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There are better ways to spend $300K

The recent axing of our city’s 2017 World Expo bid followed by MayorDave Bronconnier’s clever bait and switch to a previously unknown “WestVillage” redevelopment concept has left me dizzy.

The recent axing of our city’s 2017 World Expo bid followed by Mayor Dave Bronconnier’s clever bait and switch to a previously unknown “West Village” redevelopment concept has left me dizzy.

Amidst Bronconnier’s assurances, council’s infighting and a huge new concept being thrown at us, it’s hard to know which way is up, so let’s rewind a bit.

Our city made the unexpected and foolish decision July 20 to investigate an Expo bid. Foolish because Edmonton had a competitive edge with two years and $2.3 million of planning already put into its bid and $1.14 million already secured from the province.

The experience of losing our Expo 2005 bid to Nagoya, Japan, after spending $5.5 million should have taught us how difficult winning such a bid is, let alone when you’re going in at a disadvantage like we would have been.

It shouldn’t have taken a $300,000 report to determine that. And that’s just the fees paid to consultants — city costs were an estimated additional $50,000.

Not all is lost though, says Bronconnier. The site where the Expo would have been held, what’s now being called “West Village,” should still be redeveloped. But it didn’t take $350,000 to tell us that.

It took $50,000 to tell us that. That’s how much went to the West Village business case analysis, meaning $300,000 was lost to the Expo report. Take a moment with that. It’s a mismanagement of public dollars that’s unacceptable, particularly during a recession.

As a separate issue, redeveloping the 111 acres of land from 11th Street SW to Crowchild Trail, and the Bow River south to the CP Rail track makes sense.

True enough, this prime 95 per cent city-owned property is not being used efficiently with parking lots, car dealerships, a big road and a bus depot.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a long list of case studies citing brownfields (lands previously used for commercial or industrial purposes) across Canada that have been transformed into vibrant, sustainable communities. It’s a cost-effective way to reduce urban sprawl, increase density and lower municipal infrastructure costs, and that certainly fits within the framework of the recently approved Plan It.

But the potential for a West Village redevelopment shouldn’t spin us away from the real issue here — city council wasted $300,000 investigating an Expo bid that never should have been.

 
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