Edmonton city council agrees to build $14M parkade at Orange Hub

Edmonton will spend $14 million to build a new above-ground parking structure at the Orange Hub, city council decided Thursday despite a push from some to explore more development options at the site. 

4 councillors wanted to hold the money to explore future development options

The city-owned Orange Hub on 156th Street houses arts, theatre and wellness non-profits and needs rehabilitation, including replacing the existing parkade. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Edmonton will spend $14 million to build a new above-ground parkade at the Orange Hub, city council decided Wednesday, despite a push from some councillors to explore more development options at the site. 

The existing parkade at the city-owned centre at 100th Avenue and 156th Street needs to be demolished or permanently closed this year because of structural issues, a city report shows.

The above-ground parkade will include 181 spaces for vehicles, bicycles and motorcycles in a three-level garage. 

The city report outlined two alternative options: a 60-space surface parking lot costing $5 million, or a 200-space underground parkade that would cost $35 million.

The Orange Hub parkade is meant to assist future access to the LRT and bus networks. 

"The parkade's proposed exterior design aims to enhance the urban design of 156th Street and provide a sense of place and identity for the West Jasper Place neighbourhood," the report said.

Lost opportunity

Anne Stevenson, councillor for Ward O-day'min, suggested the city put the money aside while it looks at other ways to redevelop the site, including partnerships with tenants, non-profits and private interests to build a mixed-use residential building with an underground parkade. 

"I think this is a great opportunity for us to build our vision in the city plan and demonstrate leadership in terms of the type of city we want to see built," Stevenson said.

The site is across the street from the future Valley Line West LRT, an ideal spot to explore future mixed-use developments, said Coun. Andrew Knack.

"This is a corridor that we have identified as a primary corridor adjacent to LRT, which would be home to substantial development," said Knack, who represents Ward Nakota Isga.

The city bought land between 155th Street and 156th Street on Stony Plain Road because the LRT route was originally going to make a 45-degree turn through the parcel.

The LRT route has changed and the land is free to develop.

Knack agreed with Stevenson that instead of spending $14 million on a parkade, the city should explore the option of leveraging partners on future development. 

"I would be shocked if there weren't developers who would be very interested in building a mixed-use development across the street from the LRT," he said.

Although Knack and councillors Michael Janz and Ashley Salvador voted in favour of Stevenson's motion, the remaining eight councillors and Mayor Amarjeet Sohi voted against it.

Erin Rutherford, councillor for Ward Anirniq, said she didn't want to alter administration's work and hours put into the project so far.

"We cannot throw into chaos, the work that's already been done," Rutherford said. 

Orange Hub history

The Orange Hub is a centre for non-profit groups offering programs and services in the arts, recreation, wellness and learning. Twenty-one tenants lease space at the facility. 

Built in 1979 as an arts and communications centre for Grant MacEwan Community College, the building was purchased by the city in 2017. 

Adam Laughlin, manager of integrated infrastructure services, outlined for council some of the challenges with the centre. 

"Administration's initial recommendation was not to pursue this facility for reasons of — the degree of rehab that we were going through, the use, and potential future uses that could be available in this area," Laughlin said.

But council at the time directed administration to buy the facility. Since then, the city's goal has been to support the tenants, he said.

Demolition of the existing parking structure is expected to start this spring and the new parkade will be completed by next spring.