There was an article in the Journal a few days ago about infill housing projects in Edmonton in contrast to the projected growth for new developments at the edges of the city. The journalist, Elise Stolte, wrote that Edmonton had set a goal in 2010 to have 25% of new developments occur in mature neighbourhoods. Four years later they have reached 17%, with increased numbers in core neighbourhoods such as McCauley, Oliver and Strathcona. The article stated:
“Over the next two years, city planners want to loosen the rules surrounding garage and garden suites, allow owners to subdivide lots in more neighbourhoods, cut wait times for developers at city hall and improve communications with neighbours when infill happens. They have 23 recommendations in total, all aimed at removing barriers to allow more density and renewal in mature or established neighbourhoods.”
I’m curious to know if this plan will happen quickly as it is commonly known that changing restrictions within the City takes time and two years can be seen as ambitious or not soon enough. I’m also curious by what date the city hoped to reach 25% for infill housing and what the benefits are to that magic number of 25%. Will less schools close? Will more pathways and linkages be created? Will this help secure the funding and interest in the LRT expansion lines? Will people magically notice that we have a beautiful river valley in the city and more interesting programming will begin to take place surrounding it?
Subdividing lots in mature neighbourhoods would be appealing to many who work in or around the downtown core. This action would bring a greater awareness and interest back into mature neighbourhoods that can become affordable to first time home buyers but I’m nervous to see what that looks like if there is no strategic design plan implemented. The goal for my next home is to live with less which is how we try to live now, but without a long distance commute. My husband and I don’t have the time or want to take care of a lawn or to shovel a driveway all afternoon and so a smaller lot is attractive to me for those points and for many other reasons. But most of the condos and new houses on the fringe (where I live now) have strange nondescript characteristics that I find unappealing. While I believe mature landscaping will help ease the stark pains of beige indifference in these areas, these homes will continue to look uninteresting if lifted up and planted down into mature areas if design cues are not attended to. I believe half of the appeal of these new neighbourhoods is price and the other half is the idea of ‘newness’. Most of the home buyers in this area do not see the lack of individuality (the removal of aesthetics) and developers push this oatmeal dream to others by using words like “quaint” as descriptors and slap the word “estate” on the end of a neighbourhood to brighten its appeal and it somehow it becomes more attractive without actually LOOKING attractive. I foresee a lot of mullet houses on the rise once infill housing becomes more attractive to developers. This city is on the path to northern greatness and we need to keep these ideas in mind as the barriers are removed. The city’s appeal will continue to grow by reinforcing its distinct features (such as the river valley and our multiculturalism) when developing and not erase the cities identity when considering the landscape and our place within it.
One evening at the old Martini’s bar on 109 street I had a loud disagreement with one of my husband’s friends after a few too many long island ice teas. In my infinite drunk wisdom I offered what I considered sound advice at the top of my lungs: “make better choices” and “you could be so much cooler”. Perhaps I should start investigating Edmonton developers, make them my friends and offer those same words of wisdom (without the yelling). Or I could just shame them on the blog instead. Though I doubt the later will be read by many or effect much change so I may have to default back to drinking too many long island ice teas instead. They really are delicious!