Could future use of Northlands site be decided through design competition?

Results from a Northlands online survey on the future of Rexall Place have been released, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. .
Results from a Northlands online survey on the future of Rexall Place have been released, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. . Vinesh Pratap, Global News

The city has been flooded with proposals for what to do with the 160 acres at Northlands. So many, more city staff are being dedicated to the file to make sure they get it right.

The wide range of unnamed ideas will be presented formally to city council at its Nov. 14 meeting.

READ MORE: Open houses held Monday discuss future of Coliseum Station area redevelopment 

However, in Thursday’s council meeting where administration gave councillors a broad overview on the agenda items that will be high profile in the coming year, city manager Linda Cochrane warned against moving too quickly towards a decision.

“I don’t want to move quicker on the planning when we’re getting so many different options being floated.”

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“We can do this fast or we can do it right,” she said. “We’ll try to do it expediently but we are very much concerned that we make recommendations to you that take into account all of the different inputs that we’ve had.”

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Council was also told that Northlands has received as many as 30 proposals from across North America since it launched its Vision 2020 campaign.

READ MORE: Edmonton’s Northlands Coliseum closing its doors in January

That’s where a divide is emerging on council. Coun. Ben Henderson likens Northlands to the opportunity at Blatchford, calling it “pretty much identical.”

He suggested they follow the pattern from the 550 acres at Blatchford and open things up to an international design competition.

That brought some push-back from others like Coun. Jon Dziadyk who worries that council might overthink things.

“What if we find a simple solution where we don’t need expensive project management — just through the public engagement we find an easier or more simple outcome?”

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Coun. Tony Caterina said throughout the election campaign that Northlands would be his highest priority. He said it is already full of amenities that are being installed at Blatchford, which he described as “a farmers field,” and should be attractive to developers.

“This particular site already has LRT, Borden Park, Wayne Gretzky (Drive), the Yellowhead, across the street from the river valley, it has all of the infrastructure necessary to either redevelop housing, retail, commercial, whatever it is.

“The negative connotation that some people have to Blatchford, I don’t want that associated with this particular site, because they are different sites,” he said.

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Cochrane confirmed the mid-November report will also touch on the potential for the 160 acres if they start with a clean slate like Blatchford, however she admitted that’s highly unlikely because of the importance of the Expo Centre.

“If it’s a blank slate maybe the potentials are greater.

“We will ask you about that just to reaffirm before we go ahead if you are open to a totally blank slate or not.”

After the mid-November update, it’s expected it’ll be another year of public consultation before any final decisions are made. The area redevelopment plan (ARP) will have to flow into the surrounding neighbourhoods, so they don’t duplicate anything that’s in close proximity.

The city has already reached agreement on a five-year lease with Northlands to provide space for K-Days to continue.