In total, the Katz Group and WAM partnership is investing $1.7 billion. Here’s how it adds up: the Katz Group spent $100 million to buy land and in designing the arena district, says executive vice-president Bob Black; the Katz Group and WAM are building a $300-plus million 27-storey office tower and a $500 million 60-plus storey office and condo tower; and the partnership is also building a $75 million Katz Group headquarters and casino next to the arena, a $150 million four-level below-grade parkade and at-grade plaza, a $350 million, 50-storey hotel and condo tower, and this new $200 million 50-odd storey condo tower.
“We had this bold, even audacious vision for what we could build around the arena …” says Black. “That it’s becoming a reality even quicker than we thought we could make it happen, with even greater density than we thought we could achieve, is beyond gratifying.”
Before the arena came along, Edmonton was viewed at best as a stable investment market, says Scott. “But not as a market with any juice in it.”
That’s changed. “This is the shiny star in Alberta at the moment,” Scott says. “Right now people are jumping off the towers in Cowtown, and here they’re looking around and going, ‘What is going on in Edmonton!?’ There’s such a massive amount of capital being invested at one time in a small area that people are sort of boggled by it.”
Black, a longtime corporate lawyer in Edmonton, became something of a detested figure at city hall during the darkest days of the tortuous arena deal negotiations, such as when he made noises that the team might move to Seattle.
Failure seemed a reality at times. “I had lots of days where I went home at the end of the day really not knowing if all of this effort was ever going to lead to this actually happening,” Black says. “It was stressful for everybody on all sides. It was a really tough journey.
“We came very close to losing this deal. It was very sobering to both sides to realize that we really could lose it. That brought us back together … During all those tough negotiations we built relationships and we ultimately achieved trust.”
Black chased the vision of an arena so hard for so long that a few months ago when he finally saw the first steel pillar of the arena rising, the emotion hit him hard. “When I saw the first piece of steel go vertical, looking out the window here from the Bell Tower, a chill went down my spine.”
Through the arena negotiations, Katz’s image took a thrashing, especially with the threat to move the team. I ask if the negativity toward his lifelong friend bothers Black.
“Yes,” he says. “Because I know from being proximate to Daryl that he was always trying to do something great, and there were people who thought that the Wintergarden would be a bridge to nowhere, that we would never build anything, and there were a lot of things said in the heat of the moment which didn’t reflect his true intent.
“I think that time will make clear that Daryl has been a visionary and that he will be seen as one of Edmonton’s great builders.”
Black need not worry about Katz’s image. With superstar Connor McDavid coming to town, with new Oilers management, and with the new arena and district more than living up to its billing, Katz will be everyone’s new best friend, not that the intensely private fellow wants that kind of thing.