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Thursday, July 09, 2009

phased closure of edmonton's city centre airport a smart step.

I am very pleased that Edmonton City Council decided to support the phased closure of the City Centre Airport. Yesterday's 10 to 3 vote (with Councillors Tony Caterina, Ron Hayter, and Linda Sloan being the three) puts an end to this portion of a debate that started long before the 1995 City-wide plebiscite on scheduled service.

I am proud of our City Council. They made a courageous decision and have taken up the challenge of implementing some (literally) ground-shifting positive change to how urban Edmonton will develop over the next twenty years. Mack Male was in Council Chambers yesterday and has written a good recap of the vote, amendments, and what the result means for the ECCA and our City. While Councillors stopped short of attaching actual dates to the closure, which may leave some people remaining skeptical about the decision, Mayor Stephen Mandel insisted that the motion was a clear decision to close to ECCA.

The group of Edmontonians supporting the closure were diverse, but it was likely one of the first times that social media has played a prominent role in such an important municipal decision as this. While it is impossible to know what decision Councillors would have made under different circumstances, (which was launched masterfully by Mack Male), twitter (see: #ecca), a large Facebook presence, and a very active group of young Edmontonian bloggers proved that the organic nature of social media can translate into a very powerful advocacy tool. I look forward to seeing more of this kind of grassroots advocacy on future municipal issues (I'm looking at you, Better Edmonton...)

One of the main groups opposing the closure was the Alberta Enterprise Group. While I joked yesterday that this now puts the group at 0 for 2 (AEGs predecessor group, the Grassroots Leadership Group, bankrolled Mark Norris’ campaign for the PC leadership in 2006), I believe that this was a significant legitimizing exercise for the AEG. Although they seem to have a larger focus on provincial affairs, as suggested by their recent trade delegation to Switzerland (which included Premier Ed Stelmach), I doubt that this is the last we will see of this group. With a municipal election ahead in October 2010, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the AEG throw their financial support behind candidates in the Mayoral and some Councillor races.

Edmontonians and their Councillors will now be challenged to put a great of thought and reflection into what kind of communities we want to see realized on the ECCA lands in ten or twenty years from now. It’s hard for me not to get excited about the unique opportunity that the closure of the ECCA is giving Edmonton because it is extremely rare for any major metropolitan area to be given the challenge of developing such a large piece of land so close to the city core.

As I wrote in my letter to Councillors Ben Henderson and Jane Batty earlier this week, the land which the ECCA now sits on has incredible potential for increased smart residential and commercial development. These include the three smart growth strategies that Peter Newman spoke about when he was in Edmonton for last month’s ICLEI World Congress: Pedestrian Oriented Developments, Transit Oriented Developments, and Green Oriented Developments.

There is no reason why Edmontonians should settle for less than the best to be built on the ECCA lands. If developed with thought and foresight, new smart growth on the ECCA lands will bring us a step closer to realizing that there can be a better Edmonton.

Related Links:
- The Edmontonian: Interview with CBC Radio (with @journalistjeff and @mastermaq)
- fusedlogic The Great Edmonton Airport Debate
- Don Iveson: City Centre Airport: Leaning Towards Closure
- Alain Saffel: Should Edmonton close the Edmonton City Centre Airport?
- Darren Barefoot: Edmonton's Airport Debate
- Scott McKeen: Fifty years of airport rancour must end with decision to close it


Justin said...

Well said Dave.

Great to see so many young activists working for what they believe to be the best long-term outcome for the city. This bodes well for our future.

To relate back to your post yesterday, public policy debate somehow feels a lot more genuine absent all the partisan jousting and approved talking points.

Anonymous said...

What an indecisive council we have. Two clear options, and what do they do? they create option 1.5. How embarassing. You know what is going to come out of all of this? Absolutely nothing. After the next election this issue will come up again and the decision will change, perhaps we'll even get a pro-Airport mayor. Just wait until this issue really takes off.

For those who think this issue is done with, I feel sorry for you, almost as sorry as I feel for the councillors who actually feel they made a real decision. All they've done is show their cowardice. for shame.

There won't be any green or sustainable development happening as long as the city councils motto is "let's meet in the middle and piss everyone off".

What a disgrace.

My children will be dealing with this issue in 50 years. I'm finished with it.

Gordon Radey said...

Great post. It was time to shut down the Muni and leave it in the past. A phased closure is the smart way to shut it down. Let's look forward to the future now!

Anonymous said...

$100 dollars says this airport is never going anywhere.

any takers?

Anonymous said...

I'll take, but I say they get as far as building a strip mall, a small chunk of high-end townhouses and maybe a car dealership.
Either way we both lose.

Darren said...

I've asked this before but there doesn't seem to be a lot of info on the future of the Edmonton Indy in relation to the fate of the airport. Does this mean the Edmonton Indy is done?

AEG Fan said...

Thank you for acknowledging the work of the AEG. It was a learning experience for them and I think they did a good job.

Anonymous said...

You think AEG did a good job? They lost. Not only that, they got smoked. With respect, if I were Cal Nichols, I'd be thinking long and hard about spending any more money on GLG or AEG or whatever they re-incarnate themselves as next. Dave says they are 0 for 2, but their "trade missions" to Washington and Europe were, I'm reliably informed, badly organized.

Party of One said...

The problem with the "partial" closure is that the city has now limited the development opportunities in the new area.

You're NOT going to put residential buildings in such close proximity to the still operating runway, are you? And if you did, who would want to live there?

Take a look at the old railway lands north of 104th Ave. THAT's what you're going to get by the Muni...and I remember when they built Oliver Square, someone (Scott McKeen?) said "the most redeeming feature of this project is that it can be bulldozed to make room for some more worthwhile development".

One can only hope that the left-over airport comes to a quick end so that we don't end up with another industrial park that people have to commute to from the suburbs...

Anonymous said...

Scott McKeen: Fifty years of airport rancour must end with decision to close it ... in another fifty years.

Anonymous said...

I think you are all going to be shocked at how much business Edmonton is about to lose. That airport does not service a few people. It services northern alberta, northern bc, northern saskatchewan, the Yukon and the Territories. That's a lot of people that are going to fly the extra 45 to calgary instead of drive the extra 45 into the city. You may not agree but council has just given Calgary quite the boost.

Roman said...

Cities around the world - Singapore, Buenos Aires, Rio, Melbourne, Bangkok, even Vancouver - have airports a fair distance from the city centre. The Edmonton International is not unusual.

Anonymous said...

This is RIDICULOUS. There's no way the city centre airport should be closed.

Darryl Raymaker said...

I like the last anonymous. Edmontonians will regret having closed Edmonton Municipal Airport. Think Toronto Island, Chicago Midway, Milan's Linate, all in the center or near downtown. Even Heathrow, where you can get downtown in 20 minutes to Paddington Station. Think big Edmontonians. You are throwing away one of the great advantages of your city for nothing but a few pieces of silver.

Party of One said...

It's not about thinking "Big", it's about thinking "Better".

If people are seriously concerned about a 25-40 minute ride to downtown Edmonton from the international, maybe they should get behind an extension of the LRT to the airport.

Oh, but wait...that's public transport and many of those advocating for the City Centre airport wouldn't be caught dead in public transit. Too dirty, too smelly, too many actual people that they may actually have to interact with, or at least be in close proximaty to...Horrors!

No, for many of them the issue is how much they have to pay for PRIVATE conveyance (cabs, mostly). Yeah, you CAN get to Paddington Station in 20 minutes from Heathrow...because they built the Victoria Line of the Underground out to it.

But we don't have the business or political leadership that will promote that sort of thing in Edmonton.

Mark Donovan said...

I'd love to see them build something like Montreal's McGill student ghetto area. Stoic row houses with a small town feel in the heart of a big city - and also not allow chain restaurants... like a little Berkeley in the heart of Edmonton. Maybe some pedestrian streets and sidewalk cafes for the summer?

Not likely in Edmonton, but one can hope.

Here's some links to see what I mean if you've never been there:,_Montreal_2005-08-30.jpg