Ferris wheel, saunas, a gondola? The Edmonton Project weighs options for river valley

The Edmonton Project, a partnership of five companies looking to create a distinct landmark in the city, has a shortlist of 10 proposals. Many involve developing the river valley.

The Edmonton Project is a partnership between 5 companies that want to create a distinct landmark in the city

One of the proposals submitted to the Edmonton project was a ferris wheel where clients could receive a three or four-course dinner from a food truck parked below. (Edmonton Project)

Matt Schuurman and his wife Megan Dart were sipping wine and dining on a ferris wheel in Milan two years ago when the inspiration hit. 

"In the back of our brains we said, 'Wouldn't that be cool to see in Edmonton one day?'" Schuurman said.

The couple pitched their idea to the Edmonton Project, a partnership of five companies looking to create a distinct landmark in the city. 

Now, they're learning there's a possibility that it could actually happen. 

The Edmonton Project, funded by business and by donation, issued a call for proposals in August. Not long after, Schuurman and Dart decided to submit an idea: a food truck ferris wheel. 

They want to see a slow-moving ferris wheel, somewhere in the river valley with a view of the city skyline, with a food truck at the base. When passengers' gondolas are at the bottom of the ride, they get a course from the food truck. They go around until they are finished eating. 

Schuurman and Dart found out Friday that their proposal was selected from hundreds of submissions as one of the Edmonton Project's top 10 ideas. 

"We're still reeling from it," Schuurman said. "Our fun idea might actually see the light of day."

Matt Schuurman wants his foodie ferris wheel idea to become reality. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The couple has some stiff competition. Other proposals include a series of saunas along the river valley, a gondola over the North Saskatchewan River and an indoor park heated by a solar globe. 

The next step for the finalists is to work with the project's partner organizations, including construction company Ellis Don and architectural firm Kasian, on how to bring the ideas to life.

Their formal pitches will be presented to a panel of five judges on March 6. A winner will be announced the same day. 

Majority of ideas aim to develop river valley

Alyson Hodson, one of the founding members of the Edmonton Project, said when coming up with the short list, the judges looked for creative and innovative proposals that would bring Edmontonians together.

While the ideas are all different, Hodson said the majority focus on the river valley.

"There's a lot of appetite to activate it," she said. "I understand that we have beautiful, undisturbed park space… but there's a way to [activate] it that's respectful… allowing us to go for a walk, stop and enjoy a coffee or grab a glass of wine."

Matt Roper pitched the idea of portable pavilions along River Valley Road so people could have a place to warm up in the winter, rent sports equipment or enjoy the view. He said it would draw the city's residents to the river to embrace winter.

"The river valley is such an incredible amenity in the capital region, one that often lies dormant… during the winter months," Roper said.

During the summer, Roper said the pavilions could be rolled into one of Edmonton's many parks, the spaces used as a mobile restaurants or bars during festival season.

Hodson said the founding partners are looking at making the project an annual design competition.

"Edmonton really is a city of people that just make things happen," she said. "We're not waiting around for city council or government to take these initiatives into their own hands."

There are restrictions to building in the river valley, but in 2013, city council approved six initiatives to make the river valley more accessible. They included building the Terwillegar Park footbridge, refurbishing seven boat docks on the river and linking new trails in the city's east and west ends to the existing network. 

Alyson Hodson said most of the ideas submitted to the Edmonton Project focus on developing the river valley. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)