Bon Accord's multi-use design takes another turn from recreation to education and community development and adds in aspects of being so unique it can stand alone as a tourism experience destination.
Bon Accord Town Council and Administration embarked on a enhancement of a growth focus in 2012. In an attempt to level the ratio of residential to commercial/industrial balance in tax to operate the Town it was decided to develop a new economic development initiative to attempt to attract interest and investment into the community.
It was decided the Town needed to revisit its brand and identity to tell a forward thinking message on how the community would like to grow. From the brand exploration it was determined the Town needed to see how it fit within the region and the province and how it promote itself as a municipality that ready to commit to growth. It has to be something sustainable and low risk to the effects that could come from economic downturns and commodity pricing highs and lows. Tourism seemed to be the soundest sector to focus on. It could provide business diversity opportunities within the community and have the least impact on quality of life and heritage preservation within the community which is important to Bon Accord residents.
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Through brand development and looking at a business attraction strategy, Bon Accord leveraged its new direction of becoming a light efficient community. With the Town's close proximity to Edmonton one of the aspects Bon Accord has is that it has a relatively pristine night sky compared to that of a large city and there has been a growing interest through tourism experiences for people to seek out rural areas to appreciate the night sky.
In the Edmonton Capital Region there has been well attended events in nearby rural areas where visitors from the Edmonton area come out and learn and appreciate the sky which is almost unseen from a large urban area like Edmonton.
Bon Accord saw this as an opportunity to design a concept development that would entice visitors and residents to come out to a state of the art facility which the Town would design as an aspect of a multi-use venue. As well, leveraging the brand pillars of culture, education and environment, the other aspects of the facility would relate to the pillars with an interpretive park space for community cultural events and a larger library.
Beyond the facility and park space, the design also needed to include a way for the Town to support that facility and increase commercial assessment to offset operating costs. Since the facility is a tourism destination and an educational/cultural project, business attraction relating to tourism, educational and cultural supporting businesses, Bon Accord also designed an integrated "Development Ring" into the concept.
Surrounding the five acre park space and multi-use facility is a developable area to accommodate commercial storefronts, second story resident lofts and condominiums. As well, options of 55+ housing and a hotel/conference centre. The concept is a design similar to a village square where the park is the centre and is surrounding by the Development Ring. It is a walkable community with parking designed to be predominantly around the exterior of the entire land area.
The integrated Development Ring is something that enhances the facility and the facility attracts the customers to the commercial. As a resident living within the Observatory Park they receive the benefit of the integrated community and its service offerings from the commercial.
As of 2012, Bon Accord adopted a Light Efficient Community policy to maintain or improve its dark sky quality. It is currently working towards an international designation.
The concept was conceived based on a "can't have one without the other" approach. The observatory facility is not feasible on it's own but was designed to evoke a purpose for development. Bon Accord needed to offer a reason for development and this approach provides a very unique offering to developers and builders in the region.
At this point in time the observatory facility is having the business case developed to determine resident interest in the project, construction costs and a five year operating budget. The business case is expected to be completed in November of 2014.
Currently as well, the Town has been seeking out developers, talking with local landowners and other stakeholders to determine a site. Another business case is also looking to get done related to the "Development Ring" to do an analysis to compare costs and benefits to have the Development Ring built out.
Because the entire concept has been pretty defined over the last few years, discussions with other levels of government, potential corporate sponsorship of the facility and other partnerships have been ongoing.
More will become defined in the near term and posted as news on this site. This site was developed to be a complete overview of the entire project. There is also a timeline page within this site to provide a graphical overview of the project expectations. It may change as news is forthcoming but it should be the most up to date source of information available.
Overall, the integrated development concept provides opportunities for Bon Accord to begin building out the community in a structured and sustainable way. It is the goal that The Observatory Park will inspire other linking residential and commercial offerings that tie to the Town's brand and the Park. Since the Park was conceived from the brand pillars of culture, education and environment that other future developments will leverage The Observatory Park features and design into other new developments not even conceived at this point.
The Observatory Park is a walkable gathering place for the community and visitors all under the wonder of the Bon Accord sky. Commercial and residential opportunities in the Ring connect to the vibrance of this unique development.