Yellowknife, NWT – The City of Yellowknife has urged residents to take a step back regarding 50th Street redevelopment plans.
Artists’ renderings – like the one pictured above – showing how a redeveloped corner of 50th Street and 50th Avenue could look have been portrayed in some quarters as the city’s definitive plan for the vacant lot.
However, councillors and officials say discussions over what to build on the lot could be years away. The only issue currently up for debate, they add, is whether the city should purchase the lot in the first place.
“A very, very important distinction has to be made between these two discussions: the discussion that is in front of us, which is whether to buy the lot, and then the discussion of what to do with the lot, which could take five years,” said city councillor Adrian Bell.
“I mean, we are not talking about that today. This debate right now is in no way connected to the construction or establishment of a plaza or a park on that lot.
“That was proposed as one of a myriad of possible uses for the area. It’s not one that I support, or that I could see myself supporting in the future.”
The city’s director of planning, Jeff Humble, told Moose FM: “I was quite surprised to hear people are focusing in on one of the opportunities, which is a plaza space.
“We came with a portfolio of 50-odd redevelopment options for 50th Street and the site, so it’s funny that people zero in and say the city’s investing entirely in a park concept.”
Humble says a meeting this coming Monday will simply decide whether the city should go ahead and purchase the lot, at a cost of $1.4m. He believes the investment is worthwhile and could launch a broader downtown redevelopment in years to come.
“It’s clear that nothing’s happened on that property for over a decade,” said Humble. “Folks in the private sector are simply not willing to take a lead on an initiative with the amount of risk on 50th Street, and that’s primarily around the socio-economic conditions of 50th Street.”
Bell added: “If we do go ahead with this purchase – which is uncertain at this time – it would put us at the table and we could maybe start talking about solutions for what is, by everyone’s admission, a problem area of town.
“But I think Yellowknifers have to get used to talking in years when it comes to downtown revitalization. These are incredibly complex problems that are going to take years to resolve. They didn’t develop overnight and we’re not going to solve them overnight.”
Humble promised “an extensive public engagement process”, covering not just the 50-50 corner but the whole downtown area, if the vacant lot is purchased and plans reach the next stage.
Meanwhile, the city has launched a separate series of public meetings to explore options for developing Yellowknife’s Capital Area.
The Capital Area is defined by the city as the area around Frame Lake, including the NWT Legislative Assembly, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Northern Frontier Visitor Centre, City Hall and Somba K’e Civic Plaza.
Public meetings to discuss ways of developing and improving the area will be held in the city hall’s council chambers on September 23 and 30, with walking tours on September 24 and 25, and a bus tour on September 30. Click here for more details.
You can see the city’s full presentation regarding 50-50 corner on the City of Yellowknife website (PDF link).
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