City of Edmonton to consider converting parking lots into downtown park

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WATCH ABOVE: The City of Edmonton is considering converting a downtown parking lot into a large green space. But the move would require the city to take some strong action. Julia Wong explains – Nov 19, 2016

The City of Edmonton is considering a proposal to convert several downtown parking lots into a large park.

The details are outlined in a report heading to the Urban Planning Committee on Wednesday.

The park, which would be located in the Warehouse Campus Neighbourhood, would centre around 106 Street and 102 Avenue and would run east to 105 Street and west to 107 Street.

“Administration is of the opinion that development of the park at the proposed location will catalyze the residential development of adjacent properties in the Warehouse Campus Neighbourhood,” the report reads.

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The downtown park would be 1.25 hectares, however, city council approval is needed to start the expropriation process since the site is currently being used for surface parking.

The report said city negotiations with the owners of the parking lot have not resulted in any voluntary agreements to acquire the properties.

Expropriation is being recommended, however, city staff will continue to negotiate with the land owner. If that is unsuccessful, the matter will head to the Land Compensation Board.

Coun. Scott McKeen said more green space would be advantageous for downtown Edmonton and encourage greater residential development.

“As a city, we have great aspirations to have a great downtown,” he said. “You want to have a complete neighbourhood downtown and that means having the amenities people who live in any community want – grocery stores, parks and playgrounds.”

“The city did a survey years ago and people said we don’t need a backyard, we just need access to green space close by. That’s why this effort for the park is important. We want families in the downtown. We want kids in the downtown.”

There are a handful of parks downtown, such as the Michael Phair Park and the Alex Decoteau Park, which is currently under construction. But McKeen said the proposed park would be different.

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“This would be the one that’s a little bigger, would allow a greater range of activity on it,” he said.

McKeen said transformation of the parking lots would be beneficial.

“The problem is those lots have sat vacant for decades. We as a community have a surplus of vacant land downtown that’s being used for surface parking, which is the lowest common denominator business in the downtown,” he said.

“Downtown land is extremely precious. When it’s being used for parking, I think it stands as an ongoing symbol of a moribund downtown.”

Chris Buyze, the president of the Downtown Edmonton Community League, said the dynamic of the downtown core would change as a result of a new park.

“[With] downtown having lots of condos and apartments, this big park is really going to be like someone’s living room,” he said. “Maybe recreational opportunities, maybe a playground, a lot more green space, the bigger park a family might go to for a picnic.”

“Getting rid of these parking lots is really about encouraging people to live downtown, encouraging families to live downtown – it’s very much aspirational in terms of just what we want our city and our downtown to be,” Buyze added.

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Joanne Lieu lives on 104 Street and often takes her dog Mozzy to the Michael Phair Park. However, she said the park is often packed with dog users and she supports more green space downtown.

“I think it would be a lot nicer and we would be outside even more if there was additional space,” she said.

Daniel Shafran lives near 104 Street and said downtown Edmonton needs more parkland.

“It’s nice to have those spots to either just go and spend some time or to have public gathering spots that aren’t necessarily concrete or cement,” he said.

Shafran calls the parking lots under consideration for the park to be “an eyesore.”

“It would be nice to see the city turn it into something that’s useful,” he said.

As for parking spaces that would be removed as a result of the downtown park, McKeen said he expects there will be some pushback from commuters but adds that parking can be replaced.

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