The city's decision to sell two buildings at the Edmonton Research Park (ERP) shows a lack of vision around innovation, says a consortium of business owners who operate there. But the city says it doesn't need to own the buildings to ensure the park serves as an innovation hub.
On March 23, city council's executive committee gave administration the green light to proceed with negotiations with prospective buyers to complete the sale of the Advanced Technology Centre (ATC) and Research Centre 1 (RC1), two buildings among 18 on a parcel of land south of 23 Avenue between Parsons Road and 94 Street.
This followed a decision made by the previous council in 2021 directing administration to sell the buildings, allowing it to reallocate $1 million set aside to rehabilitate ATC and avoid future capital costs on both buildings, estimated at $32 million.
The Edmonton Research Park Business Consortium, a community of tech and life sciences companies operating at the park, had hoped to persuade executive committee not to sell the buildings, or at least to wait until after it consults with tenants and articulates a true vision for the park.
"What are we doing as a city to ... build on that as an asset so that we can diversify the economy, so that we can do something that other jurisdictions around the world have done with research parks?" Bio-Stream Diagnostics CEO John Murphy said in an interview with Taproot. "We haven't quite done that yet, but we're set up well to do it."
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and the councillors on the committee were not persuaded that keeping the buildings was in the city's best interests, but they did pass a motion from Ward Nakota Isga Coun. Andrew Knack (following an inquiry from Karhiio's Coun. Keren Tang) directing administration to engage with ERP businesses to provide options and actions to advance economic development opportunities in line with the principles of the Economic Action Plan.
That was not a satisfactory result for consortium member Mehadi Sayed, CEO of Clinisys EMR. "We feel that we were let down by the city," he said.