March 20, 2019 11:42 pm

Edmonton’s proposed High Level Line project wins national landscape architecture award

WATCH ABOVE: (From October 2017) The High Level Line would be a park that connects bikers, riders and walkers from downtown to Edmonton's south side. Kent Morrison has more on the vision.

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Now that their proposal has won an award, the backers behind Edmonton’s High Level Line project are hoping that recognition will help spur action to make the proposal a reality.

The idea is for a linear park to be built atop the High Level Bridge. It would be designed to connect both sides of the North Saskatchewan River over a four-kilometre span. It was first introduced a year ago and since then has won an award of excellence from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects.

The project has picked up a lot of buzz since it was first proposed.

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“Neighbourhood-renewal projects are referring to it,” said Gillian Thomson, the vice-chair of the High Level Line Society. “The Downtown Public Places Plan has incorporated High Level Line ideas into it, so it’s becoming real.”

Also giving the project’s proponents momentum is how they got society designation, which helps give them non-profit status as they move forward in business meetings to garner support.

READ MORE: High Level Line would create park linking downtown Edmonton with Old Strathcona

Thomson said they’re in regular discussion with city staff, however, it won’t be until September before they will bring anything forward to city council.

“The city hasn’t really had grand visions like this one come from citizen-led initiatives,” she said. “So everyone is supportive of this.

“It’s just a matter of figuring out exactly how to bring it to life, and how to structure the roles with High Level Line Society and City of Edmonton, but we’re working through that.”

There are several proposed properties in Oliver, downtown and Old Strathcona on the books for city planners, so this connection over the North Saskatchewan River will add value to what’s in the works, even if the High Level Line isn’t formally part of those plans.

“As High Level Line does come to fruition, as it reaches its fullest potential with programming and [starts] giving people a reason to be there, property values around High Level Line would naturally go up and this would be an area of the city that people will want to live and do business close to,” Thomson said.

She said they are exploring funding options with the city.

“This is a project that won’t easily be funded as one big project,” Thomson said. “This is something that can easily fit in with a lot of other city initiatives that are already ongoing. For example, the Strathcona neighbourhood renewal, or as the 109 Street corridor is upgraded.

“What High Level Line is proposing is to keep the vision of that corridor as a place for people. That will come to life as those other city initiatives are being done.”

The group behind the proposal won for their communication plan, and were the only winners from Alberta in the national competition.

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