It appears we are getting a new arena. A large part of the argument for its value is that it will revitalize downtown.
I’m still not convinced. But some of the discussion on upcoming projects is persuasive.
The arena will be a destination. Its value will be earned if it causes people to stay downtown and spend money. This will bring in retailers and restaurants and services. But the downtown already has several excellent destinations. The Winspear, Citadel, Art Gallery and many of the town’s finest restaurants. These all attract visitors, but they haven’t revitalized the downtown.
The biggest differences between those and the arena might be that the arena is a family venue and it is multi-purpose. All ages visit sports venues. Concerts, games and events all attract different demographics. And families spend money. That is cool. Multi-purpose means that it won’t just be to watch events, but to participate in them. That should be better then just watching.
The biggest argument against the destination causing revitalization is looking at the current neighbourhoods around Rexall and the Stadium. They certainly don’t appear vibrant and thriving.
I think revitalization is best spurred by residential development. People shop in their neighbourhood. Residences bring retail and services. And those won’t be uncommon visits. They will be repeat customers living nearby. People that aren’t worried about travel into the downtown or parking.
Of course those are going in too. Several towers for living are going up now and more are planned.
But hear is my final argument against. Urban sprawl. Edmonton sprawls out and is still rapidly growing at the edges. Urban sprawl is expensive since it requires more services than denser communities. More roads, more schools, more firehalls,
The city’s money is divided by the expensive need to develop the edges and the core. As long as the edges keep growing the downtown will be hard to revitalize. Regardless of the cool destinations there. It is a long way to travel after all. You might go to the destination, but why for anything else? You might work there, but you’ll go home to shop.
The money goes with the people. If they are at the edges then so is the money.
Be great if I’m wrong.