Neighbours will benefit from Northlands’ plan, says area councillor

Click to play video 'Northlands’ neighbours react to redevelopment plan' Northlands’ neighbours react to redevelopment plan
WATCH ABOVE: Yesterday, Northlands announced plans to transform the horse racing track and its outdoor space into an urban festival site, capable of hosting large concerts. But what would those changes mean for nearby communities? Vinesh Pratap reports – Feb 18, 2016

Three proposals and $165 million have gone into a massive plan to transform the 160-acre Northlands site. But, what would “Vision 2020” mean for people who live close by?

The community of Virginia Park sits just south of the Northlands grounds and Bellevue sits to the east. The Northlands site is separated from the neighbourhood by Wayne Gretzky Drive and a sound barrier.

“A little bit of noise? I’d say weigh that against property values and all those things that are going to rise and all the amenities that are going to be available so close to this community,” area councillor and Northlands board member Tony Caterina said.

He said based on the Expo Centre’s success and the site’s accessible location, there’s already been interest from commercial, residential, hotel and retail developers.

“The possibilities are endless,” Caterina said.

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People in these areas are used to some disruptions, the biggest of which tends to be the outdoor musical entertainment drawing crowds over the 10-day K-Days festival. However, plans for a major urban festival site announced Wednesday could change the dynamics of the area as well as surrounding communities.

“Certainly we have to go out to the community and make sure we understand all their concerns,” Caterina said. “Events like Sonic Boom that have gone on have caused some angst in the area absolutely, but Northlands, along with the venue sponsors, have done a lot of work in positioning of the stages and which direction they’re facing, how construction is done, all those things.”

READ MORE: Sonic Boom music festival moving to Edmonton’s Borden Park 

Courtney and Dave Blackburn have lived next to Northlands for 12 years. They’ve been following news of the proposed changes closely.

“I think it’s a good idea that they revamp the whole thing because I think it will enhance the neighbourhood,” Courtney said.

“It adds some life and some vibrancy to the community and the to the local neighbourhood,” Dave added. “I sometimes express some frustration with people’s attitudes who move into this area and then complain about what’s across the street. Why did you move here then?”

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Despite any noise concerns, Caterina believes residents will support Northlands’ ideas.

“I think they will definitely buy into this,” he said.

“I think the community is a very strong supporter of this site. They’ve been very proud of the fact that, for the past 40 years, this has been a focus for professional sports and now I think they’re looking forward to it becoming more of a community hub.”

The councillor stressed the future site wouldn’t just serve the community; it would be for the whole city.

“I think people have to understand that there will be probably some angst by some and we’re prepared to sit down with all stakeholders… and we can work on trying to eliminate those concerns as best as possible.”

Northlands CEO Tim Reid said the proposed urban festival site could potentially host major festivals, the midway and a few large-scale concerts with the capacity to accommodate more than 100,000 people.

The Northlands plan includes three parts:

  • Renovating Rexall Place to create the Northlands Ice Colliseum (an estimated $85 million);
  • Renovating Hall D into a 5,000-seat sports and concert venue (an estimated $35 million);
  • Converting the racetrack and casino into an urban festival site (an estimated $45 million).

“Northlands belongs to everyone,” Reid said. “Our next steps are to reach out to the community to see if we got this plan right, and to ask them to actively help us refine this vision. This isn’t about us telling the community what they get – this is about the community telling us what they want.”

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People can weigh in the on the Northlands proposal through an online survey.

City council will take a closer look at the options and if – and to what extent – the city could be involved in any potential changes on March 15.