EDMONTON -- City council officially rezoned the Rossdale Power Plant complex opening its potential for future entertainment or commercial uses.

Council approved the rezoning at its meeting on Wednesday paving the way forward for revitalizing the site of the former Rossdale Powerplant and its surrounding area.

The site was only zoned for the purpose it was named for but now some councillors and local developers are excited about potential commercial and entertainment opportunities for the historic site.

“The city really was born at this spot,” said Erik Backstrom, City of Edmonton senior planner.

In 1902, power was first generated at the site which operated as the lone electrical plant until 1970, The plant was decommissioned in 2011, including demolition of a part of the plant constructed in the 1960s.

Three buildings have been preserved at the site, including a low pressure plant and two pumphouses.

For Backstrom, the site has potential to become a major riverfront development with a patio, café, or restaurant.

Two years ago the city adopted the River Crossing business plan and began conceptual design work for a cultural interpretive park exploring the history of the site.

Early conceptual plans will be presented to city council this fall after the municipal election. All plans have included Indigenous consultation.

Edmonton Coun. Scott McKeen called the site a “city-wide amenity” that could bring new interest into nearby neighbourhoods.

“As the buildings and amenities near the river start to be crystallized and realized, I think the rest of the community will develop accordingly,” McKeen shared.

“I think it’s a really intriguing project,” he added. “That area, so much of it is accessible by people who bike, run, and walk. We’ve got to find other ways to get all Edmontonians down there."

McKeen said the area has potential for not only retail and residential possibilities, but cultural opportunities for an Indigenous historical and educational site.

“With Rossdale’s history as a gathering place for Indigenous peoples it cries out for that sort of recognition,” he said. “I think we have a growing sentiment, thankfully, in Canada about the rightful history of this country and why we need reconciliation.

For McKeen, the Rossdale site presents a unique opportunity to combine those interests.

“To me, I go further than that and say, I think Edmonton’s future and its potential will be tied directly to its Indigenous citizens and their contributions to art, dance, culture, and business and the economy.”

POTENTIAL TO BE A ‘MAGICAL PLACE’

McKeen believes the best way forward for the site is develop it in stages.

“I think we can ease into some of the potential I’ve described,” he said.

He suggested that the large pump house have restorations completed and washrooms added so the space could be a potential farmers market, bazar, or temporary concert venue.

“The vibe of the place will start to emerge,” he said.

Then investor groups, private companies, or local leaders could better envision the potential of the site and develop future revitalizations, McKeen said.

“Let’s start the dream by showing some events down there,” he added. “Give people more and more reasons to visit beside running or biking by it.

“It has to be a magical place. We’ve got to think that as the standard to set there. It needs to be magical and a draw for all Edmontonians to come down there and enjoy it."

McKeen said there is not an opportunity for Edmontonians or those visitng the city to get right down to the river’s edge and enjoy a coffee, tea, or beer.

“I know some people will sort of grumble that we need to protect and preserve the natural integrity of the river.

“I agree with them,” he said. “That area is so disturbed and it’s been industrial use for decades and decades. If we are going to put some hospitality in the river valley that just seems like a natural spot to me.”

“There is such potential there,” he added.

While there is parking around the area now, McKeen predicts it will get rezoned or repurposed over time. With the privately financed gondola project, McKeen said the Rossdale site would have unique opportunity to get people in the area.

Currently the city does not own the land the Rossdale site sits on. It is working on a land transfer with EPCOR.

After that happens the city will likely search for an independent operator to run the venue, similar to how city-owned recreation centres are managed.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Carlyle Fiset