In May of 2009, the Government of Alberta announced $6.6 million in funding for two Capital Region Housing Corporation developments. The development slated for the Jasper Place area, sits in the community of Britannia-Youngstown, on the Stony Plain Road commercial strip, and within the boundaries of the Jasper Place Revitalization Strategy. When developed with input from community residents, and approved by Edmonton City Council in 2009, the JPRS called for future development of Stony Plain Road to be mixed-use, with street-oriented retail and multi-unit residential above. The development here does include ground floor retail facing Stony Plain Road, with 20 studio/bachelor affordable housing units in the floors above.
As the development has reached completion, its first retail tenant has moved in:
In an area already well saturated with adult-oriented businesses such as cash/pay-day-loan stores, pawn shops, adult video & etc, this is the first retail tenant of a tax-payer funded affordable housing development, within an area undergoing tax-payer funded “revitalization” efforts.
I’ve had the great opportunity over the last few weeks to discuss neighborhood revitalization and mature neighborhood sustainability with some of the city’s foremost experts on the subject. I’ve heard great disussions on the negative effects a concentration of adult-oriented businesses (pawn shops, pay-day-loans, etc) can have on a community. How they’re often found concentrated in areas of distress, and the best description I’ve heard, “outposts of distress”, ‘a poisonous combination of taking from a community without generating any reinvestment’.
Addressing the issue was a defined component of the Jasper Place Revitalization:
Declining and relocating businesses have left a retail vacuum which has been filled with an over-concentration of pawn shows, adult bookstores, massage establishments, and cheque cashing establishments in three core, centre block
Goal 3: Building our community
Short Term Actions
Custom commercial overlay on all pawnshops and adult shops until a new zoning plan for Stony Plain Road business corridor is complete including density, design and zoning standards
As someone who has volunteered on the JPR steering committee, I’ve seen the situation as multi-fold; Grandfathering protects the concentration that exists now, establishing a commercial overlay against a pay-day-loans operation is difficult as they currently fall under the broadly defined Professional, Financial and Office Support Services in Edmonton’s zoning bylaw, and no action has been taken at a legislative local level, except for the following motion from October 29th, 2008:
Text Amendment to the Zoning Bylaw with a Stony Plain Road Commercial Overlay
Moved K. Leibovici – L. Sloan:
That Administration prepare a text amendment to the Zoning Bylaw with a Stony Plain Road Commercial Overlay containing the following:
- Prior to issuing a new development permit for bars, nightclubs, neighbourhood pubs, adult entertainment shops, pawn shops, cash stores, massage shops, or for an increase in occupancy load of bars, nightclubs, and neighbourhood pubs, the applicant shall:
- Contact affected parties including the president of the adjacent community league(s), and Stony Plain Road Business Revitalization Zone.
- Outline details of application to affected parties and solicit comments.
- Document opinions and concerns expressed by affected parties.
- Submit the documentation as part of the development permit application.
- Apply for a DC2 provision for bars, nightclubs, adult entertainment shops, pawn shops, cash stores, massage shops, neighbourhood pubs, within the Stony Plain Road Business Revitalization Zone area.
|Planning & Dev.Council Public Hearing
Due: To Be Determined
G. Heaton, Deputy City Manager’s Office, answered Council’s questions.
For the Motion: S. Mandel; B. Anderson, T. Caterina, E. Gibbons, R. Hayter, B. Henderson, D. Iveson, K. Krushell,
K. Leibovici, L. Sloan, D. Thiele.
Absent: J. Batty, A. Sohi.
A lot of time, sweat, and effort from business owners and volunteers has gone into local revitalization. There are property owners along SPR, who out of concern and support for these local efforts, have taken it in the pocket, turning down offers to rent space when they felt doing so would hinder revitalization. Obviously not all in the area are willing to do the same, but in the abscence of any legislative tools to address a concentration of predatory/adult-oriented businesses, it’s going to fall to landlords to make the right choices for the Stony Plain Road commercial strip and surrouding communities. When the landlord and development in question is funded by millions in taxpayer dollars, I absolutely expect nothing less. CRHC has advertised this as a development that will “help enrich the community of Britannia-Youngstown”. For the revitalizating community surrounding it, and the future tenants in need of stable, affordable housing, this choice of retail tenant fails both.
Some more light reading:
Does Fringe Banking Exacerbate Neighborhood Crime Rates? Social Disorganization and the Ecology of Payday Lending
August 23rd Update – It’s been several months since I first contacted the CRHC asking for a response from them on this issue, I still have not received a reply.