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Month: November 2012

Planning Jasper Place – a first meeting of minds

 

This past evening, 20 individuals, residents and business owners from the communities of Glenwood, Canora, West Jasper Place and Britannia-Youngstown met at MacEwan University’s Jasper Place campus for the first meeting of the Jasper Place Area Redevelopment Plan “Evidence Team”. By the way, we’re all eager to an official confirmation as to whether or not the city is going to be purchasing the campus.

So what is an “Evidence Team”? Land-use CSI?

The overall objective is to create a shared and transparent source of evidence through collaboration between the City of Edmonton and Jasper Place community members through the creation of learning scenarios. The purpose of the learning scenarios is to understand the anticipated impacts of potential future development scenarios. These learning scenarios will be used to inform the drafting of ARP policy options and as a basis for technical studies in the second phase of the ARP process.

To break down the discussion from the last night:

What would you point out as signs of a healthy and vibrant Jasper Place?

Responses:

-Street life & complete streets – accessible to all modes of transportation with welcoming ground-floor retail and services.

-An influx of young families to preserve our community schools

-People, eyes on the street and feet on our sidewalks

-Densities that can support local business. Allow more Edmontonians to enjoy our location, amenities and connectivity with the rest of the city.

-Housing choice, to promote diversity and create options for residents at all stages of their lives.

-Destination of choice, a place residents want to stay for the long-term, or return to.

-Community of pride, where residents are proud and enthusiastic about the place they call home

-Adequate park and green space

-A feeling of safety and security

-Attractive facades

-Revitalization of empty/derelict sites

-Improved streetscapes

-Defined branding for the area

-Vibrant arts and culture

 

Some of these are the sorts of things that can be defined in a statutory land-use plan. Some are, hopefully, the end result of a successful plan that encourages certainty and reinvestment. Some are entirely in the hands of the community and it’s ability to see and partake in a vision for the area. And some are issues to be dealt with by existing tools or new ones which can be defined through this process.

So what are the definable metrics for success. How do you measure the state of community, it’s needs as well as the success of a community plan? A next step for the group is to define suitable indicators and metrics to be used. That create an informative, clear and transparent process as part of performance-based planning.

Population, density, square footage.

Attractiveness and quality of life

Another task for the group is in examining broader scenario’s for the future of these four communities. There are some past Council decisions and old policy in place for the area which is, in ways, contradictory to present policy – the municipal development, the residential infill guidelines & the transit oriented development guidelines. The status quo – transit oriented development with modest land-use changes – higher changes to the area’s built form. These are the scenarios which the team has been tasked with examining over the next while.

As for the team itself. One demographic lacking is that of parents with young families. So if that’s you, and you’re interested in taking part in helping to plan the future of Jasper Place, visit Edmonton.ca/JasperPlaceARP to get involved. As well, it’s important that all four communities are well represented, so if you’re a resident of Glenwood, please consider whether this is a process you’d be interested in contributing too.

More than just a great place to live, Jasper Place is uniquely situated as a gateway to downtown and the west-end. An ARP is just a start, a part of a future vision and while I’m exited to see how it develops, emotional and financial investment, community pride and volunteerism are going to play a large part in how these neighbourhoods develop and the way in which they’re perceived by investors, both on the business side and those looking for a place to call home. Without those, an ARP is just a planning document that may well not attract reinvestment or withstand the test of time.

State of Democracy

EDMONTON—In findings that should disturb every politician across the country, a series of new national surveys suggest record numbers of Canadians are fed up with the state of our democracy.

Worse for elected leaders, more and more Canadians believe that politicians, regardless of their party affiliation, don’t listen to them, don’t care about the issues that really concern them and aren’t willing to act to preserve and improve our democratic institutions and traditions.

Only 17 per cent of Canadians trust Parliament and only 10 per cent trust political parties.

Read the rest @ TheStar.ca

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I can’t find myself disagreeing with the results of any of the referenced studies. Anyway, I’ve hacked out some thoughts..bit of a rant on the subject of engagement, good governance and political involvement.

 

“Neuman told the delegates that growing numbers of Canadians are disillusioned with elected officials and have now turned to supporting grassroots citizen actions, such as the last fall’s Occupy Movement, the B.C. referendum on the HST and this summer’s Quebec student protests, as a way to make their voices heard.”

 

It’s pretty simple at the end of the day:

No un-returned phone calls.

No unanswered letters.

No letters advising you “to be cautious as to how you approach future communications as your comments could be upsetting to some individuals. This could delay the decision on a new school”.

No party whips, and party leaders, and party agendas to wade through.

And no bureaucratic and political hills to climb and barriers to entry, that have been built up to the point of inaccessibility for the average person.

 

These are things that don’t exist in any successful and inclusive grassroots & community movement. And for the average person who wants to be an engaged citizen, who wants to be involved and have say – these require the strength in numbers of grassroots organization to overcome.

It’s why I joined a community league. To advocate on behalf of my community with like-minded individuals, in way we could never, ever, do on our own. It’s the reason Edmonton’s community league movement was built, to provide citizens with the ability to positively affect the growth of a city in which the voice of the individual was increasingly being drowned out.

As for other levels of government….

In the provincial legislature, my community is represented by an MLA who was thrown out of government caucus for bluntly laying out the state and management of health care in Alberta. Party came first, and a decision was made behind closed doors. against our constituency, our MLA, without any consultation. And yet their smiles were warm and friendly when they came to ask for our support in 2012.

Federally, my riding is represented by an MP who is chronically disengaged, and often unreachable. What accessibility to government and policy can there be for an individual or small-group when even a simple discussion can’t be had, or an inquiry answered?

Of course Canadians feel disengaged, unheard and detached from government. Time during the day is short, our lives are hectic, and we have little tolerance for spending precious free time talking to a wall or wading through rhetoric.

But if we want something more than a depressingly low voter turnout, policy developed in a vacuum, and partisan sniping, then folks need to find the time and fortitude to go out and demand it. It’s the only way we’re going to cultivate future leaders with the will and desire to make their time in government as demanding one them and their colleagues as possible, by initiating engagement, transparency and citizen participation from the top-down.

Opportunity, right in the centre of Jasper Place

Update – The purchase has been approved by Council!

 

Second only in impact to the approval of a statutory Area Redevelopment Plan next year, in a single-effort tomorrow, City Council could be in the position of granting a substantial opportunity to the west-end and in particular, the communities of the Jasper Place area in Ward 1.

The orange building at the corner of 100th avenue and 156th street, the site of a former school in the Town of Jasper Place, has long-been a distinctive mark. It’s also centered between four communities undergoing a dedicated revitalization, across the street from the Jasper Place transit terminal, and adjacent to a future LRT stop, within an active business revitalization zone, and within an area of Stony Plain Road envisioned to be a walkable pedestrian coordinator and vibrant urban market.

A decision by MacEwan University’s board of governors in 2009, to consolidate operations around it’s downtown campus means an open opportunity for the future of the building and site.

Slated to begin construction in 2013, with a opening targeted for 2015;

The new facility will house operations for the Centre for the Arts & Communications (CFAC), which will relocate from the west end campus.


Students will remain in the west end until the new facility is complete.

Yesterday evening several interested community league’s gathered to learn more about MacEwan’s plans and possible future options and processes for repurposing the site. Officials see a likely future for the facility in serving the public in some way, and any sale will need the approval of the provincial government through an order in council.

City staff have been discussing a possible purchase of the facility for some time now. With a possible future use an “arts incubator”.

With the surrounding communities looking for an investment in local amenities, and an adjacent business revitalization zone looking to create an attractive urban market, there is opportunity here. And with a decision today, Council can move the purchase forward. An arts incubator perhaps, space for community meetings, activities and programs, or more – right next to a future LRT transit station.

The loss of an educational facility in the community need not be a loss at all, just a new direction for an accessible, centrally located facility, at the four corners of neighbourhoods with a combined population of over 15,000. Officially sponsored revitalization efforts will have ended by the time MacEwan University has moved downtown, a decision to purchase this orange icon tomorrow, could be the best way for the city to end those efforts and send the communities of West Jasper Place, Glenwood, Canora, Britannia-Youngstown as well Sherwood, Jasper Park and more, off into their future.

 

 


 

State of the Neighbourhood – Connecting our communities with local public engagement

 

It’s been just over a year now since a lack of supporting ad revenue forced the closure of the Stony Plain Road Urban Revitalization Report. The community/business newsletter with a distribution of over 15,000, serving the Jasper Place area communities, the Stony Plain Road Business Association, and for which I had the privilege of serving as editor. With local revitalization efforts, streetscaping, the West LRT, and more going on, The SPURR was a highly effective way for community leagues, and other community groups and initiatives to distribute information to the community at-large. And through Canada Post delivery, that news was able to reach apartment mailboxes, places where community volunteers are unable to deliver too.

Here in Glenwood, we’ve lost a highly effective outreach tool that we’re now trying to replace as best we can. However, the things affecting our community, from the efforts of the Stony Plain Road BRZ to the creation of a statutory land-use plan for our community, are building. As is their impact on the quality of life and the future vision for our area.

As the City Liaison Director for my community league, the question for me became – how do we connect the community with all these things that are impacting it, that as resident stakeholders, they have a right to be engaged on?

The State of the Neighbourhood

I’m a political nerd and with a U.S. Presidential election on my mind, the name sort of stood out.

Last night we held the State of the Neighbourhood at Glenwood’s Community Hall. In what I hope can become a series of events in the neighbourhood’s future, we invited individuals and representatives of:

Councillor Linda Sloan – Jasper Place Area Redevelopment Plan – Stony Plain Road Streetscape – West LRT Project – Stony Plain Road Business Revitalization Zone – The Mustard Seed

The agenda and locale for the event was simple. For three hours we opened the doors of our community hall, with one hour of presentations, and two-hours in which residents had the opportunity to view and collect informative materials, ask questions, and converse in an intimate setting with each-other and our invited speakers & guests.

As a community deeply involved in West LRT discussions, we’ve seen the flaws in ‘big-box’ multi-community consultation events. From an inability for residents to connect in meaningful ways with decision-makers, to being crammed into a building well beyond it’s capacity, to trying in vain to pose questions to few officials in too large a crowd.

With a project that’s going to impact far more than traffic patterns and transit options, that’s expected to have a transformative land-use effect, I wanted to be able to connect the community one-on-one with more than just transit planners.

This is where I see the most success in the event we help last night. The community had more than just the opportunity to connect and ask questions in a comfortable environment in their own backyard. They had the opportunity to expand the discussion. To talk in person with a planner working towards a future land-use vision for the community. To hear from and speak directly with the executive director of the local business revitalization whose work crosses over that project boundary. The future vision for Stony Plain Road is focused in a large part on people, on accessibility, walkability and related amenities. And without the hustle and coldness of a packed large-scale meeting, residents could use their feet, walk-up to decision makers and ask their questions and receive answers in detail without being rushed, or overlooked, or having to stare at the clock.

And for a follow-up. One of the biggest annoyances I’ve seen and heard regarding the West LRT project is the lack of two-dialog and follow-ups. Residents make suggestions, do as they’re requested and leave behind their notes and suggestions. Where they ultimately end-up, no one often knows. How are they considered, how do they factor into the internal city discussion, we so often just don’t know with the city’s current engagement processes. And I’ve spoken before about the failings of mass, big-box style consultation events.

This is where there is benefit in going local. In going to the neighbourhood level and with an event like State of Neighbourhood, providing the community ownership of the process. As a community league we can take resident’s questions. We can put them in the hands of decision makers with the expectation that answers will be provided, that we can publicly post and relay to the community. We can lay out our own agenda for consultation, rather than continually wondering what’s going on within the city, or constantly having to be reactive to a top-down process.

We didn’t have the largest turn-out on a cold, snowy November night. But we did have a successful experiment and trail-run. We put the future of one community, it’s residents, stakeholders and the decision-makers impacting it, in our community hall – and the end result was what I hoped it would be. Engaging and comprehensive on a local scale. And I would take last night’s event over almost all of the cluttered, loud and cumbersome consultation and engagement exercises and events in which I’ve participated over my four years as a community volunteer.

There’s of course, still a place for the large-scale distribution of information and multi-community events. But if our city wants to develop a passion for citizen engagement and participation, then let’s go local, let’s put our community halls and local facilities to use and consult and engage residents, business owners and other stakeholders, where they live – where they’re comfortable – and where they’re most likely to set aside their apprehensiveness, let their guard down and open up on how they’d like to see their communities and city grow.

UnCoordination – Edmonton’s Growth Coordination Strategy

A civic Growth Coordination Strategy, an objective of the Municipal Development Plan is on the agenda today for City Council’s executive committee. For a number of engaged Edmontonians, the draft strategy and admin report released as part of the committee agenda late last week may well be the first opportunity that they’ve had to view it. For other community stakeholders, the strategy didn’t come into view until after leaving a small group of ‘key stakeholders’ and arriving already in a draft form.

The lack of public consultation has already been well criticised. What I’ll suggest here today, is that the document we have here in front of us, falls well short of the goals established for it in the Municipal Development Plan, hands excessive discretion to city administration to carry out its action items, and while it speaks to the necessity of information in the decision-making process, it fails in that regard.

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Section 3.1.1 of the MDP established the policy directions expected in future growth coordination and the integration of higher density land uses with LRT expansion and transit centres. It encourages that a minimum of 25% (another debate right there) of housing-unit growth occur within mature and established communities. It addresses the timing and phasing of new growth in ‘developing and planned neighbourhoods’.

Furthermore, in section 3.6.1.1, the GCS is tasked with providing measures for developing neighbourhoods relating to “livability, current and future public infrastructure investment and long term financial sustainability” in order to “inform Edmonton’s decisions on future residential growth and expansion”.

 

From the MDP

Manage future public obligations and growth opportunities – Approve new growth combined with its accompanying infrastructure obligations when it can be demonstrated that the City can afford it.

3.1.1.6 Develop a growth coordination strategy to address timing and phasing of new residential growth in developing and planned neighbourhoods. The strategy will relate to the City’s strategic goals, current and future public infrastructure investment, long term financial sustainability and the amount, location and pace of population and employment growth; and will establish: Expectations for completing developing neighbourhoods – Expectations for initiating new Neighbourhood Structure Plans

3.1.1.7 The Growth Coordination Strategy will identify infrastructure and service obligations related to developing neighbourhoods and in conjunction with the Integrated Infrastructure Management Plan will outline the City’s strategy for providing this infrastructure and infrastructure required by new growth.

3.1.1.8 Proponents for a new Neighbourhood Structure Plan will seek Council’s authority to prepare the plan. The information supplied by the applicant and administration will allow Council to provide direction and permission in accordance with Council’s Vision.

3.1.1.9 Information that proponents and administration supply will include the existing infrastructure and the funded and unfunded commitment for the sector, the relationship of the sector’s infrastructure and funding to the other sectors in the City, the current population capacity in the sector, the relationship of the proposed plan to transit, the availability and timing of supportive City infrastructure related to the proposed plan’s approval and significant environmental impacts.

3.1.1.10 The Growth Coordination Strategy will address demand for land, housing units, and housing choice at the regional, city-wide and sector level.

 

And From the Administration Report

While referred to as the Growth Coordination Strategy, it essentially is a framework to identify and manage future public obligations and accommodate the growth of new residential communities through the following actions:

• Monitoring infrastructure commitments and growth indicators as specified in The Way We Grow and incorporating growth information into departmental master plans, three and ten year budget planning and long range financial planning.

• Reporting to City Council through annual growth monitoring reports, and at the time Area and Neighbourhood Structure Plans are advanced for Council’s consideration. 

• Coordinating the planning and provision of infrastructure in developing neighbourhoods.

• Communicating and collaborating with private, public and non-profit community builders to meet the physical and social/ recreational needs of new communities.

 

The first sentence from the administrative report to Council, essentially lays out the title of “Growth Coordination Strategy” as a misnomer. Where the MDP implies an active role for this strategy, in addressing housing across the city and region, and in addressing the “timing and phasing of new residential growth in developing and planned neighbourhoods”, the final product forwarded for Council’s consideration, ultimately takes an idle role.

What the strategy, as presented, does not do is prioritize areas for growth or specify directions to ensure that future growth is contiguous. In failing to do so, it loses to opportunity to encourage growth, as close as possible to existing resources, infrastructure and amenities, or to ensure the completion of developing areas prior to new develop leap-frogging past.

The strategy speaks of the need for “comprehensive and timely information”. It also speaks at a high-level about the servicing and amenity needs of new communities. But it falls short of providing detailed financial information regarding the costs and revenues of new outward development and infill redevelopment (in fact, as the strategy has developed, references to established and mature communities have fallen away). What are the costs to the city of servicing and providing for new communities; those that have been completed, and those still in the process of being completed.

The MDP specifies targets for new development, and new housing within the existing urban form. Infill development, the redevelopment of underutilized & vacant sites within established and core areas are unaddressed.

 

Reporting to City Council through growth monitoring reports and neighbourhood and Area Structure Plan applications. In addition to receiving the Annual Growth monitoring Report, Council will receive relevant growth information at the time an area or neighbourhood structure plan is submitted for their approval consideration.

Coordinating planning and provision of infrastructure in developing neighbourhoods. This will be done internally through use of consistent, comprehensive and timely information provided to all business areas of the City. The Growth Coordination committee will allow the opportunity for coordination with external development partners.

Communicating and collaborating with private, public and non-profit community builders to meet the physical and social/recreational needs of new communities. This will be done through a Growth Coordination committee which will provide a forum for ongoing discussion and information sharing of growth information well in advance of plan submissions. A terms of reference will be developed for the Committee as a first step in the implementation of the Growth coordination Strategy.

 

The strategy leans largely on the creation of a “Growth Coordination Committee”. Who will be represented on the committee? Who are its key stakeholders? What are its terms of reference? Are these decisions to be made by Council or left to the discretion of city administration?

This strategy can be a success. It can help prioritize and guide future growth, it can support redevelopment within mature communities, and can actively guide the creation of housing option and density targets across the city. It can be rebuilt, which means it needs far more input and work than can be done within Council Chambers. This document should be sent back, and ‘its redevelopment’ should begin with a strong public involvement plan and a comprehensive group of key stakeholders. Speakers can line up at a Council meeting to speak to this 5 minutes at a time, but a document like this, which has such importance in fulfilling the goals of the MDP, both it and the public deserve much more than that.

Not sure when the plows are coming? There could be a couple apps for that.

Residents unhappy with snow removal as windrows block in their vehicles – Global TV

“There was no notice at all that this was going to happen,” said Allan Garber, who lives in the Westmount neighbourhood.

From the video – “If they could have a policy that everyone knows, one side of the street then other, east-side then west-side..so people know what to expect.”

 

Now admittedly, nothing here is going to solve the problem of reaching out to residents without internet connectivity, although it could, if future temporary signage for neighbourhood announcements is of the cellular-based digital variety.

On the city’s open data website, you’ll find the new ‘citizen dashboard’. Launched this week, it pulls from the growing open data catalog to present info in an accessible, easy to use, easy to read format. And behind it is that catalog, with a mass of raw data in various formats. Including the static, snow-clearing schedule that still lists my neighbourhood as having been completed, two days before it actually was.

Not something particularly useful for those folks in Westmount.

So, on to those apps. Let’s start with the open source, web-based, Shareabouts. A crowd-sourced mapping tool. It’s perhaps more well known for it’s use in bikeshare programs, but for a few examples of it in action:

 

Make Brooklyn Safer – Mapping dangerous intersections

City of Portland – Potential bike share locations

And demos:

Describing community assets

City park usage data

 

The usage here is to create an interactive, neighbourhood by neighbourhood breakdown of actions following a snowfall event. Accurate and detailed timelines for clearing can be maintained. Plow drivers can post updates, on the road and as they enter neighbourhoods. And as per the gentleman’s comment in the news report, the city can even go so far as to let residents know when equipment in entering the neighbourhood, which sides of the street are being done first, and update their progress as it’s happening. And residents can respond by pointing out trouble spots and areas in need of attention, or even commending a driver on a job well done.

And of course, other applications such as Google Maps could be utilized in the same way. With the usage and implementation of these apps, definitely not being limited to snow removal.

The city is on the way with open data, now it’s time to embrace interactivity and grow the Edmonton’s digital presence with us as residents, accordingly.

You Shall (not) Pass – A winter-time look at making Edmonton more accessible for all

I’d like to spend a few minutes here talking with you about snow removal. No, I’m not going to mention my thoughts on how, based on this city’s recovery from the last major snowfall, I think we probably would have been shut down by another major snowfall this week. Nor am I going to mention the ruts like canyons, that had folks on my street pushing stuck cars, over a week after the major blast that kicked off winter. Go out and buy snow tires folks, seriously.

It’s not able bodied folks who can push a stuck sedan, or navigate a windrow, or drivers with three-season tires which are marketed for four, who are left in the lurch in my community now that the plows have been through the neighbourhood and the snow pack scrapped away.

Based on the personal experiences of my family, I’ve said before that the fastest way to become imprisoned isn’t to commit a crime, but to suffer an injury or illness that robs you of your mobility and independence.

As a healthy, mobile individual there’s nothing in these pictures which is an impediment to me as a pedestrian. And if I didn’t know, or have someone close to me who’s lived with and battled mobility issues, who requires the use of a wheelchair to travel more than short distances, I might well just walk on without giving this scene a second thought.

But I think of my elderly neighbours who don’t own a vehicle, who maintain their independence by walking to neighbourhood amenities and utilizing public transit. And I think of that person close to me, to whom this streetscape may as well be a solid wall. To individuals like these, Edmonton’s “Snow and Ice Control” policy can sometimes be as cold as the season.

So if we’re serious, actually serious about reducing auto dependence, and encouraging the accessibility of the city to all forms of transportation, and making this city livable for everyone, then let’s bring policy C409G up to par, and utilize smaller equipment in our neighbourhoods to finish the job left behind by graders and plows.

This doesn’t mean making the clearing of sidewalks a city responsibility, but it should mean that following a snowfall event, the city puts on itself the same obligation to clear its streets and rights-of-way, that it puts on residents and homeowners to clear sidewalks surrounding their property.

It means using smaller equipment to remove windrows and the snow pack from crosswalks and pedestrian connections, as well as following along after a neighbourhood has been bladed, removing the newly created windrows from the paths of those on foot, with strollers, and whose mobility is bolstered by using canes, walkers, etc.

I can point to several individuals in my neighbourhood who, through their business endeavors, own bobcats or similar equipment (one of which, whose generosity in clearing these connections on his block was rewarded with a fine). Folks whom I’d bet would jump at the chance to be contracted and utilized by the city to provide this service in their neighbourhoods.

Things that are taken from us by injury, illness, or simply the march of time, are magnifying. Something which becomes a roadblock to a friend, a relative, or someone we just passed on the street, can be invisible or simply a mere annoyance to you and I.

The way we recover from a snow fall in this city could certainly be better, but for civic politicians and city administrators, when contemplating and planning the city’s response, remember that it isn’t just cars that get people from A to B, and utilizing public transit takes more than just a clear bus route.

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Via CBC News Edmonton

 

 

*ability, Oxford and Edmonton – A green neighbourhood with an auto obsession.

My volunteer life has taken a turn towards looking at walkability, and the accessibility of neighbourhoods to all forms of transportation and all citizens, regardless of their physical abilities. It’s through that lens that I find myself looking at north-west Edmonton’s Oxford Neighbourhood. A suburban community, with the city as it’s developer, aspiring towards “mandatory environmental standards and sustainable development”.

At least, for the built-form of it’s homes.

“Homebuilders for the 87 available lot spaces are required to meet eco-friendly guidelines for conservation and energy-efficiency including achieving a minimum EnerGuide rating of 78 or be certified to Built Green Silver standards or equivalents.” – CTV News 

Oxford’s Residential Design Standards for builders and lot owners.

But for a city in which walkability, bikeability, and ability to reduce auto dependence are increasingly on the minds of many residents, and seemingly with the support of a number of city policies, directives, and statements – how does Oxford fit in.

Well – It’s a suburban development. There are no back lanes and “attached double front garages are required”. The sort of design that leads to a cluttered, vehicle dominated streetscape and certainly limits the ability to have treed boulevards separating pedestrians from traffic. The subdivision has a suburban block style, but there are walkways to provide pedestrian connections. A larger question could be what amenities, and supporting densities are planned for the eventual, large-scale neighbourhood build out that would support a greener lifestyle by allowing residents to do more close to home?

Appreciating the environment standards which the city has set for the community’s homes, there a larger issues at play. And with the city assuming the role of developer, I would expect, and would have expected that a push towards greener living include local streetscapes which are friendlier to people and their bikes and feet, rather than their cars.

Awards Night – The best and worst of infill

I want to spend a few minutes here talking about infill development. And I want to do so without digging into the details of the Municipal Development Plan or forthcoming Growth Coordination Strategy (although I don’t why I bother bringing it up since it doesn’t do much to mention mature area redevelopment or coordinate much of anything), or the mass of changes city staffers are proposing for the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay and several residential zones.

Infill can very much be described as being a case of the good, the bad and the wrapped in grey vinyl siding ugly. We don’t do much to acknowledge impressive infill projects, architectural interest, family-friendly amenities and the use of desired & durable materials. There isn’t much acknowledgement to be had for engaging with a community early, being willing to adapt, to respond to feedback, advice and criticisms, and creating a better project as a result.

Cool and innovative, a square box wrapped in vinyl and built to minimum code, or something in between, it’s time communities and a city looking to redevelop and densify, helped to put some space between them, if only ceremonially.

Call it; The Mayor’s Infill Awards as decided upon by Edmonton’s Communities.

As a mature neighbourhood resident, I want a way to acknowledge this. It’s not everyone’s favorite design of course, but I love its design along with its architecture and materials. I very much appreciate that its builder, happens to be the only developer in the community, who in my three+ years as a community league volunteer, proactively reached out to the league and to the neighbours to discuss its design and any potential issues.

It deserves some recognition, the chance to stand out on a larger scale than just the block face.

So what are the metrics for deciding award winners. Design, architecture, materials, and public consultation to be sure. But meetings and the end product certainly aren’t the be all and end all.

Another infill project here in Glenwood. This one wasn’t built by the original owner who rezoned the property. This property was home to a typical small bungalow, which at the end of its life became a drug house, a victim of a fire, and then it sat, an empty, derelict mess for well over a year. The community pursued every channel currently provided by the city to have it remediated, including an appeal to Council to make its clean-up a prerequisite to rezoning. We were certain the property, despite being rezoned for redevelopment, would sit as is for some time. Council disagreed, and in the end we were right, unfortunately. The lot was eventually flipped and redeveloped. But if it had been a product of the original developer.. deserving of a Razzie, imo.

A duplex on 163st nearing completion. It’s a pleasing design, built by a developer who’s been responsive to contact from the community. The removal of the older home and clean-up of the site was done in a timely manner, and construction in a tight environment and along a busy road has been done without major disruptions.

Another duplex in my community, built not for resale but by a family to stay close under one roof. It’s been referenced by other developers to gain community support for their projects, although their end products didn’t resemble it in the slightest. It’s look and feel, it’s amenity space, it’s integration with the character of the street and community deserve acknowledgement. I can see folks in Glenwood singling it out as an example of desirable infill development.

It’s been awhile since the words “no more crap” were uttered. Why don’t we take some time and encourage communities to single out the best builders and redevelopments in our mature communities.

 


 

Warmer than you think

Edmonton adopts winter city strategy

Is Winter City project best use of $362,000 in tax money?

Sorry, I can’t stand the cold

Ben Henderson wears a funny hat … (and winter city launches in Edmonton)

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When it comes to seasons, I have to give a fist bump to Fall. Not just because the colors enhance the look of the city or because the flying,buzzing, blood-suckers are on their way out and it’s safe to sit in the backyard without the OFF. I like it because I’m not a summer or a winter person. I’m not a fan of hot weather, my house doesn’t have AC and my office is upstairs where it seems every molecule of hot air eventually rises to. Winter? It’s obviously easier to warm up than to cool down, but shovelling and 5pm sunsets? Bah!

Fall, for that oh so brief amount of time where it’s not too hot, not too cold, and the sun waits until after 7 to disappear, that’s just right. I suppose the same arguments could be applied to Spring, but Fall doesn’t flood my driveway every year.

So, Fall. Great season, lots to like but oh so short. Summer? We’re the festival city, there’s always something going on. Why people choose to take their vacations and leave town during our sunniest months, I don’t get.  Spring, meh. But Winter…What do we with you?

You chill us, you impede us, you make us annoyed with the place we call home. You can make us forget about positives of this place, and four -30 days per year can feel like four months in our memories. Something we seem to instantly recall in any conservation we find ourselves in regarding the weather here. Yes Winter, you give us community and backyard rinks, skating, skiing, skidooing and snowboarding, but…it’s cold! It snows, and shovelling is a pain. The City’s snow clearing is never fast enough, sidewalks can resemble those skating rinks, no one with mobility issues should have to treacherously navigate a windrow to access public transportation.

Winter, at the end of the day, you’re a force of nature, unstoppable & unmovable. So do we do with you?

As a city, our basic needs come first. Yes we clear our roads, with a substantial budget to do so. But what about all the aspects of urban life? What about public transportation, what accessibility for pedestrians and determined cyclists. What about helping and protecting the most vulnerable during the most difficult months of our northern climate?

Beyond that, what about ourselves, our collective morale and spirit during the days when light is short and cold (and colds, the result of hunkering down inside) are easy to come by? Yes, the city (and this Edmontonian certainly appreciates the effort his City has made to provide outdoor activities) has had mixed results with Winter fests under it’s direction. But is that the only source of winter activity, winter fun and interaction? Heck no. Not with countless community leagues, community groups, business associations, etc in operation across our city.

This is the ‘why’ for a winter strategy. This is why, while you’re free to take any position you wish, including giving a “Bah! Humbug!” to whole thing and the WinterCity strategy’s aspirational, maybe even fluffy language, I’d ask you, my fellow Edmontonians not to begrudge the ‘try’.

Debate, discussion, and a committed focus on the winter season need not be a narrow focus on festivals and events, or the costs involved. Our core services and a helping hand to residents in need perhaps stand to benefit the most. Edmonton has a number of agencies, boards and committees, their seats filled with interested and engaged Edmontonians. Their work is often quiet, behind the scenes and without the recognition it most likely deserves, but these folks, these outlets help to build our city. Whether it’s providing advice of the status and growth of the Edmonton Transit System, in advocacy for persons with disabilities, or in honoring people and places by using historical names within the city.

For individuals out there who want to tackle winter head-on, then I say the WinterCity Strategy is a great start, and an advisory council and other related avenues, a great place for them. Go out there and build capacity in those grass roots organizations to hold winter festivals and events. Explore innovative ways to build urban amenities that are attractive in all seasons. Go out and experiment, find ways to improve the accessibility of our infrastructure during the winter months, and liaise with social agencies and service providers to help protect those who need protection from the harshness of our climate.

The budget request to help life this off the ground is not unreasonable, the avenues to explore are plenty, and the optimism and aspirations of “For The Love of Winter”, as a city… let’s run with it and see what happens. When it comes to winter, we won’t be able to see we didn’t plan for it to the best extent possible, and didn’t get outside to make the most of it.

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Edmonton WinterCity Strategy