It has been five years since construction began in the ICE district of Edmonton. With it, bold predictions for the city center.
Now, despite the COVID-19 pandemic putting the brakes on plans, expectations are still high.
Tim Shipton, executive vice president of corporate affairs for ICE District, remains optimistic and believes the neighborhood is the heart of downtown revitalization.
“The ICE District is definitely going to lead the recovery for Edmonton,” Shipton said. “If phase 1 is the excitement, phase 2 is the sustainability of a residential base.
“We’re looking at over 2,000 residential units (and) a mix of amenities in a mixed-use concept.”
WATCH: Bold Prediction on ICE District Development
ICE District expects parts of its Phase 2 village to open at some point in the first or second quarter of next year. This also includes a new CityMarket and Canadian ICEhouse (Brewhouse) grocery store.
In December, the ICE District Plaza ice rink will open to the public.
The downtown area is slowly coming back to life, with fans returning to Rogers Place for the Oilers home games and the businesses reopening.
“(At) the Battle of Alberta on October 16, downtown was buzzing, ICE district was packed,” Shipton said.
“It’s the first time we’ve seen so many people in downtown for at least a year and a half, and so, I think some of those shots of optimism are happening.
But for many downtown leaders, the pandemic has been a healthy reality check of the need for more than entertainment to bring and keep people at heart.
“All downtowns are in a tough spot and I really think we’re at a disadvantage right now because of the reduced number of residents,” said Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Downtown Business Association.
“It’s about building a community, a 24/7 community where people live here, work here (and) spend time here for all kinds of different reasons.”
Shipton doubled down on ICE District’s vision to stay the same, to be a place to live, work, play and stay when asked if the pandemic has changed the perspective on how to bring more people to the center -city.
“To get that, you have to have amenities that people want to come and enjoy,” he said. “And obviously you have to have jobs for people to work and be able to support themselves.”
Before the pandemic, McBryan said there were around 13,000 residents living in the city center.
“(The area’s population count is) something we’ve been working on for a while, then COVID (-19), it was like stepping into a brick wall if you look at city centers and all progress that has been going on, ”she said.
One change that is here to stay due to the pandemic is working from home and many expect this to have a permanent impact on downtown pedestrian traffic. Take Stantec, for example, in Edmonton’s tallest tower. The company said half of its employees will return to the office in the coming months full-time, and the rest will work on a hybrid model that will run one to four days a week in the office.
But McBryan doesn’t think the hybrid workflow will deter commercial leases or the inner city population.
“It’s not the majority of workers, and the difference it will make when everyone is back, which now looks like January, it will really feel like the tide is turning,” she said.
Safety is the top priority for the new downtown city councilor in the O-day’min neighborhood.
“So making sure we find the budget to have teams that are on the streets and these are community outreach teams, people who work in mental health and social services to create safer streets for us. all, ”said Anne Stevenson.
The perception of social disorder is also expected to begin to decline as more people return to the city center.
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The capital’s downtown community revitalization tax helps support the ICE district and the city has said that despite declining income during the pandemic, all of its projects will still be funded.
“In February 2021, the Capital City Downtown Levy is expected to generate between $ 710 million (low scenario) and $ 825 million (high scenario) in revenue,” the city said in a statement to Global News. “This is a decrease of $ 36 million (low scenario) and $ 77 million (high scenario) from the 2019 forecast, but it is sufficient to fund all currently approved projects and most or all unfunded inner city catalyst projects.
“For the current year, we are in the process of updating the LCR’s revenue forecast and we will not be able to share any new information until the report is presented to the board in the first quarter of 2022.”
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