Edmonton

Edmonton river valley gondola project gets nod from city

A proposal to build a gondola over the North Saskatchewan River hangs on city council, now that city administration has decided the project should move to the next level. 

Council is asked to approve a framework deal for next design phase

The Whyte Ave. Station would be built at the north-east corner of the intersection of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard. (Prairie Sky Gondola)

A proposal to build a gondola over the North Saskatchewan River hangs on city council, now that city administration has decided the project should move to the next level. 

City council should approve a framework agreement with Prairie Sky Gondola Inc., the company pitching to the gondola from downtown to Whyte Avenue, a report released Thursday says. 

The company plans to pay for, build and operate the gondola, which the city has deemed technically viable. 

Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson, president and CEO of Prairie Sky, said he's elated the city supports moving to a detailed design phase and formulating a framework agreement. 

"That really highlights how important the work we've done with administration over the past year has been," Hansen-Carlson said in a phone interview Thursday. "We're prepared to really get to work."

The report goes in front of council's urban planning committee next Tuesday and requires approval from council to move forward. 

Hansen-Carlson he's looking forward to engaging with the public and Indigenous groups. 

"We can finally go to the public in a true and formal way," he said, with, " 'this is our initial vision, how can we make it better?" 

The company will consult other groups like the Old Strathcona Business Association, the Downtown Business Association, the Rossdale community league, Métis Nation of Alberta and Enoch Cree Nation.  

Prairie Sky pitched the project after the idea won the Edmonton Project contest in early 2018. 

The path of the gondola would span five stations: Downtown, Ortona Armoury station, Rossdale power plant station, End of Steel Station, and Whyte Avenue. 

The company estimates it will cost up to $155 million to build. 

The city predicts spinoffs from the project could generate from $101 million to $119 million, providing 780 and 920 jobs over the course of construction. 

Prairie Sky Gondola estimates the project will employ the equivalent of 80 full-time positions during normal operations. 

"The city's going to make money here," Hansen-Carlson said. "The economic opportunities for Edmontonians is becoming very clear." 

No cost to city

Coun. Ben Henderson supports the project, emphasizing that there's no cost to the city, instead, suggests there are many benefits for the city in creating a link from downtown to the Rossdale power plant and beyond. 

"I think that's the way we need to realize and think about this — it's a business that wants to open in our city and needs some permits from us in order to make it happen," Henderson said.

Henderson noted that the city can write lease agreements to protect the city from risk. 

The next step includes entering into land agreements. The framework recommends the city lease the land to Prairie Sky and provide access for tower locations and a ropeline.

The city suggests it could generate approximately $1.2 million a year through leasing the land.

Hansen-Carlson said he believes if the company is permitted to start an honest engagement process, the project will move ahead.

"I'm very optimistic we'll get to the final finish line and put a shovel in the ground." 

@natashariebe

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