Edmonton adopts new city plan to guide smart growth over next 45 years

Edmonton city council is embracing a blueprint to help guide future housing, transit, employment and infrastructure as the city grows to an estimated population of two million people over the next 45 years.

Plan will take about 45 years to completely build out

The city plan has a four-stage approach to eventually accommodate double the current population of one million people. (Codie McLachlan/CBC)

Edmonton city council is embracing a blueprint to help guide future housing, transit, employment and infrastructure as the city grows to an estimated population of two million people over the next 45 years. 

Council approved the proposed plan on Wednesday after a three-day public hearing during which they heard from two dozen speakers.

Mayor Don Iveson described the document as a roadmap to an affordable, efficient, competitive, sustainable and green city, a just and compassionate city.

"And yes, a fun city," he said.

Iveson teared up during wrap-up comments. 

"Since I became mayor, all of this work has been for my kids," he said. "Because my key performance indicator is to build the kind of city that my kids will be proud to call home." 

Iveson said he's proud of the work on the roadmap. 

"We've been able to work with industry to increase our goals for building up more and out less," he said. 

The mayor noted that where the city builds "out" it will aim to do so in fiscally and environmentally responsible ways. 

45-year plan

The plan will take about 45 years to build out completely, city plan director Kalen Anderson said at a media availability.

The document contains some high-level goals, such as having 50 per cent of all trips in the city be made by public transit or active transportation modes, like biking, walking or rolling. 

The plan calls for people in all parts of the city to be within a 15-minute trip of amenities and transportation. 

Andrew Knack, councillor for Ward 1 in the west end, said he lives within a 15-minute walk, bike or transit ride from his dentist, doctor, bank, grocery stores and health-care centres.

"That's a luxury that not everyone has," Knack said. "It's actually what should be a basic expectation for all Edmontonians, no matter where they live." 

Knack said the plan addresses the fiscal, environmental and social health of the city. 

Time horizons

The plan outlines a four-stage approach, shifting from one to the next as the population grows by 250,000 people. 

The first phase is based on having a population of 1 million to 1.25 million and focuses on established "priority growth areas" such as Blatchford, downtown and Whyte Avenue. 

Anderson said the first phase is projected to cover 12 to 15 years. 

The fourth phase accommodates 1.75 to two million people, with the majority of growth in redeveloping areas, the report said. 

"Areas such as Blatchford and 118th Avenue now require strategy or reinvestment and most other nodes and corridors are in need of nurturing activities," the plan said. 

Density is critical

Council heard from about two dozen people over three days of public hearings. Some spoke more than once. 

Bob Summers, associate director of the University of Alberta's School of Urban and Regional Planning, stressed the need for the city to focus on compact neighbourhoods. 

"If we have high-density areas, they tend to subsidize the low-density areas," Summers said. "So a place like Oliver certainly pays for itself and then subsidizes much of the rest of the city."

Aaron Paquette, councillor for Ward 4 in the northeast, said he wants to dispel the idea that living in a high-density area is unappealing. 

"There are many people, especially in my ward that I've spoken to, that when they hear "high density" they kind of think of slums, in their words."

Summers said the more the city develops, the more people will adjust to high-density living. 

"This is something that's sort of held onto by older generations, so it'll change as the city changes," he said. "We're getting there."

Mike Nickel and Moe Banga voted against the plan. 

Nickel didn't comment through the public hearing Wednesday but sent a comment to CBC News.

"It's very much administration's and the mayor's plan," Nickel wrote.



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