Project that spurred now-in limbo gondola idea could come back: founders

·3 min read
The original Edmonton Project competition in 2018 generated 330 submissions.   (John Robertson/CBC - image credit)
The original Edmonton Project competition in 2018 generated 330 submissions. (John Robertson/CBC - image credit)

A competition that led to the proposal to build a gondola over the North Saskatchewan River — The Edmonton Project — could make its way back into the Edmonton spotlight this fall.

Monday evening, Edmonton city council agreed not to endorse a land deal between the city and Prairie Sky Gondola, essentially putting the project in limbo.

Some residents opposed to the project said a gondola station at the Rossdale power plant would disrupt Indigenous burial grounds. Several councillors cited the same concerns.

Prairie Sky had been working on the project for four years and was ready to pay more than $1.1 million a year to lease land where five stations and 20 towers would support the ropeway, linking downtown and Old Strathcona.

"Maybe it's time The Edmonton Project is revived," Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson, president and CEO of Prairie Sky Gondola said in a statement Monday night.

"This city needs more big ideas for people to believe in and more empowered city builders daring to do them."

The Edmonton Project was a competition launched in 2018 from a collaboration of five companies looking to generate a landmark idea for the city.

Aziz Bootwala, a senior partner with Kasian Architecture and co-founder of the competition, said he thought the winning submission could become a landmark legacy for Canada's 150th birthday.

"We started talking about it and built a team around us," Bootwala recalled in an interview Tuesday. "It just kind of grew from there and evolved into something a lot bigger than what I had imagined."

Bootwala supports the move for another version of the Edmonton Project.

"Edmonton is a very creative city," he said. "If somebody's going to take it on, I think it's definitely going to generate more ideas and it would be great for the city."

Previous winners hope Edmonton Project continues

Of ten final submissions in 2018, Gary and Amber Poliquin won the competition with the gondola concept.

The couple said they were sad that council quashed the gondola project, noting that they function as mass transit vehicles in many countries.

"People just jump on a gondola like they would jump on a bus," Amber said. "Out of all the proposals, ours had the potential to help or touch the most Edmontonians."

Amber said she hopes the tradition of Edmonton Project continues, and that people aren't dissuaded from suggesting new things.

"We are risk takers, we are inventors, and there's a lot of cool things that have come out of Edmonton, so this is just the beginning," she said.

Alyson Hodson, president and CEO of Zag Creative and another co-founder of the Edmonton Project, said the group will be discussing next steps for version 2.0.

Hodson said the first Edmonton Project inspired people who want to see the city flourish.

"It will live on to be a movement of people that want to make a difference," Hodson said in an email Tuesday. "Anyone can be involved in making a difference. This was the spirit of the project."

The final submissions four years ago included a food ferris wheel, an all-glass panel globe as an urban destination, and saunas in the river valley.

Bootwala suggested for the next round, the ideas should be less lofty, and possibly in an area or plot designated by the city itself.

"If it was a smaller project, a smaller dollar value, a smaller land requirement, the prospect of success would be much higher," Bootwala said.

It's important to ensure residents are on board before moving ahead with a proposal, he said, especially anything pitched for a sensitive area like the River Valley.