Transforming Edmonton's Urban Core - The Next Municipal Development Plan

City Council will approve a new Municipal Development Plan (MDP) this term. A broad conversation will be coming to provide you with an opportunity for to engage with planning Edmonton's future growth and development. The new MDP must execute densification thoughtfully, driving growth into core communities, such as the Quarters and Rossdale, around Transit Oriented Developments (TOD), and along arterial roads.

With the award-winning Edmonton Metropolitan Region Growth Plan guiding our suburban growth and pushing us to think about economic development and industrial growth in regional terms, it’s time to shift the focus of the MDP away from the suburban and into the urban to develop a beautiful, dense, and livable big city. The new MDP needs to compel more and more investment in our core communities making our development plans in West Rossdale, the Quarters, Northlands and many TOD’s more than just planning exercises. We need to walk the walk and start building these great Edmonton districts. We need to think big.

The MDP is Edmonton's primary planning document that is designed to give direction and guide Edmonton’s growth for the next ten years. This document has immense importance. While the 2009 MDP’s 25% infill target was a step in the right direction, it wasn’t enough to direct growth into vital urban areas like core and mature neighbourhoods.

The next MDP must prioritize development in core neighbourhoods to create a city with a big downtown core and dense, beautiful districts, each with their own personality that reflects their own ambitions and history. Creating great neighbourhoods and a beautiful, well-built, and well-run city are core parts of my vision and I’ll continue to work to make sure those principles are reflected in our next MDP.  We need to create the tools and mechanisms that attract much greater private sector investment in our core.

Priority Growth Areas

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Queens Quay, Toronto | http://bit.ly/2E0J6xW

Created with this vision in mind, the MDP will help develop neighbourhoods that inspire Edmontonians and others to want to live here. West Rossdale’s Urban Development Plan is an example of excellent design and planning. West Rossdale will have a diverse land-use mix and will be a highly liveable, walkable, and sustainable community with a wide range of housing and transportation choices. Integrated with Downtown, the Legislature Grounds, Capital City Parks, and surrounding neighbourhoods, it will feature a variety of public spaces including waterfront access to the North Saskatchewan River via the proposed Touch the Water Promenade, diverse park spaces, trails, art, and recreation opportunities. West Rossdale will become a destination for residents and visitors to Edmonton. 

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Soho, London | http://bit.ly/2FESlAy

East of the core downtown area, The Quarters is planned for revitalization and with the completion of The Armature this area is just beginning its development into an arts-centred, vibrant, healthy, and desirable community that will one day be home to 20,000 residents, compared to its current 2,400 residents. Each of the five distinct areas within the Quarters will have its own character, activities, and feel, centred around a walkable and unique park system. Imagine dim sum, brewpubs, writers houses, and poetry festivals, all centred around distinctive architecture and open spaces. The mix of parks, shops, employment, services, and housing will develop a community composed of a diversity of people and uses. With connections to downtown, the River Valley and adjacent neighbourhoods, the Quarters will provide a variety of options for the safe movement of pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles. Further development will require City investment to develop public amenities, but it will pay off not only with the improvement of the lives of thousands of Edmontonians but also with a boost in tax revenue from the increased density.

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Soho, London | http://bit.ly/2s5KBW2

With the likely demolition of the Northlands Coliseum drawing near, a new opportunity arises to revitalize the area around 118th avenue. Imagining a modern townhouse community at Northlands would create a great place for families to settle in the core of Edmonton, right on an LRT station and with instant access to services. This type of development can replace some of the market demand in the suburbs and bring it to a neighbourhood in Edmonton's core. Investing at Northlands will also lift up the surrounding communities like Bellevue, Montrose, Elmwood Park, Eastwood, and Parkdale, areas that have great potential and have been yearning for years for better progress and more investment.

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Bainbridge, Seattle | http://bit.ly/2DYfFfY

Transit Oriented Developments (TODs) and Arterial roads, also referred to as Nodes and Corridors, are the next priority area of growth. Good examples of TODs areas are downtown along 124th Street, mature neighbourhood stops along the Valley Line LRT like Bonnie Doon, and 109th Street from 60th Avenue right up to Saskatchewan Drive. These areas can incorporate row housing, four to six storey walk-ups with commercial buildings on the main floor, and other medium scale housing to help address Edmonton's “missing middle”. The 109th Street Corridor Area Redevelopment Plan highlights plans to improve the quality of developments and streetscapes with a better balance between all users of the important transportation corridor.  We must execute this plan and move forward with replacing the deteriorated homes and unfriendly streetscapes that line 109th Street and other locations throughout Edmonton.

Smart Suburbs in a Smart Region

The Edmonton Metropolitan Regional Board’s regional growth plan calls for building suburbs with higher density creating more transit friendly communities. This plan will mean massive savings for the region: $5 billion in infrastructure costs and preventing the unnecessary development of 250 quarter-sections (or 162 square km) of prime agricultural land. Smarter growth will also mean better food security for the region over the next 30 to 40 years. This plan, already in place, will continue to effectively manage our outward suburban growth and it requires us to strive for town centres and TODs for all future suburbs.

By activating industrial land like the Edmonton Energy Technology Park and future sites near the Edmonton International Airport, providing more opportunities for employees along with an excellent transportation system to boot, we will make it enticing for investors to come to Edmonton to start or expand their businesses. By planning this way we will save the region swaths of valuable agricultural land and billions on infrastructure needed to service this land. This provides Edmonton with strong economic development alongside financially responsible planning and creates a beautiful city people will be eager to live in.

All of this boils down to ensuring liveability, affordability, high quality of life, economic prosperity, and financial security for everyday Edmontonians. Building neighbourhoods that are safe, vibrant, and well serviced that offer mixed housing types and excellent transportation choices for families improves peoples quality of life and provides Edmontonians with attractive livable neighbourhoods. A forward-thinking, urban growth focused MDP will provide Edmonton with the direction it needs to be a global leader, while also being affordable and sustainable for all of our citizens. Think big Edmonton; we have the opportunity to make our city into something really amazing. The first report on the MDP will be coming to Council in March, so stay tuned for future public engagement.