The Pulse: Jan. 11, 2024

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  • -29°C: A mix of sun and cloud. 30% chance of flurries early in the morning. Wind up to 15 km/h. Temperature steady near minus 29. Wind chill near minus 41. Frostbite in minutes. (forecast)
  • 300: More than 300 vehicle crashes have been reported in Edmonton since snow began to fall on Jan 9.
  • 5pm: The Edmonton Oilers (21-15-1) play the Detroit Red Wings (20-16-4) at Little Caesars Arena. (details)

A group of people walk down an artist's depiction of a dense, bustling community. In the background are mid-rise buildings and an LRT arriving at a station.

For Edmonton's Blatchford redevelopment, 2024 is a decisive year

By Tim Querengesser

Coun. Anne Stevenson uses the analogy of a plane hurtling down a runway to build lift and fly when considering the city's Blatchford development. "It takes time to pick up the speed and then to take off, and I truly feel that we are at that inflection point," Stevenson told Taproot.

Both Blatchford's critics and proponents say the question of how much runway Blatchford should get to achieve flight could be conclusively answered in 2024. This year marks a decade since city council approved the business case to fund the redevelopment of the 536-acre former downtown airport, with hopes of housing up to 30,000 people. It's been nearly 15 years since it put the first development plan in place. Since then, council has directed the city to invest more than $100 million in the project.

Blatchford's original 2014 business case expected roughly 500 housing units to be built yearly from 2018 onward, generating roughly $500 million in revenues from land sales. As of late 2023, fewer than 200 units have been built at Blatchford, or less than 10% of what was originally predicted by this time. Only 57 of those units are occupied, and revenues are also not where the decade-old business case expected them to be.

This pace has led to concern. There were almost 50,000 housing units added to Edmonton in the same time frame, said Kalen Anderson, CEO of the Urban Development Institute — Edmonton Metro. "Only 149 of them were in Blatchford," Anderson said. "And of that 50,000, 14,000 of those were infill. So it's not even like we can say that there's no infill — there's 14,000 houses that were added as infill units."

Some on city council share the concern. Last fall, at the prompting of Coun. Tim Cartmell, council asked for and received an independent market review of the project. That report suggested more than 80% of land the city has placed on offer to builders at Blatchford has sold, and that the pace of development is slow but "reasonable" and market acceptance is "improving."

Stevenson said that report and events beyond the city's control — such as the three-year pandemic — allow her to remain optimistic about Blatchford. "We went from planes landing to people living in homes in seven years," she said. She added this was in line with industry standards for new suburbs.

As 2024 opens, then, Stevenson said she's certain Blatchford is succeeding. "I think a lot of the concerns right now are premature and not borne out by what's being shown in the evidence," she said. "The amount of land that the city's going to be putting on offer next year for sale is going be twice what it was (in 2023)," Further, mainstream developers are coming in for 2024. "The phases are growing and that will lead to faster completion," Stevenson said.

Who those developers are also contributes to Stevenson's optimism. In November, Western Canadian mega-developer Qualico announced it will build townhomes at Blatchford using the StreetSide brand. "What's really exciting there, too, is that Qualico is taking a product from the new (suburban) neighbourhoods, adapting it to meet the (Blatchford) green energy requirements, which means that they can … be offering that in other neighbourhoods now," Stevenson said. "So, that to me is part of the (Blatchford) magic."

Still, Stevenson acknowledged 2024 is a big year for Blatchford. "Don't get me wrong," she said. "I think that if, a year from now, we haven't really seen an acceleration in sales and construction, then yeah I would have concerns then."

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Headlines: Jan. 11, 2024

By Kevin Holowack

The door to a public washroom inside an LRT station, next to a sign indicating the washroom has access control.

Calls for public engagement: Civic boards and public washrooms

By Kevin Holowack

Here are opportunities to get involved in civic projects, including the chance to join an advisory body or provide input to shape the city's washroom strategy.

  • Apply to join a civic board — The city is running its annual recruitment campaign for committees, boards, and agencies. It is seeking 38 people to help make decisions related to accessibility and community services, transit and library services, affordable housing, climate resilience, and more. Interested residents must apply by Jan. 14.
  • Public Washroom Strategy Survey — The city is developing a strategy to improve the accessibility, management, and user experience of public washrooms. Residents can complete a survey to help inform priorities for temporary and permanent public washrooms until Jan. 27.
  • Winterscapes photo contest — Nominations remain open for the city's annual winter-themed photo contest. Residents can submit their own or someone else's winterscape to be considered for an award until Feb. 19.
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A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: Jan. 11, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.