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River Crossing: The New Urban Ethic: Episode 1

River Waterfront Development - Connecting Communities

Waterfront real estate is a sought after commodity in any city – in particular one that is located along a pristine River Valley System that has not seen commercial or industrial development in decades in the City of Edmonton. Yes it is about location!  It’s a peninsula of waterfront land where the new Rossdale Bridge spans over the North Saskatchewan River –  from the south river bank to the iconic architecture of the former Rossdale Power Plant.  The River Crossing plan connects the vibrant downtown core to the north, with the Rossdale community to the east.  This is a City with the “youngest” demographic in Canadacreating a new “buzz” in Living and Lifestyle choices.

In previous Episodes we covered the ICE District in the City’s downtown core, which kick started the $multi-billion development in new residential and commercial buildings – including Rogers Place Arena, the Stantec Tower, the JW Marriott, and several residential mixed use highrise developments.(See

And now the City is ready to take on the next stage of connecting its downtown core and residential Rossdale community with the highly anticipated waterfront development of the River Crossing initiative.

Image Credit: FutureCite Inc

In this Episode 1, Erik Backstrom gives us an overview of the City’s strategic initiative, aptly named River Crossing. Its vision is to connect the waterfront residential communities and the vibrant growing downtown district with waterfront access to the North Saskatchewan River Valley Park System – one of the largest contiguous river valley park systems in North America!  (See past Episode

Developing River Crossing’s river facing peninsula of land needs visionary insight to fully capture and realize the location and amenity opportunities presented  by a pristine river waterfront and the power plant’s industrial architectural buildings designated for reuse!  San Francisco captured its waterfront, Vancouver has the Seawall, and Toronto is developing its Harbourfront.

image Credit: City of Edmonton

It’s an opportunity for visionary developers who understand the key Living and Lifestyle elements needed to interest both citizens and visitors, and to attract future innovation, technology and service businesses who are looking for easy access to Lifestyle activities and a work /life balance culture, for their NextGen demographic and technology hires. Imagine walking minutes away from home or work into nature’s River Valley –  to  swim or canoe, and to discover 100 kilometers of natural and groomed park trails to cycle, run, or hike, or maybe even walk to sports, dining and world class entertainment venues.

Are you interested in being part of the River Crossing Vision? The City wants to hear from you!

Stay tuned for Episode 2!

About Erik Backstrom RPP, MCIP
Senior Planner, Planning Strategies at City of Edmonton

Image Credit: Erik Backstrom

Erik and leads transformational planning projects, with focus to those involving under-utilized land (having a high degree of political involvement) requiring strategic investment from the City of Edmonton to provide a foundation for future private sector investment. He also has involvement in transit-oriented development projects and the next generation of planning for Old Strathcona.  Erik currently manages the River Crossing initiative.  He has a Master of Community and Regional Planning from the University of British Columbia, and a Bachelor of Arts/ Geography from the University of Alberta, and has lectured at the University of Alberta School of Urban and Regional Planning and served on the board of the Alberta Professional Planners Institute (APPI), and is now the APPI historian.

About River Crossing

Image Credit: City of Edmonton

River Crossing is at the heart of the urban core of the City of Edmonton – located between the City’s downtown core to the north, and the University of Alberta across the river to the south.  A natural landing spot of the architecturally iconic Walterdale bridge, River Crossing connects North America’s largest contiguous River Valley Park System, to  the Rossdale residential communities,  Kinsmen sports facilities, a ball park, public parks, the Provincial Legislature grounds, and cultural and as well as museum facilities.

River Crossing land area covers approximately 17.6 hectares (ha), of which 80% is owned by the City of Edmonton. Much of the River Crossing area is currently undeveloped open space (only certain portions of the area are currently zoned for open space uses). The former Rossdale Power Plant and Pumphouses in the River Crossing locations along the river front are designated for future reuse.  Lands along the North Saskatchewan River include well-used multi-use trail connections (and access to boat launches).  Part of the EPCOR Rossdale site along the river front is to be subdivided and designed to become the Touch the Water Promenade.



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