Today the Downtown Vibrancy Coalition issued the following news release in support of the proposed arena and entertainment district:
The big picture...
A historic opportunity for Edmonton to invigorate its downtown and claim its place as an exceptional world-class city is at risk. So says a new and growing advocacy group, a coalition led by the Downtown Vibrancy Task Force. The coalition is made up of individuals, post-secondary institutions, artists, entrepreneurs and business organizations — all of them advocates for downtown revitalization. The coalition began forming in late April, when the downtown arena project hit its most recent funding snag. Its members believe too many people are losing sight of the big picture.
If we lose the arena - over a missing $55 million - approximately $3 billion in downtown revitalization projects will be shelved or scrapped. The arena represents only one-sixth of the proposed investment. But if the arena fails, Edmonton’s downtown will lose $2 billion of private investment in the related entertainment district — new hotels, office towers, retail shops, clubs — as well as downtown parks, a river valley promenade and Jasper Avenue streetscape enhancements.
The loss would be a devastating blow to Edmonton and its aspirations. In recent years, Edmonton lost out on bids for Expo 2017, as well as the National Portrait Gallery. But as coalition spokesman Simon O’Byrne points out, this opportunity is within our grasp. The decision is ours to make, with no interference from outsiders in Europe or Ottawa.
The coalition asks the negotiating parties and the public to put the overall project in its proper perspective.
- Downtown represents only one per cent of Edmonton’s footprint, but generates 10 per cent of its civic taxes.
- Downtown was largely neglected in the City’s 2004 - 2014 capital budgets. Of the $10.8 billion of construction in the budgets, less than $200 million was targeted downtown (less than 2%).
- Homeowners and businesses outside the downtown are being asked to contribute little if any to these projects. The majority of public investment comes from a Community Revitalization Levy, (CRL) restricted to the downtown.
- A more vibrant downtown will attract further economic development and expand the tax base, to everyone’s benefit.
- Municipalities regularly invest public money to help business thrive, be it in ring roads, transportation links, business parks, research parks, economic-development agencies, tourism agencies, convention centres.
- A downtown is the City’s cultural, commercial and political hub. A vibrant downtown sends clear and positive signals about a community’s economic, social and cultural health.
- A vibrant downtown is a leading civic attraction — a place to wow visitors, conventioneers, potential investors and bright young minds.
Myths abound about downtown Edmonton being too expensive, too unsafe or too difficult for drivers to navigate or find parking. A new arena will bring thousands of people from all over the Edmonton region downtown every week, to rediscover a sense of excitement and community amidst our galleries, cafes, bistros and shops.
“The $3 billion in investment is critical to the future of our downtown,” says coalition spokesman Simon O’Byrne. “But it will be much more than just a renovation of our streets and skyline.”
“It will elevate downtown to the community prominence we deserve. Great cities have great and vibrant downtowns.”
The coalition asks Edmontonians to join the advocacy effort by going to www.yegdt.ca
and adding their voice to the conversation. An email form on the site allows people to quickly send a message of support to City Councillors, Edmonton’s MLAs and representatives of the Katz Group.