A new report released by Edmonton’s Downtown Business Association shows the downtown may potentially be on the verge of some significant development. The report, which included speculation about rumoured investment, also noted potential residential development.
I have always been very supportive of Edmonton’s downtown and I was pleased to see some discussion around the report revolve around residential development. In my opinion, too much focus has been placed around entertainment mega-projects, like the inevitable downtown arena, which will only bring Edmontonians into the core of the city for limited periods of time. The key to creating a vibrant downtown has always been people.
As a former resident of the Oliver neighbourhood and a current resident of a mature neighbourhood not far from downtown, I have always felt that too much attention, both positive and negative, has been narrowly focused at Edmonton’s official downtown commercial core. Although not officially considered part of “downtown”, the Oliver neighbourhood is a vibrant part of Edmonton, and despite being severely under serviced by the city’s light-rail transit system, is growing into an increasingly vibrant community.
Increased residential development “downtown” is positive, but increased density, rejuvenation, and growth in Edmonton’s core neighbourhoods should be a larger goal (I use the terms “core neighbourhoods” and “mature neighbourhoods” interchangeably – the City of Edmonton defines a mature neighbourhood as being developed and well-established by 1970). The Quarters project and the Boyle Street Renaissance to the east of downtown are positive and the revitalization of 118 Avenue has brought new life to the Alberta Avenue area. Edmonton’s mature neighbourhoods provide an excellent opportunity for infill and single-family dwellings that currently draw hordes of Edmontonians to sprawling suburbs on the outskirts of the city.
Investments have already been made into these mature neighbourhoods – which include existing infrastructure, like schools, community halls, parks, and public transit. The duplication costs of constructing new schools in suburban neighbourhoods when already existing schools, with open spaces, exist in Edmonton’s mature neighbourhoods raises significant questions about the way our city is growing. Some of these concerns were raised in the recent ELEVATE report from the city’s Community Sustainability task force, which also looked at the potential for creating ‘School Revitalization Zones” in mature neighbourhoods.
While looking at a very different urban context, a recent report from the Pembina Institute showed some interesting attitudes among suburban dwellers in the Greater Toronto Area (via The Urban Scrawl)
“A survey released this week by RBC and the Pembina Institute concludes that homebuyers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are looking for affordable alternatives to living in the sprawling suburbs. Although most respondents identified a detached single-family home as a top consideration when choosing where to live, 81 per cent of residents surveyed in the GTA would give up a large house and yard for a townhouse, condo or small home on a modest lot with walkable access to amenities, rapid transit, and the option to spend less time behind the wheel.”