'Goodbye gravel, hello green': city planners hope to convert parking lots to green space

Officials will have to wait until February before getting the green light on a proposal to build a neighbourhood park in downtown Edmonton.

The city hopes to buy surface parking lots and convert them to a 1.25-hectare downtown park

A concept drawing of what the potential green space could look like. (Supplied)

Officials will have to wait until February before they learn whether they'll get the green light on a proposal to build a neighbourhood park in downtown Edmonton.

Warehouse Campus Neighbourhood Central Park, slated to be built between 106th and 107th Streets and Jasper and 102 avenues, would cover 1.25 hectares. The area includes 18 commercial lots — all of which are currently functioning as surface parking lots. The lots have four different owners who have expressed interest in selling to the city — though no deals are finalized yet.

The money would be taken out of the city's downtown community revitalization levy.

The fact the owners are considering selling all the lots provides a unique opportunity for the city, said Duncan Fraser, an urban planner for the City of Edmonton.

Downtown population expected to skyrocket

"You don't find an open space this large in the downtown. It doesn't exist," he said. "[We're] taking gravel and turning it into green."

Fraser said the city is expecting the population downtown to skyrocket over the next several years, and the green space would add to the quality of life for downtown dwellers.

"It'll be family-friendly," he said. "They need a big amenity, and that's why this park is very important to our downtown community."

Another concept drawing of the park that could potentially be built in downtown Edmonton. (Supplied)

Planning is in the early stages. It's not clear whether the city will be able to acquire all the land necessary to make the park a reality. Fraser said the park would be large enough for festivals and gatherings, and would be dog-friendly. But much of the planning has yet to be discussed.

"Once we get the land assembled, step two is the design exercise we go through with the community," he said.

Robert Noce is a lawyer for Obam Properties, one of the four owners of the lots in question. He said the initial offer from the city was reasonable — and he expects negotiations to go well.

Robert Noce, a lawyer for one of the four property owners, said the city made a reasonable offer and is more than willing to negotiate to sell. (Nola Keeler/CBC)

"We're prepared to negotiate a deal with the City of Edmonton," he said.

Should all four owners sell, the city could gain a sizeable green space right in the heart of the downtown core. But it will also mean less parking.

Lack of parking?

​Fraser said there are more than 40,000 parking stalls in downtown Edmonton, and losing these four lots won't be much of an issue.

"We have lots of parking downtown," he said, though he wouldn't rule out a potential underground parking solution for the park.

Fraser said he hopes once the land is acquired the park will benefit area residents.

"We believe it will be a magnet for residential development," he said. "Goodbye gravel, hello green."

The park proposal will be discussed at February's urban planning committee meeting.

With files from Nola Keeler