Parkland is priceless - Quarters tower and river valley development

Edmonton’s River Valley system is one of our greatest assets. When my husband and I moved to Edmonton, one of the first things that stood out to us was this continuous natural space, unparalleled in any other major city we had encountered. This ribbon of green is a treasure in our city, and I have dedicated my time to protecting it by serving as a board member of the North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society.

And Zack and I aren’t alone in our love for the River Valley. I’ve held over a dozen living room listening parties with my Ward 11 neighbours in the last few months, and the River Valley has been mentioned over and over again as one Edmonton’s best features. The fresh air and ample green space is one of the things that people most appreciate about living here (Ward 11 residents have a special fondness for Mill Creek ravine, of course).

Among the River Valley’s many benefits, access to green spaces improves our health. It’s important that our City Council consider the value of Edmonton’s park space for more than its potential real estate value.

On April 11, City Council voted 9–3 to sell a piece of public property, which is currently park space, to build an 80-storey highrise. The sloped land targeted for the future Quarters Hotel and Residence is an important part of Edmonton’s River Valley. 

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Admittedly, this particular parkland may not be the prettiest or the most pristine piece of land in Edmonton. Neighbours have characterized this area as a dump site (in fact, it was a garbage dump up until the 1940s). And the adjacent neighbourhood is in need of attention and redevelopment from the city; in fact, the City has had a plan in place for a decade to revitalize the Quarters. And with this vote, they’ve violated the principles of the Quarters Plan.

The Alldritt tower does not fit within the vision of the Quarters revitalization, and it certainly is not the only answer to revitalization. We should consider the intended and unintended consequences, both to the physical environment—the land the tower will sit on—and to the social and cultural landscape of the neighbourhood.

I am in favour of promoting innovative city design, but I worry that this vote has set a precedent with regard to selling public parkland for private use. The City has a vision for our “Ribbon of Green,” and it’s meant to be enjoyed by all Edmontonians. The River Valley should remain, always, in the public sphere. Out of all places, why must the tower sit on this particular spot downtown? And why were our current City Councillors so willing to abandon their own planning documents for the sake of one development?

Public hearing on the rezoning of this project will take place later today, April 24th. Now it is our responsibility as Edmontonians to ensure that the developer contributes to public infrastructure in the area. I also advocate that the City considers reinvesting the tax revenue generated from this development into River Valley conservation.

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