Allan Scott built the Art Gallery. He was also one of my predecessors here at EEDC. And the man had a terrific vision.
In 2002, Allan initiated the Downtown Renaissance to start getting rid of surface parking lots, accelerating residential construction and making Edmonton’s downtown core a hub for education, entertainment, sports and hospitality. A huge amount of progress has been made over the past 10 years. I know we’re not there yet, but we are on our way.
Progress will always get us there … eventually. But occasionally you need catalytic projects that knock down barriers (aka blinders) and that allow more investment to flow. Greg Christenson’s RailTown project (Jasper/109th), MacEwan University Campus, LRT Expansion, Winspear Centre and Prem Singhmar’s new hotel (Quarters) are all examples of such transformative projects, and Edmonton’s new downtown arena needs to be next.
A major downtown sports, entertainment and hospitality complex is core to all vibrant cities, as it stimulates massive activity by way of new hotels, restaurants and bars that in turn encourage people to stay after work, spend money and play. This is a HUGE opportunity for our service and tourism economy, as it helps makes Edmonton vibrant and fun 7x24x365 … no matter if you are attending a gallery, having a drink on a patio or simply walking home. It also fills the density we are missing on our streets, in residential towers and all the opportunities in between that are percolating in the minds of entrepreneurs. But most importantly, it is a symbol of our awesomeness … which I’m not afraid to shout to the world.
Over the years, many of our big ideas have been deflated. EXPO was crushed. Our river valley is still disconnected. The Terrace Building is still an eyesore. Hell, it took us 20 years to make a decision on the airport. Edmonton’s new downtown arena needs to be awesome. I can evangelize the economic impact, the value of the team, the surrounding development and the impact on local suppliers until I’m blue in the face. But equally as important, I want to evangelize the need to unshackle us from the past, from this debate and from the fear of doing something remarkable in this city. This is big … and it is exactly what this city needs to knock down the barrier to becoming AWESOME.
We are inviting the world to “Come Build [It] Here. Let’s Build [The Arena] Here … Now.