Edmonton

Edmonton city council quashes another bid for bigger Holyrood Gardens

A major mixed-use development planned for 83rd Street in Holyrood may be on hold after a city council vote Tuesday denied the developer's application to build more units at the site. 

Regency Development says complex is at risk of not getting built

A rendering of the Holyrood Gardens project presented in 2018. (City of Edmonton)

A major mixed-use development planned in Holyrood may be on hold after a city council vote Tuesday denied the developer's application to build more units at the site. 

Regency Development applied to add 250 units to Holyrood Gardens at 83rd Street and 93rd Avenue, which would have increased the total to 1,450 units from the 1,200 approved in 2018. The revised application was supported by administration.

Council effectively quashed the request in a 5-5 vote at the end of a public hearing Tuesday at city hall. 

Ten councillors were present to vote on the application. Mike Nickel and Sarah Hamilton were absent while Ben Henderson is now on official leave of absence. 

Bev Esslinger, Tony Caterina, Moe Banga, Jon Dziadyk and Tim Cartmell voted to move forward while Andrew Knack, Aaron Paquette, Scott McKeen, Michael Walters and Mayor Don Iveson voted against.

Raj Dhunna, Regency's chief operating officer, is frustrated.

"Councillors and the mayor who voted no have shown the utmost hypocrisy in the future of city-building and Edmonton," Dhunna said in an email. 

Holyrood Gardens fulfills one of the city's main goals of developing more densely populated neighbourhoods near public transit, Dhunna noted.

The site is near the Valley Line Southeast LRT stations in Bonnie Doon and Strathearn as well as major bus routes. It is considered a transit-oriented development, meeting the city's goal to develop neighbourhoods around public transit. 

Before the council vote, Dhunna also agreed to an affordable housing clause that would give the city the option to buy 10 per cent of the units at 85 per cent of market value. 

"I didn't hesitate because I'm a community builder, our company's a community builder," he said in a phone interview Tuesday night. 

Next phase at risk

Dhunna said market realities have changed since the company bought the site in 2015 and had the original plan approved in 2018. He said he needs more capacity to make it work. 

"It's definitely put the entire phase two at risk," he said of council's vote. 

A small portion of 100 units on the north end of the project — phase one — is already complete. 

Banga supported the revised plan, in part because it's established around the LRT and would increase ridership. 

"We need to move on this thing," he said. "We spent $1.8 billion on the Valley Line Southeast LRT and construction along that corridor is what the city is looking for, that was the intention." 

As part of the revised application, the company planned to maintain the height and width of the 25-storey building.

Dhunna said the size of the apartments would be smaller, but neither he nor the city report provided specifics on the dimensions. 

The revised plan includes about 30 more two-and three-bedroom family apartments from the 2018 design. 

'A deal is a deal'

Members of the Holyrood Development Committee joined the public hearing to speak against the new proposal. 

Many who spoke were concerned about an increase in density in an area experiencing a lot of growth. 

Allen Winter, a long-time resident, echoed the committee's concerns that the proposal is an about-face from the design all parties agreed to in 2018. 

"A deal is a deal," Winter said. "No more changes." 

In the revised plan, Regency would build improvements to the 93rd Avenue corridor between 83rd and 85th streets for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. 

It's the second time this year Regency has asked to increase the size of the mixed-use development after a proposed 450 additional dwellings were rejected by council in May.

@natashariebe

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