Office tower proposal misses the view.
The City of Edmonton, Canada is looking at proposals to consolidate their staff into one building downtown. one of the proposals to provide this space is detailed in an excellent article from a writer at the Edmonton Journal. My comment isn’t with the article, but rather the missed opportunity to use this unique site to create a world class live-work tower. As there is a lot of background material to explain this I have included links throughout my post, so those that would like to learn more can, while not turning this into a book.
A live-work tower is one that combines retail, office and residential into one structure. This form of development such as the Shaw Tower, or The Hudson in Vancouver, Canada, have major benefits for the municipality, business, and residents. I’ll use the Shaw Tower for my example as it’s design would be an excellent basis for this site in Edmonton. The Shaw tower is 42 stories of which the first 16 are office, while the next 24 are residential. So the Edmonton tower could be 24 floors office and 16 residential as one option.
This location is uniquely suited, with view, easy walk to most downtown office towers, close to Edmonton’s existing LRT line’s main central station, and the proposed Southeast-Downtown-West Edmonton line proposed to start construction in 2014. It sits at the south edge of Edmonton’s Arts district with the Citadel Theatre, Francis Winspear Centre for Music, Royal Alberta Art Gallery, and the new Royal Alberta Museum under construction, all of which are located straight north along 99 St, with under 1 km from this site. The Shaw Confrence Center is located immediately east, and the proposed new Arena for hockey and concerts would be about a 1 km walk from this location. Edmonton’s major downtown mall is a short walk minutes away.
The river valley is just steps away, for year around recreation. As for the offices in relation to city hall, less than a 5 minute walk year around, if the need for face to face meetings is needed. When meetings are needed with the Provincial Government, it’s a short 7 minute LRT trip with a short walk on each end.
Why live work towers are the way of the future for major cites. They reduce the demand for infrastructure. As the peak usage times for residential demands on power, water and sewage and other services are offset from business hours. So those expensive high capacity power, water, sewer lines have a demand that more efficiently utilizes existing infrastructure. The pedestrian traffic around a live work tower isn’t the 08:00 – 18:00 demands of a traditional office tower. The residential traffic periods would maximize on weekdays from 06:00 – 10:00, and again from 16:00 to 01:00 with weekends being steady throughout the day and evening. This helps keep crime down, as there is constant traffic on the street. Restaurants cafes, coffee shops that currently serve the offices in the area, as well as the entertainment traffic, would gain a steady balancing traffic though out the day and evening. This combined with proposed towers added to the Citadel Theatre and Winspear Centre, and the developments to the east in Edmonton’s Quarters developments would add the live the city has worked hard to develop downtown. Many towers end up with compromised views in the years after construction. This location would have the east and south, and southwest for many years, overlooking the river valley. The Fairmont McDonald Hotel next door offers vies such as this from Rooms with Great Views. The west view from the northeast corner of the site, would allow a view down Jasper Avenue, Edmonton’s central street, which is being redeveloped to a pedestrian friendly boulevard. This site has the opportunity to meet and exceed the goals set in Edmonton’s Strategic plan. Properly done it could meet goals stated in Edmonton’s City Vision, The Way We Grow, The Way We Green, The Way We Live, as well as becoming a valuable long term asset for the developer.
In short, this development is missing a major opportunity to truly become a defining development in Edmonton’s downtown. I hope that upon review they take the bold step and lead the way, with an integrated proposal that leads rather than just fills a need. The tower the City of Edmonton is looking for must meet more, than the provision of office space. It must be a bold step in leading the way forward in how Edmonton meets the environmental challenges of the future as an emerging world class city. The world is going to demand that Edmonton show leadership, or be relegated to just another place to hew resources, but not to truly prosper. It will be interesting to see what develops on this corner. Also I must give credit to Jane Jacob’s book The Death and Life of Great American Cities for making me consider how a city should develop.