From Words to Photos – What Redevelopment Looks Like

A lot has been said and written about the City Centre Redevelopment Project in the past few months. I have had numerous discussions about it with friends and family members, some of whom were very much in favour of keeping the airport as it is with others being equally interested in what a new vibrant development on this site could do for Edmonton.

One of the most memorable conversations was with my brother and  dad, where we talked for the first hour or so about the airport, its valued history, the businesses that are there, the health services / medevac flights and the  pros / cons  of having two major airports servicing Edmonton versus having the Edmonton International Airport as our  primary service provider. The conversation then shifted to what we may have in the future if we were to redevelop this site into the vision that City Council has identified: a world class sustainable redevelopment.

One of the things that became clear  was that the airport in its current form is readily understood by everyone, it has “always” been there, you can see planes taking off and landing. What is more elusive is to try to imagine a different future and then to make it a reality.

People in our city have been imagining a different and better future for our entire history. One hundred years ago in 1901 there were 2,626 people living here on the open prairie, now we have in the greater Edmonton area a sophisticated, highly educated population of about 1 million. Many things have changed, including our new awareness of the importance of minimizing our ecological footprint.

We have before us a unique opportunity to once again imagine a new future by redeveloping these lands into a sustainable, walkable, family and transit-oriented, world leading design. To achieve this, we are learning from other sustainable redevelopments worldwide that  lead the way. We have five world class teams working on their respective submissions : Sweco International AB, Stockholm, Sweden; Busby Perkins + Will, Vancouver, Canada; KCAP Architects & Planners from Rotterdam, Netherlands; BNIM, from Kansas City, USA; and Foster & Partners, from London, UK.

The five teams’ submissions are due on January 21, 2011. Citizens  will have an opportunity to view the display materials associated with these submissions and provide information to the Selection Committee. The Selection Committee will review the submissions and interview each team prior to providing the Selection Team’s recommendation of the winning applicant to City Council for a final approval. After Council approves the winning submission and a contract is agreed to with the winning firm, the work will intensify on the master plan design and the detailed plans for the area. Through this master and detailed plan process, citizens will have more opportunities for input.

To help jump start our conversation, and whet your appetite with visuals, the five teams provided images from previous projects on urban planning and design, engineering and social, economic and environmental sustainability in China, the Netherlands, Canada, Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom. These are examples of what has been done elsewhere; the designs which will be produced for our competition will be unique to Edmonton. See more of the five finalists previous work in our online gallery.

SWECO Conceptual Design   SWECO Stockholm, Sweden

Petite Riviere Redevelopment Plan Montreal, Quebec | Canada  BNIM Kansas City, USA

Haefencity Masterplan, Hamburg  KCAP Rotterdam, Netherlands

Duisburg Inner Harbour Masterplan Duisburg, Germany  Foster + Partners London, U.K.

Dockside Green Development, Victoria, BC   Busby, Perkins + Will Vancouver, BC

I thought you might also be interested in what is happening with other central airport redevelopments such those in Berlin, Germany, Austin, Texas, and Denver, Colorado

Austin, Texas, USA – Robert Mueller Municipal Airport redevelopment

Denver, Colorado, USA – Stapleton Airport redevelopment

Berlin, Germany – Templehof Airport redevelopment

As a first step in terms of sharing information with you, I welcome your thoughts on what questions you may have about the City Centre Redevelopment Project, or, on what you imagine may be possible on this site. Let’s start sharing this vision. I will dedicate Nov. 16 and 17 to read and respond to comments directly on this post. I’m looking forward to our discussion.


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About the Author
Phil Sande
Phil Sande has more than 30 years experience in real estate, land development and land acquisition. He began his career with private enterprise and then joined the City of Edmonton, where he is now the Executive Director of the City Centre Redevelopment Project.
  1. Matthew Dance
    7 years ago

    Its a minor comment, but I would love to see some winter city scenes in the redevelopment plans.

  2. […] From Words to Photos – What Redevelopment Looks Like – view page – cached A lot has been said and written about the City Centre Redevelopment Project in the past few months. I have had numerous discussions about it with friends and family members, some of whom were very much in favour of keeping the airport as it is with others being equally interested in what a new vibrant development on this site could do for Edmonton. Tweets about this link […]

  3. John K
    7 years ago

    Hi Phil,

    What happens to the existing uses around City Centre Airport (aircraft hangers, terminal building, Northgate Industries) as part of the redevelopment?

    How much of the airport lands is needed by NAIT for their expansion?

  4. Bonedwarf
    7 years ago

    I think it’s ridiculous they’re closing the airport. EIA isn’t even IN Edmonton. Having no car and having had to venture out there recently I realised how bloody ridiculous YEG is.

    Pretty pictures, but I doubt the reality will live up to it.

    And as Matthew said, winter weather pics would be nice.

  5. Karen C
    7 years ago

    townhouses/affordable housing/smart housing. the realities of affordable is me: 20-something professional with giant student loans who’d like to be able to afford her own place one day.

  6. Phil Sande
    7 years ago

    Hello Karen

    Thank you for your comment and for providing me with some of your background so I can understand better where your thoughts are coming from. You said “townhouses/affordable housing/smart housing. the realities of affordable is me: 20-something professional with giant student loans who’d like to be able to afford her own place one day.”

    The future City Centre Redevelopment will have an array of housing sizes and amenities to fit a variety of housing needs for families and for single people.

    We are considering housing costs to be the full package of monthly costs: your rental or mortgage payment, your utilities costs, your condo upkeep fees, parking space costs and transportation costs.

    We are exploring a variety of ways to minimize these collective costs, including having access to the LRT as a primary source of transportation rather than a car. This may allow some families to choose to only have one car rather than two, or for individuals to use transit rather than a car. There may be car pools where you would borrow a car only for the occasional times that you require it.

    The five short listed companies who are engaged in our planning process competition each bring with them tremendous expertise in addressing more affordable and sustainable housing types, along with still providing a quality living environment, inside the buildings and outside.

    We are pursuing the development of a full community, involving young people like yourself, families and seniors. Our goal of sustainability fully applies to the environment, but it equally applies to the community itself, where the community will grow and evolve as a desirable place to live.

    I hope to hear from you again when you are a 25 – something professional, and that you have found a home in our new development because it fits your lifestyle.


  7. Phil Sande
    7 years ago

    Hi John,

    Thank you for your questions pertaining to: What happens to the existing uses around City Centre Airport (aircraft hangers, terminal building, Northgate Industries) as part of the redevelopment?
    How much of the airport lands is needed by NAIT for their expansion?

    We are presently at a very early stage in the redevelopment process and as such there is no definitive answer to what will happen on each of the properties that you identified.

    We are however engaged in a planning process that will lead us to these answers. The following is a very brief explanation of that process and how it will identify the future uses for this site.

    The process requires that the five short listed teams submit by January 21, 2011 conceptual plans for the entire airport site along with other information. The public will have the opportunity to see and provide comments to the Selection Committee on the display materials that the Teams submit.

    The Selection Committee will provide their recommendation of the successful applicant to City Council. After Council approves the winning submission this team will then embark on a 15 month Master Plan process. There will be significant public consultation in the Master Plan process and it is through this process that the locations of future parks, residential, retail and institutional uses will be identified.

    The planning process will take into consideration and respect those hangars that are designated as historical. The Aviation Museum and the historical nature of the airport are important and will be reflected in the new plan.

    NAIT is a key stakeholder who will be considered in the new plans. There is no agreement at this time between the City and NAIT as to how significant of a role NAIT would have within the redevelopment lands. For consistency and equity reasons we have asked the teams to recognize in their submissions that 50 of the 535 total acres be allocated collectively to NAIT and the Aviation Museum. Again, the 50 acres is an arbitrary area which may change.

    We will look at the opportunity for transitional zoning to allow certain uses to continue for a period of time, with the ultimate use of that property changing to the new zoning identified in the Master Plan. I anticipate that there will be hangars that will be used for many years as viable buildings. There are others that, depending on their location and the current quality of the building, may be renovated for other uses or possibly demolished to allow for a new development.

    Northgate Industries is situated on privately owned land which is not located on the airport property. I cannot comment on what their future plans may be.

    John, I hope that this information helps, and thank you for your questions.


  8. Phil Sande
    7 years ago

    Hello Matthew,

    I appreciate your comment regarding having some winter city scenes in the redevelopment plans. Through discussions, we know that our five international short listed teams are each very aware that Edmonton is a winter city and that the City wants to ensure that our proposed redevelopment, in a very positive way, recognizes and embraces that fact.

    I think that it would be very positive to have some winter city scenes shown in the proposed redevelopment plans.

    Thank you for your thoughts.


  9. Phil Sande
    7 years ago

    This blog is open to all comments regardless of which side of the airport debate they may be on. I shall not, however, be commenting on the airport debate issues.

    Regardless of the quality of our future development, there will be some who think that we missed the mark and others who will believe that we achieved something greater than they had imagined.

    Council has set the bar at the highest level, by stating that this must be a world class sustainable development. They, along with the citizens of Edmonton, will and should hold us accountable to achieve this goal.

    Thank you for your comment.


  10. 7 years ago

    Can you provide an update on the environmental analysis and cleanup work required?

  11. 7 years ago

    What steps or measures will be taken to ensure that the lands are developed using and incorporate the latest technologies of the day? I don’t think it is enough to build to today’s standards, when we’ll have significantly improved technologies and abilities next year, let alone 20 years from now.

  12. 7 years ago

    How was an overall density target of 25 units per acre minimum chosen? Is that dense enough?

  13. 7 years ago

    “access to the LRT as a primary source of transportation rather than a car”

    That is a major problem with the proposed development, walking should be the primary source of transportation for any ‘sustainable’ development. Having access to transit is a huge positive, but it reflects the city’s obsession with single-purpose, auto-fixated development, citizens should not be expected to commute everywhere which isn’t home.

    At it’s heart the ECCA will be a housing development, not a community. The entire project is located on an island surrounded by highways and massive pedestrian impediments (large expanses of empty space, parking lots, massive buildings, train tracks, etc…) meaning that the only reasonable access to this new development (essentially a suburb) is by vehicle, be it transit or automobile. With a large amount of real estate available for development in areas which are already pedestrian friendly and centrally located (such as The Quarters and Station Lands) shouldn’t the city be focusing efforts there? Is there a way to improve pedestrian access to ECCA lands, or will it be another Century Park, with everything located on the far side of immense parking lots, behind gigantic structures, or the other side of chain link fences?

  14. Phil Sande
    7 years ago

    Hello Lesoteric

    Thank you very much for your comments. I agree wholeheartedly with your view that walking and cycling are very important modes of transportation in a sustainable development. When we met with representatives from the five teams, we expressed the desire to have a community where people can work, live and play within the region of the community, thereby designing our development to allow and encourage people to walk or cycle.

    We also talked about the importance of the linkages of the City Centre site with other areas of the City, downtown, the river valley, hospitals, major shopping centres, schools and post secondary education institutions as well as entertainment facilities. We talked about the types of festivals that Edmonton is renowned for and where they are located.

    We believe that communities grow out of new housing developments. The size of City Centre at 535 acres and an ultimate build out of approximately 30,000 residents, with commercial, retail and parks spaces, affords the opportunity to create a remarkable sense of place for those who will live and work here. We believe that it is the people who live, work and play here who will make City Centre in to a vibrant community, one that is integrated into the overall fabric of Edmonton.

    Ownership of land significantly increases the opportunity to decide the future of a parcel. The Quarters is dominantly privately owned and the Station Lands is fully privately owned, whereas the land at City Centre is owned by the City of Edmonton, as a steward on behalf of the citizens, with portions of this land leased to tenants in the hangars or to the Edmonton Regional Airport Authority. This control of the underlying land asset provides us with the opportunity to pursue Council’s vision of a world class sustainable development and to have the citizens benefit from the revenues generated through this redevelopment.

    Thank you for your interest in the City Centre Redevelopment project.


  15. Phil Sande
    7 years ago

    Hello Mack,

    The environmental analysis that you refer to was completed by a private corporation on the eastern portion of the site, as this was the area that the City was receiving back from Edmonton Regional Airports Authority. The assessment identified three small areas of contamination that exceeded Provincial standards. These three areas, due to their type and location, are not causing any health concerns and will be remediated at the time when redevelopment occurs.

    As the appropriate machinery will be on site when we start moving dirt for the infrastructure, it will be significantly less expensive to do our remediation work at that time, rather than doing the work now. The costs associated with the clean up have not been specifically estimated, however, given the information contained in the report, costs are expected to be reasonable.

    Thanks for your interest.


  16. Phil Sande
    7 years ago

    There was a Demonstration Plan completed which was contained within the “Impact Assessment Final Report” appendix to the Council report of July 8, 2009 when the phased closure vote occurred. That report provided for a potential population of 24,300, including 11,500 multi-family units and 2,000 NAIT student residences. The Report saw the redevelopment of ECCA as “representing an opportunity to develop a transit-oriented concept, consistent with achieving Council’s goals in “The Way Ahead”, the City’s 2008 Strategic Vision. “The Way Ahead” had as one of its goals to ‘Transform Edmonton’s Urban Form’. This goal includes a statement for higher residential densities, particularly within 800 metres of a transit node or corridor.

    One of the motions passed by Council as part of the July 8, 2009 closure vote directed Administration to “… set out long-term visioning plans for the airport lands in their entirety, including plans for community consultation, and for an international design competition for an ecologically-advanced, transit-oriented, medium-to high density, mixed use development.”

    In March 2010, Council approved the Planning Principles document for the redevelopment of these lands, which references “…30,000 Edmontonians living, working and learning in a sustainable community” and called for a plan that “promote(s) mixed-use development and achieve(s) an overall density of 25 units per acre minimum (gross), equalling approximately 12,500 residential units (minimum)”.

    “Is that dense enough?” you ask. I have also been asked, “Is that too dense?” It is a fine balance to create a new sustainable urban environment, which by its very nature requires a higher density of population, and equally make it desirable for people to want to live here. We think that 25 units per acre (minimum) provides that fine balance of a sustainable urban form and a very desirable place to live.

    Thank you Mack for your continue interest in the City Centre Redevelopment project.


  17. Phil Sande
    7 years ago

    Mack, you are correct, one of the key deliverables that we talked about with the five short listed teams and with our own Planning and Development Department was the importance of developing a plan that had “flexibility” built into it. Our full development horizon for the property is approximately 25 years and during that time there will be many advances made in sustainable technology. It is therefore essential that we are able to adapt new technologies to our development, so that we can consistently remain a world leading sustainable development over the entire 25-year build out time period.

    To achieve this flexibility we must consider how large each phase of development will be, the infrastructure that will be required for it, and how this will integrate with the phase that preceded it and the one that will follow it. How will we get there? The first step is attracting the very best minds in the world to understand our vision and to submit their conceptual proposals; and in this regard we are fortunate to have 5 world class level teams. Once the winning submission has been approved, the in-depth Master Planning process will begin. The Master Plan and its associated documents will be the blueprint for achieving our vision. We will then be able to start moving the dirt and creating this new sustainable community.



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