,400 year old Aboriginal campsite on the south side of the river, painting an incredible picture of life in pre-historic Edmonton. These are stories we simply cannot ignore in developing this area.
There is, as well, the issue of the canal project. While I continue to have questions about the costs of this project, both short and long-term, there is interest on Council in considering amenities that could bring about an increase in the value of the Rossdale lands. Having said that, I am curious about other ideas that the market might bring to the table in order to take the River Crossing vision even higher. As we move forward, I will push to ensure that any additional development concepts are given due consideration; the worst thing we can do is to leave a great idea in an envelope, on the table.
We will not enter into the development of this area hastily. I realize this may elicit a groan from those who have waited decades to see something, anything, happen in Rossdale. But Wednesday’s motion ensures we do it properly, and in the right order, instead of letting ourselves continue to be overwhelmed by the parts that make up – in fact – a much bigger sum.