Built into the bank of the North Saskatchewan river valley, the Edmonton’s convention center (or Shaw Conference Centre) is a landmark and architecturally interesting inside an out. Last Saturday as I made my way from the river valley to downtown I passed up by the building and stopped to capture a view things and views that caught my eye:
Last summer I noticed that 96 Street (between Jasper Avenue and 103A Avenue) in east downtown Edmonton, disappeared! It was blocked off, dug up and even no longer appeared on Google Maps. I found the construction annoying as a pedestrian and a driver and especially last autumn when construction activity stopped, the roads remained closed and the sidewalks and were largely in-accessible. Construction resumed this spring but it was still not clear to me what was going on.
Yesterday afternoon I walked a bit out of my usual path to check out what might be happening. When I got to 96 Street and 102 Avenue, I saw, I understood and I was impressed.
A block worth of black, white and grey paving stones could be seen through the construction fence and on one section of sidewalk that is open.
Fortunately there are not many businesses along this stretch of 96St. that will be affected by this long and disruptive project but the venerable Double Greeting Wonton House is one that will no doubt be glad when the work is done and appreciate the extra traffic that should then be attracted to the area.
Work is still ongoing and I would guess it will take most of the summer but by its completion I am finally going to believe that this downtown revitalization east of 97 Street, is more than just a plan. I say that having listened with anticipation to a number of announced plans going back to the early-90’s.
Capping off 96 Street at Jasper Avenue is the new Hyatt hotel, that is nearing completion. There is a lot of construction in the downtown area, many building certainly larger than this one and arguably better situated but this Gene Dub design may be the most architecturally interesting and attractive building going up in the City.
I was saddened this past week to hear a story about how the runways at the old municipal airport were being ripped up. This is not really news but it is a milestone. The decisions leading this latest action were made long ago and the destruction has been ongoing for years. First it was prohibition of scheduled flights, then running car races on the airport (what an indignity to that hallowed and historic site). I still think that the closure of YXD, our City Centre Airport will go down as the biggest mistake in the history of this City.
I have been hoping that some forward minded politicians and civic leaders would come to their senses and reverse the decision before it is too late. Once development starts there will be no going back because the cost of clearing a track of land big enough for an airport within the City will be billions of dollars, perhaps even push to a trillion. Of course the cost and the political implications mean this will never happen. Once that airport land is gone, there will never be an Edmonton airport again.
I know some people will say the decision was made, it was decided by the citizens in a referendum, so just let it go. Somehow though the full history of that decision has been conveniently forgotten. The airport closure came on the second referendum – the first referendum, in 1992, saw Edmontonians vote to keep to the Municipal Airport open! Then in what I still consider a mysterious process, a second referendum was called for in 1995 and there seemed to be a lot of money flowing into the “Close-it” campaign. I don’t recall hearing where that backing came from but it smelled fishy and I’ve always suspected the money came from someone with an interest in seeing the airport closed (and making a healthy return by redeveloping the land) or someone who had a financial interest in the International Airport and saw money to be made if/when the International airport took off as a result of the closing of the municipal airport.
I always wished that a crack investigative journalist would have taken on the task of putting together the pieces of that 1995 referendum campaign but I fear that twenty years later it may be difficult and too late.
Of course the super highrise developments that are already underway and planned for downtown have also sealed the fate of the traditional airport flight paths but I still hold out hope that some air services, even if just a heliport and small plane facilities, would be retained. Hope though I may, I won’t hold my breath waiting for this to occur.