Blueprint for growth: Edmonton council ponders plan to prepare for 2 million residents

Edmonton is closer to adopting a high-level plan to guide efficient housing and commercial developments, transportation, active infrastructure and climate goals. 

City Plan calls for 50 per cent of new housing to be infill

Edmonton's proposed City Plan envisions a city twice as big as today, with two million people. (David Bajer/CBC)

Edmonton may soon adopt a high-level plan that will guide policy on a wide range of issues from housing and commercial developments, to transportation, infrastructure and climate goals.

The City Plan, which administrators presented to council Monday, aims to accommodate an estimated two million people in the coming decades — about double the current population.

Stephanie McCabe, deputy city manager of urban form and corporate strategic development, said the city has been working on the blueprint for two years but noted the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for flexibility. 

"Change will happen, some that we can predict and some that we cannot," McCabe said. "There's no better example of the need to be agile, responsive and imaginative in the face of disruption than what we're going through right now." 

Big city moves

The plan lists five "big city moves" for a greener, denser, more inclusive, mobile and employable city. 

It calls for the city to plant two million urban trees, attain zero net greenhouse gas emissions per person, and have half of all trips use public transit or active transportation such as biking, scooters and walking. 

Charity Dyke, the city's lead urban strategist, said the plan aims to create 15-minute districts, with amenities close enough to homes. 

"People are able to easily complete their daily needs by walking, rolling or cycling," Dyke noted. 

"For many, living locally has become the new normal through the pandemic and the value of having services and amenities close to home has never been more pressing." 

The plan calls for 50 per cent of new housing to be infill within existing neighbourhoods. 

Ashley Salvador with YEGarden Suites was one of more than two dozen people who gave council feedback at a public hearing Monday. 

She suggested the city bump the percentage of infill up to 55 per cent of new housing to accommodate another 750,000 people. 

"Committing to a slightly higher target will encourage the city to start investing in upgrades now and over the life cycle of the City Plan," Salvador said. 

Mike Kohl with the Urban Development Institute said he supports the City Plan framework but said it is lacking details.

"As city builders, we are excited to be part of that aspirational vision," Kohl said. "The specifics of how to get there merit careful consideration and discussion as we move from aspiration to action." 

Kohl said the city shouldn't lose sight of market conditions, consumer demand and infrastructure investments that have been made.

"There is a general desire to move toward ground-oriented single-family housing units, certainly not in its entirety, but as a generalization." 

Bob Summers, associate director of the University of Alberta's urban and regional planning program, said he supports Edmonton's continued investment in its core. 

"Really, really great cities and thriving cities have fantastic downtowns and it doesn't matter if you live in a suburban area or if you live in a downtown, there are some benefits to that for the entire city," Summers said.

Council is scheduled to continue discussing the proposed City Plan on Tuesday and is being asked to approve the preliminary blueprint. 


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