I know it is still a decade or two from realization but I am seriously excited about the Riverlands redevelopment! I have to say thank you to all the urban planners and to our city council for putting together such a wonderful vision of this part of our downtown. The new redevelopment plan for this area was recently approved and I just finished reading through it. I am very impressed!
Few communities ever get a chance to fully redevelop ⅓ of their downtown. This is an amazing opportunity. I think about where we came from and how it wasn’t that long ago when the train tracks came down Taylor Drive to where McDonalds is today. Then I think about where we are going and how this area will be a shining example of sustainable urban development which will balance environmental integration, human scale density and mobility optimization into a world class urban district. There are too many exciting things to share in one post but let me name a few.
The intersection of 48th St (Alexander Way) and Taylor Drive fully opens up the Riverlands and does so in a way that balances all mobility options from biking, walking and public transit to driving. Alexander Way is well on its way to becoming a complete street, meaning it will enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel for all users regardless of their mode of transportation. In the future this street will become a landmark of our city which will have exciting culture and substantial economic output.
There will be many 4-6 story buildings in this area and potentially there will be 12 story buildings along the Taylor Drive boundary. One of the larger buildings could be a premier hotel conference centre and performing arts venue. This shift in planning and design will set a new precedent and start a trend of urban renewal for the rest of our downtown and our city as a whole. As our city grows it will be an option for more people to choose to live downtown and enjoy amenities that are within walking distance.
Then there is the plan for a Riverwalk and a pedestrian bridge to Bower Ponds. This will be the crown jewel of the Riverlands. There will be patios and park benches, walking paths and unique storefronts. From the Taylor bridge southwards there will be a world class pedestrian walkway that will be the pride of our city. Sporting and cultural events at Bower Ponds will be easily accessed from the Riverlands thereby creating a valuable synergy between the two spaces.
There are many other things that impress me, such as:
-Parking requirements that include provision for bicycle storage.
-Pedestrian walkways that are required “to connect all adjacent buildings, trails, walkways” etc.
-“Underground parking strongly encouraged”.
-“Drive thrus are not allowed”.
-Live/Work developments; a business owner can work on the main floor & live on the 2nd floor.
-Rooftop terraces and green roofs that can be used for active of passive recreation.
-Minimizing blank walls and encouraging public art.
-Encouraging the use of crime prevention through environmental design principles (CPTED).
With all this said, I am a bit disappointed that the plans to fully build the riverwalk and the pedestrian bridge are still more than a decade off in the horizon. I understand why and I commend our city for not loading up on debt and for not pushing through just another a cookie cutter business as usual design for this unique area. But I also know that when the bridge is eventually built it will stimulate a virtuous cycle of investment and growth. In the meantime, I’m not sure if the area will attract the caliber of private development that is desired before the city is fully invested in this plan. What do you think?
Have you walked down Alexander Way lately? A lot has changed since I made a video about it but it is still quite relevant.
Did you know that there is a really cool building that has a rooftop terrace in our downtown? Check out this video tour I recently made of it called Green Roof.