More than four kilometres of walking and cycling trails, including a streetcar track, through six neighbourhoods connecting downtown Edmonton to Old Strathcona. That’s the vision of a new idea called the High Level Line.
“Right now it’s technically possible. You can get across in whatever modes we’re talking about but it’s not really a great experience,” said Kevin Dieterman, a landscape architect involved in the project.
The ambitious plan — which resembles New York City’s High Line — is the brainchild of a group of young Edmontonians, including architects, urban planners and marketing specialists.
The proposal includes 4.3 kilometres of park space, made up of pedestrian paths, a cycling network and a streetcar. The inter-modal thread would incorporate retail spaces, restaurants and cafes.
The north end of the line would start at MacEwan University, making its way through downtown, over the North Saskatchewan River, coming to an end at Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard. The line would also include the ability to cross the river along the upper deck of the High Level Bridge. The idea is to transform neighbourhoods along the way.
“What we’re after is making that journey from downtown to the southside a better experience and allowing people to linger in spots in between,” Dieterman said.
“It’s not just about getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. You want people to take time to smell the roses, so to speak.”
And it isn’t meant to be used only in the summer. Edmonton is a winter city, after all.
“This isn’t a park for the summer, but a place for all our four beautiful seasons,” said Michael Zabinski, who is also involved in the project. “A gathering place in summer, fall, winter and spring.”
Mayoral candidate Don Iveson responded to the idea on social media. In an Instagram post Thursday morning, Iveson said he was “blown away by the creativity and design brilliance of the High Level Line team.”
“There’s real work ahead on feasibility, community engagement and finding funding partners to make something like this happen, but I am so open to community initiatives like this,” he said.
The group has been working on the plan for the past year or so. Since releasing the images on Wednesday, the feedback has been positive.
“The reception has been exactly what we hoped it would be and that’s been extremely gratifying to see,” Zabinski said. “We want people talking about how great our city is, but also about how great it can be.”
While they know it’s a bold plan, those behind it say the next step is to hear more feedback from Edmontonians. For more information about the project and to provide feedback, visit High Level Line’s website.