A new 80-storey tower approved Wednesday for The Quarters would set a record for height in Western Canada and the clock is now ticking for construction.
The rezoning will be in place for 10 years. If Alldritt Group has not finished geotechnical studies, detailed design and secured a valid development permit by then, the only thing they will be allowed to build on the one-hectare site is a public park.
Council voted 7-5 to allow the building to go ahead with Mayor Don Iveson and councillors Michael Walters, Scott McKeen, Ben Henderson and Andrew Knack voting against.
Iveson said his biggest concern is with turning public park into private property, even with the access guarantees. New York would never consider selling a piece of Central Park, even to spur redevelopment in Harlem, he said.
Others said they are convinced this development will be a catalyst for The Quarters area east of downtown. It will be located just south of Jasper Avenue and west of 96 Street.
An artist's rendering of an 80-storey condo tower proposed for the Quarters in downtown Edmonton.
At a two-day public hearing, many spoke in favour and against the tower, which is a significant departure from the area redevelopment plan many members of the community helped write.
Residents argued the tower won't integrate well into the community. It's oriented to the river valley with wide terraces and a grand vista, but residents worried few people would be on those terraces because one side is a dead-end.
The Jasper Avenue side of the development will be a quiet park. "Good architectural renderings always have plazas full of happy people," said Kristen Goa, a resident of Old Strathcona. Whether those people actually materialize depends on design, she said.
She doesn't believe all members of the public will be made to feel welcome in that private-public park, sharing she experience of having her children scolded for climbing on rocks near a similar luxury condo development. "It doesn't matter that it's a public park. The message is really clear who's welcome there and who is not."
The existing residents will suffer from the reduced view, said neighbourhood resident Heather D. Swain. When they lost the Shaw Conference Centre view, she felt physically sick.
"Do we need a place for grad and other photos from the rest of the city?" said Timothy Anderson, worried the project will give local residents nothing but traffic headaches. The traffic study only looked at Jasper Avenue, without considering the impact on Grierson Hill road below.