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Edmonton’s River Crossing plan for Rossdale area big on ideas, short on cash

WATCH ABOVE: Ahead of a meeting at Edmonton City Hall next month, a business plan for what's now called River Crossing has been released. Vinesh Pratap reports.

The City of Edmonton has released a high overview concept plan designed to convert areas of Rossdale into an entertainment district, that gives access to the North Saskatchewan River, and preserves the heritage aspect of early Edmonton.

The project, know as the River Crossing, would be developed over a couple of decades, and would cost hundreds of millions of dollars — money the city doesn’t have at this point, according to a 149-page report that will be reviewed by city councillors Sept. 3.

Map of the City of Edmonton's River Crossing Project plan for the Rossdale area.
Map of the City of Edmonton's River Crossing Project plan for the Rossdale area. City of Edmonton
Map of the City of Edmonton's River Crossing Project plan for the Rossdale area.
Map of the City of Edmonton's River Crossing Project plan for the Rossdale area. City of Edmonton

Tax revenue would be hard to raise, because the city already owns about 80 percent of nearly 18 hectares.

Major investment would be needed to design new streets to make them more people friendly. Complicating that are plans from EPCOR’s drainage branch to increase flood mitigation in the area by upgrading sewers.

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The report also calls for the redesign of key roads to create better access into downtown. “Overbuilt roads can be simplified and redesigned to facilitate development, accommodate all modes of transportation and lend character to River Crossing,” the report said.

READ MORE: Edmonton ballpark questions highlight upcoming Rossdale debate

That includes turning Rossdale road into a two-way street, with parking during off peak hours. It also proposes changes to Bellamy Hill Road and 104 Street. However the report said more engineering work would need to be done to confirm the re-design.

Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for 96 Avenue.
Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for 96 Avenue. City of Edmonton

Major changes to 96 Avenue would also be done to make it a main pedestrian-friendly boulevard connecting the Legislature Grounds, past the ball park and to south Rossdale.

Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for changes to Rossdale Road.
Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for changes to Rossdale Road. City of Edmonton

The “Touch the Water” Promenade — which is due to begin in the Government House Park area in 2020 — is also to be expanded through the River Crossing.

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Also there would be a urban plaza, to be connected to a re-purposing of the century old EPCOR power plant and pump house.

Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for the Rossdale area, which includes re-purposing the EPCOR power plant pump house.
Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for the Rossdale area, which includes re-purposing the EPCOR power plant pump house. City of Edmonton

The report pegs full development and renovation of the power plant to cost in excess of $100 million, however the vision is to have that spread out over several years through private sector, or not-for-profit investment.

READ MORE: Councillors discuss River Walk Promenade options for Edmonton river valley

Real estate investment of low and mid-rise apartments is also expected to be part of the plan.

“Areas that historically accommodated surface parking for RE/MAX Field are expected to be redeveloped gradually over the next 10 to 15 years,” the report said.

As many as 2,600 housing units, for a population of 4,000 is one early estimate.

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Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for changes to the Rossdale area.
Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for changes to the Rossdale area. City of Edmonton

The city is seeking a new 10-year lease on the ball park, after a decision earlier this year to break off the five-year lease with the Edmonton Prospects a year early.

The River Crossing Business Plan also contemplates a time when there is no baseball.

“If, through the 10-year lease opportunity RE/MAX Field does not prove viable and successful in activating the River Crossing area, the site can be redeveloped with housing that interfaces with the EPCOR water reservoir,” the report reads.

It should be noted, the Prospects themselves this week came out with their own vision for the ball park and surrounding area.

The franchise’s plan would transform the area by adding a microbrewery, restaurants, a public market, a field house, a parking garage for about 700 vehicles and access to the gondola if that project gets off the ground.

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READ MORE: Edmonton Prospects make proposal for RE/MAX Field and area

The City’s River Crossing plan would see Donald Ross School, the Ortona Armoury, and the Ross Flats Apartments preserved. Heritage homes that date back to 1910 to 1940 would be renovated if economically feasible.

One price tag attached to the report pegs sewer and road infrastructure work, and $6 million worth of “initial power plant renovations” at $84 million.

Add in another $32 million for construction of roadways connecting the River Crossing to adjacent areas. That price is expected to go up with additional alley way work, the report said.

The most recent estimate on the power plant rehabilitation was done in 2013 by DIALOG, at $87 million. In today’s dollars that would be over $100 million.

Council has allocated $9.7 million to get something started in Rossdale. That money came from the province through a land sale.

READ MORE: Event at Rossdale power plant has people buzzing about building’s potential

Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for the Rossdale area.
Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for the Rossdale area. City of Edmonton

READ MORE: City council votes to negotiate sale of West Rossdale property to the province

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However the report concedes revenue will fall way short of expenses.

“When added together, revenues from retained earnings, renewal funding, and proceeds from the sale of City land will not be sufficient to cover the cost of infrastructure investment required in River Crossing,” the report reads.

“Property tax revenues can be used to make up the difference.”

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The report contemplates a Community Revitalization Levy, or CRL — much like what was used in the building of the downtown arena — however the report said it would fall well short.

“CRL revenue for the redevelopment concept in this business plan is estimated to be $77 million.”

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Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for the Rossdale area.
Rendering from the City of Edmonton’s River Crossing Project plan for the Rossdale area. City of Edmonton
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