Two Sites Dedicated To The Downtown Arena

Jonathan Willis
August 06 2010 07:30AM

With the downtown arena issue a hot-button topic in Edmonton and especially for fans of the Edmonton Oilers, it isn’t surprising to see websites cropping up specifically dedicated to advocating for or against the downtown arena.

First off, I probably should point out that OilersNation is undoubtedly going to continue talking about the arena issue. We’ve all chimed in at various points, and I’m delighted to pass on a chronological list of those articles:

There may be more (surely there’s at least one of Wanye’s photo-shop articles I’ve missed), but that’s what a quick look through our search bar provides. In any case, onward!

 

Pro Arena: #yegarena

 

I first came across #yegarena after the Oilers mentioned it in their official Twitter feed. It’s registered to Paul Poulsen, a guy involved in more websites than I am, and a fervent supporter of the proposed downtown arena. He’s previously written articles in support of the arena and often discussed the issue on his blog and in his Twitter feed.

As for the website itself, it’s nicely designed with an attractive layout, and despite being less than a week old it already has three articles, all with an upbeat/inspirational tone to them.

Aside from the articles, Poulsen’s biography, and a contact form, the website also has two other main sections:

  • Why downtown? which lays out the case for an arena district in the heart of Edmonton.
  • How Can I Help? which encourages writing letters and e-mails in support of the arena and provides contact information for city councillors, MLA’s, MP’s, the Premier, the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun. The page also advocates supporters of the arena to copy those letters to the Katz Group and provides contact information for them as well.

The site’s still young and we’ll see how it develops, but so far the three articles have focused on how the arena can be a win for both Katz and the City of Edmonton, encouraged correspondence with decision makers, and stressed that the arena is simply one part of the downtown renewal proposed by Katz & Co.

 

Anti Arena: Why Downtown?

 

Why Downtown? Is a few months older than #yegarena, and I came across it when a link was posted to it on Battle of Alberta. The site is written by BofA blogger Andy Grabia, who has been writing about the proposed new arena for nearly four years and has been highly sceptical of information provided by the Katz group and whether a new arena is in the best interests of the city. Grabia also has a Twitter account and has written about Edmonton-area issues on his blog.

The website makes it clear in its introductory post that it is both pro-Edmonton and pro-downtown, but that it opposes the arena project “as currently proposed” for a variety of reasons.

The bent of the writing is different than at #yegarena; where the former takes an inspirational tone, Grabia’s site gets into details – citing case studies and parsing statements made by both the public policy makers and people associated with Katz and the Oilers.

Aside from the articles, Grabia’s biography and a contact form, the website also has three other main sections:

  • Resources links to fact sheets, some created by Grabia but the majority independent of him and all relevant to the arena project.
  • Glossary, which passes on links to some of more humorous statements made by advocates of a downtown arena.
  • What Can I Do? provides contact information for the mayor, city councillors and MLA’s. Two items in particular separate it from the similar section at #yegarena – first, the contacts are fewer in number, and second that Grabia doesn’t bother to push a particular point of view on this page but rather highlights the need for democratic involvement (“Wherever you stand on the arena issue, we encourage you to get involved in your democracy, and let your elected representatives know how you feel.”)

The site is also still rather young, and Grabia has indicated that other writers will be joining so it remains to be seen how it develops. To date, however, an emphasis has been placed on rational evaluation and evidenced-based decision making.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 madjam
August 06 2010, 08:06AM
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Arena built just off A.Henday Roadway might be intriguing . Say South Common area that has many free standing businesses already . Close to airport as well . Could also handle private vehicles , etc , rather than just public transportation . Fast and accessable for all around the city . Another area just off Henday might be around W. Edmonton Mall area as a secondary location . I think using the Henday is best option .

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#2 Librarian Mike
August 06 2010, 08:14AM
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*text sent to Daryl Katz's cellphone*

"Northlands isn't going anywhere!"

Seriously though, I don't necessarily have a problem with a new arena downtown (or wherever). I do however feel that if Katz stands to rake in all the profits, then he should pay for it.

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#3 offside
August 06 2010, 08:41AM
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My guess is that the downtown arena is already a done deal; everything now is just smoke and mirrors so that Mandel and Katz can come out of this in a positive way. Kind of like how the property tax increase was supposed to be 10% but they knocked it down to 5% with some savings (not sure if these are the exact numbers but it went down something like this). Now Mandel looks like a hero for cutting the tax increase in half. This is exactly what is going down with the arena.

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#4 Ducey
August 06 2010, 09:09AM
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Unless Koziak and his platform of anti-arena, increase muni passangers, anti LRT, "car Centric", Chateau Louis is the centre of the universe, wins, the arena will go ahead.

The thing that amazes me is that Edmontonians continue to talk about whehter they can/ should pay for it. If we would just get our sh*t together, we likely could get the province and feds to fund most of it.

The feds and province fund most of our LRT and road construction, add into community centers, playgrounds etc, but civic politicians have not realized they likely could probably easily achive a model that would involve $100 million from each level of government.

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#5 Lord Bob
August 06 2010, 09:17AM
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Ducey wrote:

Unless Koziak and his platform of anti-arena, increase muni passangers, anti LRT, "car Centric", Chateau Louis is the centre of the universe, wins, the arena will go ahead.

The thing that amazes me is that Edmontonians continue to talk about whehter they can/ should pay for it. If we would just get our sh*t together, we likely could get the province and feds to fund most of it.

The feds and province fund most of our LRT and road construction, add into community centers, playgrounds etc, but civic politicians have not realized they likely could probably easily achive a model that would involve $100 million from each level of government.

If provincial or federal governments are paying for the arena, you're still paying for it. Except that you're also getting a bunch of people who will never see it to pay for it too. I'm not sure how that's better.

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#6 Senator Theo
August 06 2010, 10:15AM
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Librarian Mike wrote:

*text sent to Daryl Katz's cellphone*

"Northlands isn't going anywhere!"

Seriously though, I don't necessarily have a problem with a new arena downtown (or wherever). I do however feel that if Katz stands to rake in all the profits, then he should pay for it.

No one person or business stands to "rake in all the profits" from a project on this scale - the city as a whole and many other businesses will benefit from involvement.

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#7 Chris.
August 06 2010, 10:58AM
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@Librarian Mike

Or maybe Katz should be a good sport and without question or complaint eat all the loses just so Edmontonians can enjoy a world class facility.

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#8 Ducey
August 06 2010, 11:31AM
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@Lord Bob

If provincial or federal governments are paying for the arena, you're still paying for it. Except that you're also getting a bunch of people who will never see it to pay for it too. I'm not sure how that's better.

We pay for projects all over the country and the province that we will never use. $100 million is $3 a Canadian (not including all the corpoarate taxes) or a few petro bucks.

I don't see any harm in us asking for a few tax dollars every once and a while. Calgary and the rest of the country have no problem using them.

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#9 spOILer
August 06 2010, 11:53AM
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The problem is, Calgary is watching this situation very closely (and maybe other muicipalities are to).

Calgary knows they fracked up the S-Dome with that roof and they know they need a new arena ASAP, despite the fact theirs is something like 17 years younger.

If the province and feds kick in for the Oil, then Calgarians will leverage that into payouts for them too. And other cities will jump into the line.

@Ducey...

$3 per Canadian at the fed level from a fed government that can't balance the budget and is running up their "VISA" bill. (and this is accounting for the $s Calgary will get and the optics in the rest of the country)

Do you propose an increase in taxes? A bigger defecit?

That also works out to $33 per Albertan, from a provincial government that is depleting its trust fund to make ends meet. (and again not counting Calgary).

So... increase taxes? Bigger defecits? Or continue to deplete the worst handled oil trust in the world?

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#10 spOILer
August 06 2010, 11:55AM
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(and this is accounting for the $s Calgary will get and the optics in the rest of the country)

this isn't, dammit, isn't.

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#11 tigrr07
August 06 2010, 12:15PM
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Using the Henday would be a great idea, but not South Common. The traffic there is already horrendous. IMO, a good site that is not Downtown is North of Clarewiew LRT station. Pros 1 - Lots of Land available 2 - Henday will be completed by there by the time arena will be completed 3 - Easy enough to extend the LRT north a few km's to connect the new arena with our current LRT route. 4 - This location will be easy access for all of Edmonton, Sherwood Park and even the Fort.

Thoughts?

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#12 Lord Bob
August 06 2010, 12:28PM
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This is neither the time nor the place to get into a discussion of libertarianism, but suffice to say that I would reject "but -he- gets to do it!" as a compelling moral argument. So would your mother, probably.

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#13 Arby
August 06 2010, 12:48PM
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Lord Bob wrote:

This is neither the time nor the place to get into a discussion of libertarianism, but suffice to say that I would reject "but -he- gets to do it!" as a compelling moral argument. So would your mother, probably.

HAHAHA

Translation:

"Yo Mama!!"

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#14 Devon
August 06 2010, 12:52PM
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I know they want it downtown but wouldn't having it out on the Heneday make more sense? By the time the arena is near completetion so will the Heneday. There's lots of open space on it and since the Heneday will go around the city. Easy access for everyone. Meanwhile if you put it downtown where do you put it? Where do you put the parking. And make it so it's not a nightmare of a spot to get in and out of every game. I get it that having it there will make it so no is complaining it's to far for me to go. Where as having it somewhere on the Heneday someone will be growling that it's to far for me to go from where I am to there and back. If they can find a place to put it downtown to have ample parking and a good way to get everyone out quickly and easily then it'll be great. If not it could be an chaotic situation on opening night for anyone brave enough to drive to and from the game.

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#15 VMR
August 06 2010, 01:15PM
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The Henday idea would be a tough sell. A downtown arena makes sense as a centrepiece for a revitalized downtown like Columbus or LA, heck even the Saddledome in Calgary has more surrounding activity.

If we stick an arena out in the wilderness then it becomes a big box sitting in a field that people only go to for hockey and concerts. It'll be harder to get private or public investment into such a deal.

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#16 Ducey
August 06 2010, 01:18PM
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Have you been downtown? There are like 15 ways to get in and out. There is an LRT and there easily 10,000 parking spots already. There are hotels and bars and shopping all of which will be enhanced. Add in the fact that many people who work downtown will just stay downtown and transportation will not be a problem.

On the Henday there would be two exits. You would just be creating South Edmonton Common II.

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#17 spOILer
August 06 2010, 01:35PM
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@Lord Bob

Lord Bob said...

This is neither the time nor the place to get into a discussion of libertarianism, but suffice to say that I would reject "but -he- gets to do it!" as a compelling moral argument. So would your mother, probably.

It isn't? Geez, LB, I was hoping we'd go there (but with a little less Rand and a little more Mises).

This arena thing seems mostly a fait accompli anyway. Most fans seem to be for the shiny bauble. The arguing appears to be more about where than how.

As far as *where* goes, downtown seems as good a place as any, but I'd like to leave the location up to Katz and his financiers.

Hey, maybe the ATB could give him one of those fancy loans Gainers & Pocklington got.

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#18 Crackenbury
August 06 2010, 01:38PM
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I laugh whenever I hear people talk about the traffic and parking problems a downtown arena would cause.

How many people commute to work and park everyday in the downtown core? Doesn't seem to be a problem for them. I worked downtown for years. The volume of people in and out every day can't be any less that what an evening hockey game would be. Plus you would have LRT directly into an underground connection to the arena. Downtown is the only way to go. It serves every area of the city equally.

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#19 stinky fingers
August 06 2010, 01:48PM
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I have no problem at all with a downtown arena. The Katz group can design and build it anywhere they can get zoning approval for it.

I do have a problem with a private business getting almost complete control for something that would be paid for mainly by public funds.

If the Katz group pays one third the total cost of the development, it's fair that they get a third of the generated income.

Edmonton won't ever be put on a map because of it's downtown arena or NHL team. Quebec City, Winnipeg, Hartford and Minneapolis weren't suddenly second grade cities when they lost their franchises.

No corporate welfare please. We all pay as we go, rich or poor.

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#20 Kracka
August 06 2010, 02:10PM
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One of many reasons we need the Downtown arena. The boom that Edmonton had, brought people in from all parts of Canada for the work. Which was great these people purchased houses put their kids in school etc... Now that things have slowed down the true colors of Edmonton (better known as Deadmonton) these people will slowly leave because Edmonton offers very little (if your not into art) for people to do and this makes life boring. These people will start going back home and leaving all these properties empty and for sale (one example) and that does effect everyone if you like it or not. As a city when you have transit people come in one of your goals should be to keep them and their business here and the city has never done this. So lets hope OIL projects and prices come back fast because if not you will see this place get uglier then the Rexall Arena is now.

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#21 Doogie2K
August 06 2010, 02:12PM
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@spOILer

I'm not sure I agree that the Saddledome is "fracked up" because of the roof: it's architecturally distinct, and it's more than large enough for a modern NHL team. It also hasn't stopped hundreds of high-profile concerts from playing there, despite the odd acoustics the roof presents. It's a well-maintained facility, and there's no good reason it can't carry on for another 30 years.

Also, the Saddledome (1983) is only nine years younger than Northlands (1974).

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#22 Cowbell_Feva
August 06 2010, 02:30PM
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Katz has put up an additional $200 million to help pay for the new arena, on top of what he already invested to purchase the team originally which was $188 million.

Not exactly anyone can ante up $388 million for one thing. Now even if you could, would you? There is no guarantee that he is going to be making money if the team doesn't play well. I know he's not going to go broke over it seeing as he's a billionaire, but the fact is that he loves the Oilers and loves the city. Pronger, Hossa,and Souray couldn't say the same thing.

Furthermore, they are in an old dump in the trashiest part of the city, and this whole project really would help revitalize the downtown area.

To me its win,win,win, however the city doesn't want to help out. But building an $88 million dollar art gallery was OK!

I wonder which would attract more people downtown? A state-of-the-art arena/casino/restaurant,etc.etc. that would be home to the city's beloved Oilers or a state-of-the-art, art gallery??

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#23 Ball Buster
August 06 2010, 02:45PM
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@Doogie2K

Actually, the Saddledome is well known to have to pass up concerts that can play in Rexall just fine - the roof IS an issue - just ask any Calgarian.

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#24 offside
August 06 2010, 03:08PM
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@Crackenbury

exactly - there are probably close to 100,000 people working in the downtown area or accessing downtown throughout the day for various reasons, I don't see 18,000 people coming downtown at 7pm to cause many issues. Plus, a lot of them will already be downtown, now they'll just hang out at a restaurant or bar for an hour or so before heading to the game, thus reducing traffic during peak times.

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#25 Senator Theo
August 06 2010, 03:15PM
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@offside

Not to mention putting $$$ in the pockets of local pub owners, servers and convenience stores.

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#26 TigerUnderGlass
August 06 2010, 03:55PM
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Doogie2K wrote:

I'm not sure I agree that the Saddledome is "fracked up" because of the roof: it's architecturally distinct, and it's more than large enough for a modern NHL team. It also hasn't stopped hundreds of high-profile concerts from playing there, despite the odd acoustics the roof presents. It's a well-maintained facility, and there's no good reason it can't carry on for another 30 years.

Also, the Saddledome (1983) is only nine years younger than Northlands (1974).

Like Ball Buster said, the saddledome roof is a huge problem.

A minimum of 4-5 major events pass Calgary up annually because of it.

The problem isn't the acoustics, the problem is that it structurally cannot support many of the rigs being used today which are mounted to the ceiling.

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#27 KenL
August 06 2010, 04:06PM
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Ducey wrote:

Unless Koziak and his platform of anti-arena, increase muni passangers, anti LRT, "car Centric", Chateau Louis is the centre of the universe, wins, the arena will go ahead.

The thing that amazes me is that Edmontonians continue to talk about whehter they can/ should pay for it. If we would just get our sh*t together, we likely could get the province and feds to fund most of it.

The feds and province fund most of our LRT and road construction, add into community centers, playgrounds etc, but civic politicians have not realized they likely could probably easily achive a model that would involve $100 million from each level of government.

I met Koziak during a Mayoral forum at the last election. I thought he was a flake then, and his latest platform confirms he still is a flake.

I can see being anti-arena as an easy way to grab votes. But anti LRT? That's like being against apple pie.

I've had this thought. From a general perspective the airport debate and arena debates are exactly the same. That is, if you look at the arguments against the arena, and the argument for keeping the airport.

Argument against arena: Taxpayer money is wasted on overpaid hockey players for a facility used by a privileged few who could afford it.

Argument FOR the City Airport: Taxpayer money is wasted on overpaid politicians and business execs for a facility used by a priviliged few who can afford private flights.

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#28 spOILer
August 06 2010, 04:15PM
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@Doogie:

Yeah for some reason I was thinking 1988 for the Saddledome.

I live in the Calgary area and I can assure you there is a lot of talk about getting a new arena when the existing lease expires in 2014. Don't know if the roof is the primary concern, but it certainly is a concern. They are very closely watching the Edmonton arena issue and will most certainly be asking for similar treatment from the province and the feds if they get involved. They will also be asking their City Council for favorable treatment if Katz gets such from his.

And then there's the matter of cost overruns. Does anyone remember that issue with the Saddledome? Does anyone remember who picked up the tab?

Project was initially estimated at $60M and came in at $97M. That's a massive overrun and the taxpayer was on the hook for a big chunk of it.

So when we bandy around numbers like $300M for this project now, think in reality that means something like $500M when all is said and done. And someone is going to have to pick up that tab. And I assure you, it won't be Ethan Moreau.

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#29 TigerUnderGlass
August 06 2010, 04:34PM
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spOILer wrote:

@Doogie:

Yeah for some reason I was thinking 1988 for the Saddledome.

I live in the Calgary area and I can assure you there is a lot of talk about getting a new arena when the existing lease expires in 2014. Don't know if the roof is the primary concern, but it certainly is a concern. They are very closely watching the Edmonton arena issue and will most certainly be asking for similar treatment from the province and the feds if they get involved. They will also be asking their City Council for favorable treatment if Katz gets such from his.

And then there's the matter of cost overruns. Does anyone remember that issue with the Saddledome? Does anyone remember who picked up the tab?

Project was initially estimated at $60M and came in at $97M. That's a massive overrun and the taxpayer was on the hook for a big chunk of it.

So when we bandy around numbers like $300M for this project now, think in reality that means something like $500M when all is said and done. And someone is going to have to pick up that tab. And I assure you, it won't be Ethan Moreau.

Agreed. The roof is not THE concern, but it is an important one.

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#30 ubermiguel
August 06 2010, 04:56PM
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offside wrote:

exactly - there are probably close to 100,000 people working in the downtown area or accessing downtown throughout the day for various reasons, I don't see 18,000 people coming downtown at 7pm to cause many issues. Plus, a lot of them will already be downtown, now they'll just hang out at a restaurant or bar for an hour or so before heading to the game, thus reducing traffic during peak times.

Exactly, downtown you have thousands of parking spaces that go unused in the evenings and weekends.

I've only ever been to two other NHL rinks (Calgary and Montreal) but they both handled the in/out-flux of people just fine. The key is a train system that's better designed to handle people than Edmonton's train system. Rexall has that God-awful bottle-neck to get to the LRT.

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#31 @NateInVegas
August 06 2010, 05:12PM
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Who owns Northlands?

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#32 Crackenbury
August 06 2010, 07:57PM
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Some guys have already mentioned the convenience of restaurants and bars downtown. I for one would love an alternative to the crap Dominion Food Services pushes as food during a game. Even the suite food has deteriorated over the years. A few years ago they went to the trouble of replacing all of their serving platters to a much smaller version while maintaining or increasing their pricing.

A good restaurant within walking distance of a downtown arena will do a booming business. Just look at Coliseum Steak and Pizza. An okay restaurant that's packed every Oiler game.

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#33 Bryzarro World
August 06 2010, 08:01PM
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To anyone who thinks that an arena should go on the outskirts of the city (Anthony Henday).... Go play in traffic. We have a wonderful opportunity to revitalize the DT area which needs it badly. Build the Damn thing there!! Enough with the stupid talk. Blah Blah... I can't find parking... Blah Blah... I can't get out of the DT area.... Lol... stupid excuses for lazy ppl. PARK AND WALK!! Get some freaking exersise!!

I have been to many games in toronto and guess what... People there walk a bit... People take transit... All the people crying and making excuses of why not to build in the DT core are mainly a bunch of fat asses that will never use the facility anyway. They probably have never been DT cause there are many, many ways to get in and out of the area.

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#34 russ99
August 07 2010, 11:09AM
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This should be a pretty simple deal.

Katz Group gets funding from the city/province and in return gives back a certain percentage off the net until bonds are retired. The city then would get a smaller cut after bonds are retired.

This is the way other cities do this kind of deal.

What won't happen is Northlands figuring into the management of the arena. I know they have a lot of pull in the area, but this is a business deal and nobody gets concessions/profits for free without putting anything into the deal.

If the city decides to use a part of their cut to fund Northlands, so be it, but to just hand them a profitable venture out of "the public trust" is nonsense.

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#35 Realist
August 07 2010, 05:58PM
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"No one person or business stands to "rake in all the profits" from a project on this scale - the city as a whole and many other businesses will benefit from involvement."

Citation, please.

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#36 Realist
August 07 2010, 05:59PM
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"I don't see any harm in us asking for a few tax dollars every once and a while. Calgary and the rest of the country have no problem using them."

In that case, you can pay my share. I'm sure you won't mind.

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#37 Realist
August 07 2010, 06:10PM
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"There are hotels and bars and shopping all of which will be enhanced. Add in the fact that many people who work downtown will just stay downtown and transportation will not be a problem."

"...this whole project really would help revitalize the downtown area...."

:...Not to mention putting $$$ in the pockets of local pub owners, servers and convenience stores...."

Citations needed.

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#38 @NateInVegas
August 07 2010, 08:20PM
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Use the vacant Rexall area to house the idigents pushed out of the revitalized downtown.

Who gets taxed?

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#39 madjam
August 08 2010, 05:22PM
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I live just off the Henday and frequent downtown , Spruce Grove and Ft. Saskatchewan often . Even unfinished it takes me less than 1/2 an hour to reach each place . Going downtown i find the worst traffic wise , etc.. Mother in law lives downtown and finding a space downtown at any time can be a problem . Going downtown can be an adventure taking anywhere from 25 minutes to an average closer to 35 - 40 mintes in any peak times .

The reasons malls went up was because the business communities realized the consumers preferred to do business outside the downtown core .

South Common area needs very little adjustment to accommodate extra flow traffic having parking available on both sides to boot . Biggest advantage is the closeness to airport and Henday access .

No doubt being downtown has advantage to business downtown , but for the entire city it might be even more advantageous to city coppers to have it at South Common with new businsses likely to domino from that location . Maybe a diversified number of new businesses popping up to take advantage of it , rather than a few downtown within limited space . More jobs perhaps might also be envisioned ?

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