Exhibition Lands plan moves ahead without Northlands Coliseum demolition date

The City of Edmonton is paving the way for some 150 acres of land in the city's northeast to be developed after council's urban planning committee approved a new framework Tuesday.  

The Exhibition Lands framework, outlined in a report, allows for housing and commercial and retail development that would accommodate about 8,500 residents in some 3,500 units. 

It includes a new LRT station on 115th Avenue south of the Expo Centre, relocating the Coliseum LRT station slightly north "to improve access and spark private development on the northern portion of the site," the report says. 

The city plans to transform Wayne Gretzky Drive from an arterial road to an urban boulevard and build a crossing at 120 Avenue across the LRT tracks and Wayne Gretzky Drive. 

The land includes the Coliseum, Borden Park, Northlands Park casino and track, the Coliseum LRT station and the Edmonton Expo Centre.   Mayor Don Iveson said it's an exciting development. 

"It's not only a good real estate play but an opportunity for us to take better advantage of the  existing LRT line to do medium-density transit-oriented development on a site that's really underutilized today," Iveson said.

The majority of the land will be available for private development and the city will be responsible for zoning changes and other administrative work, the report shows. 

Coliseum will be demolished

Councillor for Ward 7, Tony Caterina, said the public consultation on the framework has been "exhaustive." 

The report includes feedback from public engagement sessions earlier this year, showing some people expressed overall displeasure with the area being redeveloped.

"These participants felt that the area should have been retained for city events, and that the existing Northlands facilities and the Coliseum should have been retained," the report says. 

Caterina confirmed the city plans to demolish Northlands Coliseum, the old home of the Oilers. But it's still not known exactly when that will be.

"The building is coming down, yes," Caterina told media Tuesday. "When that's going to happen we have to have that discussion."

Several concepts were submitted to the city over the years to save the asbestos-ridden Coliseum. 

Iveson said he wanted the building torn down in March 2018, when the city withdrew from a deal with the Katz Group. 

"You will recall that I thought we should demolish the building immediately and that we were wasting money by continuing to pay to secure it," Iveson said. "And so I lost that fight. I still think we should clear the site and move on with it."

Securing and monitoring the building is estimated to cost $1.5 million a year.

Iveson said it may be more cost-efficient to sell the land and have a developer demolish the building. 

The city will also have to decide what to do with the casino and racetrack on the site. Redeveloping the Exhibition Lands is expected to take 25 to 30 years. 

The city will hold a public hearing early next year on the Exhibition Lands framework.