Parkade and pedway decisions seem to contradict City Plan

· The Pulse

Decisions to fund a parkade at the Orange Hub and a pedway to the Station Lands throw into question whether city council is committed to the City Plan, say the City Hall observers on Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

Council voted 9-4 in favour of building a $14-million parkade at the Orange Hub, replacing a structurally unsound parking garage. The city bought the building in 2017, against administration's recommendation, after MacEwan University vacated it to consolidate at the school's downtown location.

Coun. Anne Stevenson suggested setting the $14 million aside to see if the site could be redeveloped in a way that is more in line with the City Plan. Coun. Andrew Knack, whose Nakota Isga ward includes the 156th Street building, agreed with that idea.

"I would be shocked if there weren't developers who would be very interested in building a mixed-use development across the street from the LRT," he said.

But Michael Janz and Ashley Salvador were the only other councillors to agree, and Stevenson's motion failed, which disappointed the hosts of Speaking Municipally.

"We had an opportunity to demolish a parking lot and do something else on this property that is right next to an LRT line, and council doubled down and said, 'Nope, we're building an above-ground, three-level parkade,' " Mack Male said on Episode 164.

He and co-host Troy Pavlek were similarly disappointed with council's rejection of Stevenson's motion to cancel $26 million in funding for the 103 Avenue Pedway to Qualico's Station Lands project. The province approved this amended use of the downtown community revitalization levy on Jan. 26, so the next step is for council to vote to "borrow the money upfront to actually build the pedway in the hopes that it will be paid back through investment growth as a result of the CRL," Male said.

A parking sign and pedestrian sign in front of an orange wall

Edmonton's city council voted on Jan. 24 to spend $14 million to replace the parkade at the Orange Hub at 10045 156 St. (Jon Spencer)

Among Stevenson's objections to the project was that "the City Plan prescribes that we want to get more life onto the street, and pedways are antithetical to our design goals," noted Pavlek.

But for the most part, supporters of the pedway framed it as aligned with the City Plan in that it is a kind of infill that invests in both downtown and Chinatown.

Male was skeptical of that claim, too.

"The problem with the connection between downtown and Chinatown right now is that there isn't one," said Male. "Qualico has been sitting on a dirt property for 20 years. They've done nothing about it. And council has done nothing about it. And now their solution is to build a tunnel that doesn't go north to Chinatown, but goes south into downtown."

For more on those decisions, as well as on the quashing of a recommendation to audit the Edmonton Police Service and Innovate Edmonton's plans to set up shop on Jasper Avenue, listen to Episode 164. You can subscribe on the podcatcher of your choice so you don't miss an episode.