Residents worried Edmonton’s new arena doesn’t support inner city enough

Click to play video 'Impact of arena development on inner city' Impact of arena development on inner city
WATCH ABOVE: City council is changing how it hears concerns about the fallout from arena development. There is a push to get more community benefits for those living right next to Rogers Place. Fletcher Kent reports.

Residents who live near Rogers Place packed Edmonton City Hall on Tuesday with concerns about how the downtown arena is impacting the community.

Rogers Place will open in less than one week, but speakers explained they’re only now seeing the effects of the arena and development in Edmonton’s core.

READ MORE: City talks to Edmonton’s downtown residents ahead of Rogers Place opening 

The discussion Tuesday morning revolved around the arena, and how the community hasn’t seen the positive benefits it had hoped would come with it.

Speakers said the project hasn’t created the boost they had anticipated in terms of long-term jobs. They also pointed out impacts to community services offered in the area and how to manage rising rent and the results of gentrification.

Watch below: There’s no question Edmonton’s downtown has seen massive change in the last generation. However, it’s been gradual. The construction of the Oilers’ new arena has ramped up that transformation but as Vinesh Pratap reports, there’s still work to do.

Click to play video 'Construction of Rogers Place ramps up transformation of downtown Edmonton' Construction of Rogers Place ramps up transformation of downtown Edmonton
Construction of Rogers Place ramps up transformation of downtown Edmonton

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Some people referenced talk of rent hikes and that low-income residents said they feared they could be displaced.

They want the agreement between the Oilers Entertainment Group, the city and social agencies in the area to be improved.

“There’s likely slim to nil political will – probably on council or within the Katz Group – to reopen the agreement itself,” University of Alberta researcher Jay Scherer said. “But I think certainly an invitation to discuss a new and real CBA [Community Benefit Agreement] is not uncalled for and I think that’s something that you can simply ask even though we may all anticipate what the answer is.”

READ MORE: City works to ensure Rogers Place doesn’t force out homeless 

Rogers Place’s opening day is fast approaching and Scott McKeen, the councillor for the area, said he hasn’t heard any of these concerns voiced until now.

McKeen has represented Ward 6 for three years and also works with a number of social agencies. He said he hasn’t heard from anybody about these issues and he’s asking: why now?

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Many of the people at city hall said they understood the timeline and while they hope some issues can be addressed now, they could also be looked at as future developments go up in the core.

More speakers were still scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.