Out of scale. Out of sync. Out of line.
The title of this post was carefully chosen to reflect my strong disapproval of the Alldritt tower proposal. Quite frankly, I feel that it is out of scale with the river valley and out of sync with the Quarters' ARP. Additionally, I felt that the decision-making process was out of line with, what I consider to be, good governance. To further clarify my stance on the proposal, I've included my closing comments from yesterday's Public Hearing, below:
With all due respect to everyone involved in the Alldritt Tower proposal, I offer these remarks describing why I don’t support this application.
Firstly, I would like to give a nod to Mr. Kennedy for this very creative and architecturally interesting design.
At first, I was very open to this project. As many know, I am a believer in densification, a supporter of creativity, and grateful for investment in our downtown.
But I have many concerns with this proposal:
1. At the location it is proposed, the tower proposal is wildly out of scale with the river valley. There is little to no meaningful integration with its surroundings. Neither is there a planned connection or access point to the river valley.
2. I have lingering geotechnical concerns that have not been sufficiently addressed. These concerns could have a potential effect on the construction costs and change the economics of the project. They could also alter the design, the use of the land, and ultimately the configuration of the “park”. Whether the project does or doesn’t proceed, we won't understand the economic implications on the land in the vicinity and across the rest of the Quarters ARP area. We have not done this research and have no evidence to support this as a catalyst project.
3. The approach to reopening the Quarters’ plan (with a project of this scale) does not reach out to the countless number of people who participated in the plan. To make things worse, the plan is barely a decade old and this application process did not operate in the spirit of our new approach to public engagement. It was an approach that was recently celebrated by councillors and citizens, alike.
4. The jagged terrain between the land sale and the rezoning created a lack of clarity around the precise meaning of public access. And this is only to be determined after the rezoning is approved.
Yesterday, the Mayor and a few Councillors attended the Edmonton Prayer Breakfast, where they wished upon us the ability to make decisions after wise discernment.
Since the Executive Committee was asked to approve the expropriation of the land, to build the Urban Balcony as part of the Quarters Plan implementation, there has been little wise discernment.
We shifted from that discussion to a hasty in-private debate aimed at getting to yes on this project - to honour this proposal and the legacy of the proponent. While the proponents legacy is commendable, it should not be the motivating factor in making a critical decision about a project of this scale. I think we need to be more concerned with the legacy and the future of this community and this part of Edmonton.
The wisest discernment I’ve experienced related to this project took place in the public hearing over the past few days, which tells me we approached both the land sale and the rezoning in the wrong way.
Ultimately it is the lack of transparency, the lack of careful and wise discernment, and the lack of interest in the messy uncomfortable conversations with a range of citizens about a proposal of this scale and audacity – that troubles me the most.
This project is certainly a powerful architectural idea. And while extremely interesting, it lords over the river valley rather than being designed in unison with it.
So, I ask us to get back on track. I think what is actually bold is to stay the course and to redevelop the historic Quarters area. This is a great plan. While it may be sluggish - it is far from flat-lined.
Let us refocus on this plan, one that truly gives a lift to a historic but bruised part of our city and to the bruised and resilient people who live there. This plan doesn’t dominate the river valley, rather it sees it as its strength.
We need to get back on track and build the urban balcony, which the beautiful mix of people, who live in this part of town and originally envisioned through the Quarters Plan.
I will vote no to this tower today.