Earlier this month, The Parks broke ground on several parking lots in Edmonton’s downtown. This new mixed-use development, which will extend from the corner of Jasper Avenue to 108 Street, aims to add 1,000 residential units and commercial space to the downtown.
Not far from it, several parking lots will meet a similar fate. As part of the City of Edmonton’s Warehouse Park project, five parking lots will be transformed into a multi-use green space. This burgeoning destination is expected to cover 1.47 hectares of land, between 106 Street and 108 Street and Jasper Avenue to 102 Avenue.
Suzanne Young, the City of Edmonton’s Director of Open Spaces Planning and Design and lead for Warehouse Park, joined Puneeta McBryan, Executive Director of the Downtown Business Association, Henry Edgar, Partner at EDGAR, and over 100 Urban Development Institute members in April, for a conversation on the power of a park to attract people and economic investment to Edmonton’s downtown.
“The City is investing in this park to serve as a major public amenity for residents, workers, and visitors as the downtown population is expected to significantly increase in the next decade,” said Young.
“Warehouse Park is envisioned to be an urban oasis and intended to be a catalyst project to support future residential and commercial downtown development.”
It was first identified in the Capital City Downtown Plan, completed over 10 years ago.
“The park is slated to open in 2025, but the vision dates back to 2010,” she added.
Edgar is a fan of the City’s plan – foreseeing Warehouse Park as an enticing and spacious backyard for future inhabitants of his and others’ residential projects.
“The vision for Warehouse Park prompted four major developers to purchase three sites around the park,” said Edgar. “It’s an economic driver, and investment decisions were premised on green space. It’s the perfect spot.”
Edgar’s up-and-coming development, The Shift, adds to the cumulative $4.4 billion of private and institutional investments made in the downtown since 2014, and brings the total number of residential units along Warehouse Park’s edges to approximately 2,300.
For McBryan, residents are in short supply, yet are critical towards making downtown a vibrant place 24/7.
“During the pandemic, we realized that relying on the population of office workers is not sustainable, as they vacated the city’s core to work-from-home,” she said. “This park has so much potential to attract more residents – people who won’t leave when the workday ends.”
Last summer, McBryan and her team at the Downtown Business Association hosted Root 107, a temporary pop-up activation at the future site of Warehouse Park. Food trucks, live music, and art animated the space, with thousands flocking to the city’s core for gathering al fresco.
“There’s an appetite for more public space in our downtown,” McBryan said. “We desperately need Warehouse Park – and if designed well, we’re going to see such a critical amenity attract more people downtown, and a space where community, art, culture, and commerce can collide and flourish.”
When asked about what could prevent this plan from taking shape, Young stated, “We have the pieces in place – the land, the vision, and support from the community, and the businesses and industry are investing.”
“We have the recipe to collectively deliver on this important city building initiative.”
5 Key Takeaways
- Parks are magnets. They are places where people can connect and convene, where businesses can thrive and prosper, and big ideas can take shape.
- Filling the gap. Parks are an important amenity for current and future residents and offer places to play for families.
- A seed of an idea requires time to grow. City building is a generational endeavour and an exercise in patience. The ideas we dream up today will require long-term stewardship and investment by those who come after us.
- Think big, start small. Our desire to see downtown become a thriving place will require strategic and tangible actions to demonstrate possibility and potential.
- Converging interests and investments. A gesture like Warehouse Park confirms that partnership is possible, and how public and private sectors can work together to catalyze economic and social activity.