Over on Mastermaq’s blog, there’s been a big debate about the closure of the Edmonton City Centre Airport (ECCA). The Envision Edmonton side has mobilized its forces to try and force the issue in the upcoming civic election. Envision would like a vote on whether or not to close the airport, despite city council already having made the decision last year to close the airport.
Last year I supported closing the airport and I still support it. Exactly what happens at ECCA, how and when, is something I am interested in.
It’s not often a city has a chance to redevelop such a large parcel of land so close to its downtown. It needs to be done right.
So, to summarize, here are the messages Envision Edmonton and its supporters are sending out:
- We’re worried about what will happen to existing jobs at the City Centre Airport
- There may be family upheaval
- People will die because medevac patients may take longer to get to the hospital
- The “average” person wants the airport to stay open
So, Mack, you know what your opposition to the airport is going to do? It’s going to kill people and force them out of work (not necessarily in that order)! (I am kidding of course, but this is the undertone of the opposition.)
How valid any of Envision Edmonton’s points are, is up for debate. I haven’t extensively researched what has been done to make the case for the closure yet, but I have some questions that I believe are important.
I would like to see an analysis of the business case for closing the airport, from the city’s perspective, and have some questions:
- How much does the city currently net from the airport? Does the city make anything on it in terms of property tax?
- Has the city done an estimate of how much it would net if the City Centre Airport were to be fully developed? How does that compare to what it currently nets? How much will the city make from the sale of City Centre Airport land?
- If an environmental cleanup is required on the site, how much will it cost and who will pay? And, if an environmental cleanup is required, why hasn’t it already been done if people are aware of that need?
- What will be done to ease the transition for the businesses affected? How about for medevac flights? For helicopter flights, can they land directly at local hospitals? It would make sense if they could.
- Has there been a realistic assessment of how the businesses at the City Centre Airport will transition? Which ones are likely to close? How many jobs are likely to be lost? What will it cost the city to break leases, etc?
- How many jobs are likely to be created during a reconstruction of the City Centre Airport lands?
From the city’s perspective, I suspect the business case is strongly in favour of the current course of action. It’s not like this kind of thing hasn’t happened before. Vancouver’s gone through redevelopments like Granville Island, Yaletown and the Expo lands. Any other examples?
Development that made sense in the past may not make sense in the future. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made and it’s not always the case that nobody will suffer.