Edmonton

City and developer deadlocked over Emerald Tower proposal

A proposal for a 45 storey tower on Jasper Avenue has left the developer and city administration at loggerheads, as council tries to make a decision about the development without sufficient city policy to guide them.

Council to make a decision on the 45-storey tower in two weeks

The building is proposed by Regency Developments, the same developer responsible for The Pearl on Jasper Avenue. (Supplied)

A proposal for a 45-storey tower on Jasper Avenue has left the developer and city administration at loggerheads, as council tries to make a decision about the development without sufficient city policy to guide them.

Council deferred the debate on the Emerald Tower for two weeks while administration writes up a list of proposed changes to the developer's proposal. If council can't reach a decision, the project will likely die.

The building is proposed by Regency Developments, the same developer responsible for The Pearl on Jasper Avenue.

Recency wants to build a new tower on 114th Street that's a third higher than The Pearl. The company hopes to make the first floor retail and the next three floors above-ground parking, which will be masked with a large coloured glass exterior wall.

To be honest, I'm not that confident in the ability of administration or Regency to broker a deal.- Simon O'Byrne, Stantec planner

City administration rejected the proposal because it doesn't fit in with the neighbourhood and doesn't provide adequate compensation for the community.

"To be honest, I'm not that confident in the ability of administration or Regency to broker a deal," said Simon O'Byrne, a Stantec planner representing the developer.

He said the company has been going back and forth with the city for 18 months, and the developer has already gone over budget for this stage of the project because of the delay.

Community league wants more dedicated affordable housing

Mayor Don Iveson said he doesn't think the height of the building is the main issue.

"I don't think you're seeing anyone on council balking at building a 40-plus storey building on this site, provided the community get some of the kinds of benefits you would typically expect," he said.

The community compensation is meant to make up for added pressures on neighbourhood amenities that comes with moving hundreds more people into the community. There is no city policy that guides how much compensation is necessary.

Regency has offered the Oliver Community League $200,000 to put toward new amenities, but president Lisa Brown said that's not enough.

"The community league is really struggling to advocate for and to provide services for all our residents," Brown said.

She said the cost of building a new park in Oliver can be as much as $500,000, and that doesn't include the cost of the land.

The number of affordable housing units is also a sticking point. Two months ago, council approved a new residential tower in Old Strathcona with 14 per cent of the units dedicated for affordable housing.

Regency has offered only five per cent of the Emerald's units for affordable housing. The community league is asking for more units in exchange for the additional height.

Under city policy, developers are required to make five per cent of units available for affordable housing. Often, developers will sell the units to the city at 85 per cent of market value.

In this case, administration wants the city to have the option to collect cash instead, to put toward other affordable housing. O'Bryne said that would cost the developer approximately $750,000.

Downtown Coun. Scott McKeen said without major design changes and concessions from the developer, he will not support the project.

Council will vote on the Emerald Tower on June 27.

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