Edmonton City Centre Airport ICLEI Smart Growth

help build your smart city.

Ever since attending the 2009 ICLEI World Congress in Edmonton in June, I’ve been continually amazed at some of the positive change, innovative thinking, and idea sharing that is happening between municipalities across the globe.

While Canada’s provincial and federal leaders of all political stripes are failing to address some of the biggest growth issues of a generation – both on the environment and energy fronts – many of our municipal leaders are pioneering new ideas for implementing sustainability and smart growth strategies. Dealing with urban growth is difficult in cities where past politicians have embraced urban sprawl and bad urban renewal ideas. In Edmonton, City Council recently made a smart decision by voting for the phased closure of the City Centre Airport, which will create opportunities for future increased densification in the City core (a difficult and well-thought out decision for some Councillors).

Caution: Hazardous GirdersEdmonton City Hall in Winter

Important civic issues have awakened the citizenship in a growing number of Albertans who are taking action and forming groups like ChangeCamp Edmonton and Civic Camp Calgary to participate in shaping the future of their communities and politics in a non-partisan way.

Using the Internet, websites like CityWiki and Cities Exchange (ht Rurban Fringe) are providing forums for great information sharing about urban growth strategies. There have also been some exciting positive debates about open data and open source government in Calgary and Vancouver that will create more transparency and broaden the ways that citizens can interact with their municipal governments. It’s really encouraging to watch our cities move forward in a positive direction on many issues. When I look at how much has been accomplished thus far, I become more hopeful for what can be accomplished in the future!

Dave Theile Don Iveson Ed Gibbons Jane Batty Mayor David Miller Smart Growth Toronto

toronto mayor david miller talks tower renewal in edmonton.

This afternoon, I was lucky to attend a presentation by Toronto Mayor David Miller as part of the Sustainable Buildings Consortium’s Summit on Tower Renewal. Mayor Miller’s presentation focused on Toronto’s Mayor’s Tower Renewal program currently being implemented in the City of Toronto.

Introduced by Deputy Mayor and Councillor Don Iveson, and attended by Councillors Jane Batty, Ed Gibbons, and Dave Thiele, Miller’s presentation focused on the challenges facing many of Toronto’s large apartment neighborhoods.

One of the most interesting points that Miller talked about during his presentation was the poor energy efficiency of many of the large concrete apartment blocks in Toronto. This lack of energy efficiency has contributed to an urgency to re-skin the apartment towers to prevent any further energy loss. I was also interested to learn about the community rejuvenation strategies that are being used to green the apartment neighbourhoods (including better use of green space and zoning commercial business space in dense residential communities). Other interesting points that Miller touched on included:

Agenda for Prosperity – Toronto’s economic development strategy.
Deep Lake Water Cooling – Reducing energy usage by piping water from Lake Ontario to cool downtown towers in the summer.
Live Green Toronto – Innovative ways that Torontonians can individually contribute to the sustainability of their City.
TTC Transit City Light Rail Plan – The construction of 120km of Light Rail Transit to link Toronto’s apartment neighbourhoods to the mass transit system (part of the Ontario Government’s recently announced $9 Billion investment in Public Transit).

While Toronto is facing different urban density challenges than Edmonton (Toronto currently has 2,047 concrete residential apartment tower blocks, whereas the majority of Edmonton’s towers are commercial buildings), Miller’s presentation provided a number of interesting strategies that other cities can learn from. Overall, Miller gave a very interesting presentation, and it was refreshing to learn that Canada’s municipalities are leading the way when it comes to innovative growth and finding solutions for sustainability communities.

Fred Horne Jeff Johnson Libraries Smart Growth Teresa Woo-Paw

making it easier for albertans to read books.

On a weekly basis, elected official in Alberta provide a lot of material to write about, and because it’s easy for politicians and politicos (and bloggers) to fall into a trap of constant negative criticism and partisanship, it’s not hard to overlook positive changes and ideas that are contributed.

This week, a committee of three MLAs contributed to positive change when it recommended an increase in funding for public libraries for the first time in 20-years. While minuscule when compared to other government expenditures, the $9 million announced increase is an positive move and will increase current the budget for public libraries by 39%.

The MLA Committee on the Future of Public Library Service in Alberta, which included PC MLAs Jeff Johnson, Fred Horne, and Teresa Woo-Paw, made a number of positive recommendations in their final report that, if implemented, could strengthen public libraries in Alberta.

A strong public library system can play an integral role in creating healthy communities in Alberta.

Amarjeet Sohi Ben Henderson Don Iveson Municipal Politics Smart Growth

building edmonton’s downtown arena.

With Edmonton’s mainstream media bubbling in praise of the report supporting the construction a new arena in downtown Edmonton, I can’t help but be put a back at the lack of objectivity in the reporting. Judging by the amount of support in today’s papers, you’d think that Colin Powell had just made an irrefutable case to the United Nations Security Council

Here’s a quick look at a couple of things that immediately caught my suspicion…

1) The committee that wrote the report was handpicked by someone who had already voiced support for the downtown arenaMayor Stephen Mandel. Self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone?

2) The comparisons are reaching. Of course I want Edmonton’s downtown to become vibrant, but building a giant hockey rink won’t automatically put Edmonton in a position to rival downtown Montreal or New York (like some of the article’s have alluded). I’m still not convinced that spending upwards of $450 million (plus land costs) on an arena that will draw the suburbs downtown for a couple hours 2-3 nights a week is what will revitalize downtown. As someone who has lived in the Whyte Avenue area for 4 years, I can tell you that bringing loads of hockey hooligans into an area doesn’t revitalize much for the people who are actually living in the neighbourhood.

3) No one seems to be talking about… “Northlands, the non-profit group that runs Rexall Place, released a study in February that said the arena could be rebuilt for $250 million. That report has been shelved while the mayor’s committee does its work.” (The Battle of Alberta had a good post on this back in October 2007).

4) I think that Journal City Hall columnist Scott McKeen might be getting a little too comfy in his City Hall Office as he spent the majority of his pro-arena article taking aim at those who would rather the public funds be spent on other things, like say, fighting homelessness or fixing infrastructure. McKeen also tried to solidify his case by arguing that the amount of reporters who showed up at yesterday’s media conference means Edmontonians should be convinced of the recommendations. Sorry, Scott, but still I remain skeptical.

Through all the frenzy and praise, I’m glad to see that there is still some sensibility on City Council as Councillors Don Iveson, Amarjeet Sohi, Ben Henderson, and Tony Caterina have all publicly stated their skepticism of the report.

Smart Growth

walking is fun.

Check out the Walkable Edmonton Initiative.

Kudos to the City of Edmonton Community Services Department for this initiative. Walkability is a key element of creating the smart and healthy city that Edmonton should be.

2007 Edmonton Municipal Election Smart Growth

out-of-the-box development.

I have a new post up on CBC’s Edmonton Votes 2007 in which I discuss Transit-Oriented Development – one alternative to the current reckless urban sprawl-type development we are witnessing.

Smart Growth

edmonton in august.

Two notes for a Sunday night…

– The 26th Annual Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival began last week. I was there for the opening ceremonies and I’m looking forward to checking out some shows over the next week. Two shows I’m planning to check out are Hooked and The Diary Project.

– The revitalization of 118th Avenue (aka Alberta Avenue) is picking up steam through the hard work of the volunteers from Arts on the Ave and The Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse. A good friend of mine was involved in helping The Carrot and I’m hoping to get there at somepoint before the end of summer.