A couple is riding high as they are one step closer to seeing their idea transform the Edmonton landscape.
After much anticipation, the winner of the Edmonton Project — an open design competition launched last summer — was selected, during a live pitching event at the ATB Entrepreneur Center on Tuesday March 6.
Though all nine parties (one of the Top 10 candidates had to drop out) eloquently pitched their refined ideas to the panel of five Idea Den judges, it was the boldest (and priciest) that won the ultimate prize.
And the winning proposal at the @the_edmproject is... A gondola, connecting Downtown and Old Strathcona. Congrats, Gary & Amber Poliquin! Will it get built? Iveson winks and says, “maybe.” pic.twitter.com/8AqqvTMLdB— ECA (@ECAbuildsYEG) March 7, 2018
The Gondola over the North Saskatchewan, submitted by husband and wife duo Gary and Amber Poliquin, will receive the full backing of the Edmonton Project board going forward.
"We're mobilizing tomorrow, now, around the biggest idea on the docket, which is super exciting," said Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson, one of the two men who came up with the Edmonton Project. "Over the next few weeks we're going to be laying the foundation for doing the idea."
"What's interesting about the gondola idea," he added, "is that it gives us access to federal and provincial money... It opens a lot of doors. We just need a little bit of time now to collect our people and our thoughts and get organized."
One of the most talked about ideas, the gondola has the potential to significantly reduce the city's carbon footprint, cut commute times by half and affect the lives of every Edmontonian, said Amber Poliquin.
According to 2015 census data, 136,000 vehicles per day travel over the downtown bridges. With the city’s projected growth of 40 per cent over the next 20 years, these river crossings will start to feel more and more like pinch points.
"We need capacity to grow. We need to plan for that now," said Amber.
With 40 cars, the gondola has the potential to transport 10,000 people per hour using ETS passes or single purchase tickets.
The Poliquin's envision three stations that would connect two major pedestrian centres: one at Shaw Conference Centre, another at Whyte Avenue and a third at Rossdale Flats.
The urban gondola system — the first of its kind in Canada — would connect to existing LRT, bus and bike networks and move thousands of people across the city at a fraction of the cost of a new bridge.
The project comes with a price tag of between $20 million and $60 million, and requires the approval of the city before it can go ahead.
An added social benefit to the gondola would be improved accessibility to the Rossdale Flats, said Amber — an important Indigenous gathering space that is currently underserved by public transit. The couple also envisions a children's Indigenous museum being created as part of the Rossdale gondola station.
“Twenty-one different nations have interest in that area,” said Amber. “As part of our station we really want to build this children’s museum with an Indigenous focus so that we can teach our kids about our history.”
The Poliquin's idea was not the only to create a stir in the community. The YEG Sauna proposal — refined to include one Finnish-style, 70-person sauna at Louise McKinney Park — took home the People's Choice award. Approximately 7,500 Edmontonians voted in the public poll.
Cheryll Watson, vice-president of Urban Economy at Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, which runs Make Something Edmonton, served as one of the five Idea Den judges. She said selecting a winner was beyond difficult.
Watson is hopeful that the other projects will come to fruition even without the backing of the Edmonton Project and encourages everyone who submitted to be an active advocate of their project.
"The grassroots approach to engaging the community is what Make Something Edmonton was founded on and we are so proud to see Edmonton prove over and over that we are a city of hardworking citizens that can get things done,” she said.
A city-wide brainstorming platform, the Edmonton Project was launched in August 2017. Submissions were narrowed down and on Tuesday, March 6, the top 10 were pitched live in a Dragon’s Den-style event. The project seeks to create a permanent installation somewhere in the city that will help tell Edmonton's story.
Stay tuned as Make Something Edmonton continues to report on the progress of the Edmonton Project.