Edmonton will mark the opening of a new JW Marriott hotel near Rogers Place Thursday, and can expect a new Loblaws CityMarket on the site of the old Greyhound terminal to open in 2020.Those are the next steps for a burgeoning district that already has two new towers, and promises more retail and residential development soon.It’s victories such as these than have some singing the praises of Edmonton’s hard-fought arena deal, even as Calgary weighs the pros and cons of its own arena deal.Calgary city council is set to vote on a $550-million deal for a replacement to the Saddledome on Tuesday, hoping a new sports and entertainment facility there will spark similar reinvestment.Edmonton’s deal included a promise from the Katz Group to invest at least $100 million in developments surrounding the new arena. It’s met that commitment and more, investing at least $2 billion into the Edmonton Tower, JW Marriott Hotel, Stantec Tower and associated development.The Marriott hotel will also have 262 condos. The 69-storey Stantec Tower includes office, retail and residential space and is the tallest skyscraper in Canada outside of Toronto. The Edmonton Tower now holds most city employees and the civic services centre.Plans for additional residential development north of the arena still need to go to a public hearing for council approval.So far the plan is to eventually build up to 4,500 residential units spread across 12 towers, ranging from 15 to 40 storeys. The majority of these mixed-use buildings, including retail and office space, will be built north of 104 Avenue between 102 Street and 104 Street.Tim Shipton, corporate communications vice-president for the Oilers Entertainment Group, said the plan is still very much in its early days and will be built in stages to ensure the market is ready for the volume.“The arena was the first act of the play, but the second act is the broader district opening up,” Shipton said. “A development that welcomes people into the downtown core to live, to work and to play.”He said more than five million visitors have flocked to Rogers Place since the $483.5-million arena opened its doors in September 2016.
An early rendering for the second phase of Ice District, planned to include 12 residential towers totalling up to 4,500 residential units. Stantec/ICE District Properties
Stantec/ICE District Properties
The arena construction was a boost to the downtown after several decades of effort. Even during the downturn, there’s been reinvestment outside the arena district, too. The Downtown Business Association says roughly $1 billion was invested in the three years by companies other than the Katz Group.“Not all that is attributable to the arena, but it certainly made downtown more attractive,” said Downtown Business Association executive director Ian O’Donnell.It’s difficult to place a set value on the economic impact of the Ice District since opening, but O’Donnell said there is no doubt there’s been significant benefits.“It’s certainly brought a new sense of rejuvenation, a new sense of pride and a new feel to downtown,” he said. “It’s what we’ve been hoping for and certainly exciting to see. Things are bustling everywhere.”One measurable statistic is the major rise in hotel use since Rogers Place opened, increasing by multiple percentage points while much of the rest of the city had negative growth. O’Donnell said this can easily be attributed to the vast amount of late-night sporting events and concerts held at the arena and a new desire to eat and shop downtown.But getting to this point of success was far from seamless. Frequent, arduous debates surrounded the massive downtown development both at city council and publicly as the city and Katz Group wrangled the deal. It was high stakes and high drama.At one point during an impasse in the debates, Oilers owner Daryl Katz flew to Seattle in what many took to be a very public threat to move the team. He then took out full-page newspaper advertisements to apologize.But both parties now say that long, sometimes contentious, process is what made the agreement work. “The amount of time and energy that went into a strong, detailed master agreement laid a foundation for success,” Shipton said.The city put up a total of about $312 million for the arena and related infrastructure, just more than half of the total $613.7-million, but 47 per cent of the arena costs. The Katz Group is footing the bill for $132.5 million with the remaining $125 million collected through a ticket surcharge.In the proposed arena deal currently to the south, Calgary will pay for 50 per cent of the $550-million arena.Most of Edmonton’s funding came from tax revenues generated from the downtown community revitalization levy, expected to be worth $786 million over 20 years. That funding, which represents the increase in property taxes generated by the increase in land value around the arena, is also going to upgrading stormwater drainage, Jasper Avenue revitalization and river valley promenades.Downtown Ward 6 Coun. Scott McKeen said the five-year agreement process certainly had its bumps in the road, but a stroll through downtown shows its worth.“It’s exceeded probably anyone’s expectations,” McKeen said. “It had its critics then as public money went into it … but it’s the spin-offs that have been so important to the city and the city economy.“It’s not a perfect deal, but it’s hard to argue it’s a bad deal.”McKeen said he is still faced with concerns from residents about constant construction and lack of parking during busy arena times, but he believes downtown’s “new normal” will be worth email@example.com/dustin_cook3