Ten years later, how are we doing on brownfield? / by Tim Querengesser

Back in February 2008, international architectural firm HOK submitted a report to an Edmonton committee that analyzed several proposed sites for what would become Rogers Place arena. The report, which was only recently released to the public, analyzed six sites in Edmonton's downtown core and The Quarters. Each site, in the opinion of HOK — a company that builds sports stadiums — presented good opportunities for developers to build upon.

The study provides a rare glimpse into city building. It also provides us with a time-vault today to use to check in on a long-standing blight on Edmonton: its dizzying inventory of brownfield land.

Brownfield land is land that has been developed to a certain level but has either fallen into disrepair, or a lack of use, or into a state of a lower than ideal use. The most well-known example of brownfield land in Edmonton is a surface parking lot. 

The HOK report identified six potential sites where an arena could be built downtown or in The Quarters. Ten years later, after Rogers Place and Ice District have redeveloped one of these brownfield parcels, I thought it would be interesting to check in on the other five as a way to ponder just how well we're doing using these massive brownfield gaps.

I see them like cavities. I also see them as huge parcels of land that could see housing built for people, centrally, while our city, nonetheless, continues to sprawl outwards to house new residents. 

Here's my very quick look at what's changed since the 2008 HOK report. 


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SITE #1: North Post Office
STATS: 6.54 acres
WHERE: Immediately north of the new Royal Alberta Museum
STATUS TODAY: Still largely brownfield

This site was not favoured by the HOK analysts because an arena would be like an "elephant in the neighbourhood" beside the far smaller-scale of buildings and residences in Chinatown. Today the area is as it was in 2008 — mostly surface parking. 

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SITE #2: Quarters 'Option One'
STATS: 7.42 acres
WHERE: 97 Street/103A Avenue
STATUS TODAY: Still largely brownfield

This site was found to be appealing for its proximity to the City Hall plaza and its creation of a gateway into The Quarters. It was noted to be difficult because of the perceived "wall" that 97 Street creates for downtown, as everything east of it is economically challenged. The analysts also noted acquiring property for this site would be challenging. 

Today the proposed site is still largely surface parking. 

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SITE #3: Quarters 'Option Two'
STATS: 5.97 acres
WHERE: From Jasper north to 102 Avenue, between 96 Street and 97 Street
STATUS TODAY: Still largely brownfield, with vibrant uses

This is an interesting one. Our new eastern spur of the bike-lane network stretches through here. And vibrant, essential groups like iHuman are here. What's also here, however, are several surface parking lots. 

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SITE #4: Post Office
STATS: 6.15 acres (or up to 17.19 acres including the full brownfield HOK identified)
WHERE: 97 Street/103A Avenue
STATUS: Partially developed — Royal Alberta Museum, EPCOR Tower

Success. Mostly. Today this is the soon-to-open Royal Alberta Museum. The site HOK inspected, however, covers the current spot where the EPCOR tower was built, a still-existing surface parking lot to its immediate south, and land that would have been used by the failed Galleria proposal. 

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SITE #5: Casino Site
STATS: 7.7 acres
WHERE: 101 Street at 104 Avenue
STATUS: Awaiting planned development, still brownfield and home to Baccarat Casino

A May 8 story in the Edmonton Journal paraphrased Glen Scott, president of Katz Group Real Estate, reporting that he said an office tower is being considered for the Baccarat Casino property but nothing will be built until market conditions are right.