Recently announced as the winner of the Award of Excellence in Civic Design for the 2020 National Urban Design Awards (see the story on our global SkyriseCities site), we thought it was a good time to take a look back at the construction of the Mechanized River Valley Access Project, also known as the 100 Street Funicular and Frederick G. Todd Lookout, built by the City of Edmonton and the River Valley Alliance.

Early construction stages in July 2016, photo by Dave Sutherland

“A beautifully-conceived ensemble of built structures, open spaces, and public art that successfully connects Edmonton’s downtown to the river valley. The juxtaposition of landscape attributes—in particular, its topographical and visual qualities—and the architectural details and materiality of the downtown milieu are compelling.” - Jury comment, 2020 National Urban Design Awards

Construction on the DIALOG-designed, $24-million project began in March 2016 on the steep river valley slope beneath the iconic Hotel MacDonald, stretching all the way to the banks of the river below Grierson Hill Road.

Taking shape in August 2016, photo by Dave Sutherland

By August, many of the concrete structures that support the funicular, the stairs, and the lookout were already in place.

Rails installed as well as stair support structures in October 2016, photo via City of Edmonton

The steel bridge structure that carries visitors over Grierson Hill Road was installed overnight on October 17, 2016.

Installing the steel bridge structure in October 2016, photo by Dave Sutherland

Work continued over the winter, and by March 2017 the project was visibly coming together quickly.

March 2017, photo by Dave Sutherland

Construction continued apace through the rest of 2017, while finishing touches were applied and the mechanical elements - the funicular and the elevator to the riverbank - were tested and commissioned.

The lookout in September 2017, photo by Dave Sutherland

Construction wrapped up in December 2017, photo by Dave Sutherland

Crowds gathered for the grand opening on December 9, 2017 - 19 months after construction first began - lining up to be among the first to ride the new connection between downtown and the river valley, as well as to walk the feature stairs, interact with the public art piece found midway down the hill, and take in the views overlooking the North Saskatchewan River.

The first public ride on the funicular, December 9, 2017, photo by Dave Sutherland

Grand opening crowds on December 9, 2017, photo by Dave Sutherland

Taking in the views from the lookout on December 9, 2017, photo by Dave Sutherland

Today, the funicular makes over 110,000 trips up and down the hill every year, and has proven itself to be not only a fun feature for visitors to downtown, but has also become an invaluable piece of infrastructure for those making their daily commute on foot and by bike, particularly for those who previously found the city's deep river valley a barrier to using active transportation.

Filming Amazing Race Canada at the funicular, photo by Forum contributor Roland Bressmer

The project has now racked up nine awards, in addition to bit of television fame when it featured prominently in an Amazing Race Canada challenge last year.

Model of the MRVA Project at DIALOG's Edmonton office, photo by Dave Sutherland

What do you think of the 100 Street Funicular and the Frederick G. Todd Lookout, now that it has been in operation for a couple of years? Drop us your comments below, or join the conversation in our Forum! More images and information can also be found in the project Database entry linked below.