Edmonton

Edmonton's historic Rossdale may finally have a new future

Cafes, restaurants, a brewery, a market — the old Rossdale power plant could finally be home to these kinds of amenities in the near future after councillors on the urban planning committee agreed to move forward with a plan to redevelop the historic area.

Council committee approves planning approach for River Crossing

The Walterdale Bridge connects the north and south parts of the River Crossing, which the city intends to develop as a gathering place with new amenities. (David Bajer/CBC)

Cafes, restaurants, a brewery, a market — the old Rossdale power plant could be home to these kinds of amenities in the near future after councillors on the urban planning committee agreed to move forward with a plan to redevelop the historic area.

Decades after talking about redeveloping the prime real estate in the river valley, city council's urban planning committee gave its initial blessing Tuesday to plans for the area known as River Crossing.

The committee voted to recommend that council ask administration to make changes to the Rossdale area redevelopment plan.

The project would start with the power plant, the pump houses and the waterfront. 

A report on the River Crossing Business Plan said an initial investment of $74 million would go toward new streets, sewers and open spaces. 

Another $6 million would be put toward renovating the plant itself. 

Stephanie McCabe, a deputy city manager, presented the framework to the committee.

"Rossdale's an exciting but complicated city-building opportunity," McCabe said. 

Over the years, the city has heard varying opinions on how the land — portions of which are considered sacred by Indigenous groups — should be developed, she said. 

Coun. Scott McKeen said a number of factors have stalled the project, including the cost and the city's previous focus on building housing in the area.

"I think we're staging it right by looking at the big power plant, the pump house, the waterfront and a park," McKeen said after the vote.

"Let's start at the waterfront."

The project area stretches from Rossdale to Queen Elizabeth Park and the John Walter Museum south of the river.

It includes RE/MAX Field, Ross Flats Apartments, traditional burial grounds and Fort Edmonton Cemetery, the Rossdale Substation, a water reservoir, a water treatment plant, fire station and the Walterdale Bridge.

Eventually, River Crossing is expected to include a riverfront promenade, housing developments, a new river valley park and a gondola connecting downtown with Rossdale and Old Strathcona.

RE/MAX field, home of Prospects baseball, is part of the Rossdale redevelopment area. (David Bajer/CBC)

Lynn Parish, president of the Rossdale community league, said local residents have been attending open houses hosted by the city over the past year.

"I haven't heard any negative feedback, only that when will this happen?" she told media outside the meeting at city hall. "I think there is potential there that it could be like a match to a dry block of firewood."

The committee voted after hearing from more than 20 people from business, heritage, community and Indigenous groups.

Ian O'Donnell, executive director of the Downtown Business Association, is a big advocate for transforming the area.

"I look at the area as our waterfront — and not the Toronto waterfront that is industrial and has been sort of massaged. I look at it as Vancouver, which has a much more natural state combined with very thoughtful elements to make it incredible," O'Donnell said. 

Whether the area is used for retail and commercial opportunities or natural activities like hiking and biking, the city needs to develop it in a thoughtful and balanced way, he said.

"I still find it amazing that we can't get dinner or a glass of wine or something like that on the river and in the valley in our most unique attraction."  

Violet Meguinis with the Tsuut'ina Nation told councillors it's important the area, site of sacred burial grounds, reflect Indigenous culture. 

She said Indigenous people expect to be actively involved in the redevelopment. 

The committee also asked administration to report back in the fall with a list of priorities for investing in amenities in River Crossing. 

Council expects to get an update in December on the feasibility of a gondola over the river, as well as an update on plans for RE/MAX Field.

More precise numbers for developing the power plant are expected in the second part of 2020.

The Rossdale Power Plant is considered one of the most important pieces of industrial heritage in Alberta. It stopped generating power in 2008 and was decommissioned in 2011.

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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