June 12, 2014 8:03 pm

City offers tour of Blatchford lands, days after scaling back project

Watch above: Days after council approved the go-ahead for the Blatchford redevelopment, the city gave a tour of what will become Edmonton’s newest community. But will it be the green community people were told it would become? Vinesh Pratap reports.

EDMONTON – The City of Edmonton gave a tour of the Blatchford lands Thursday, just two days after council approved revised plans for the redevelopment project.

Tuesday’s decision came with some criticism that the plan originally sold to Edmontonians is not what will end up being built.

Still, on Thursday, officials behind the project were showcasing all that it will offer.

“The first stage will be about 250 dwelling units,” said Mark Hall, executive director of Blatchford Redevelopment. “It will be predominately street-oriented town housing.”

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But, will Blatchford be the green community it was touted to be?

“I think this is really an opportunity for Edmonton to still be leading edge environmentally in developing this green build,” said Councillor Bev Esslinger. “But we have to be realistic.”

Several years ago, with great fanfare, the city hosted an international design competition with the criteria for a sustainable community. Five design firms were given $50,000 to fine-tune submissions. In the end, Vancouver’s Perkins + Will won.

READ MORE: Design contract awarded for City Centre Airport redevelopment 

However, city councillors were recently told implementing that full plan would have led to a loss of $280 million.

“You know, the reality has set in a bit,” said Councillor Andrew Knack.

On Tuesday, council gave the green light to what designers called a “watered down” version of the project.

“What we’ve approved, what the recommended scenario was, was something that was very good,” said Knack. “It’s going to be leading Alberta, I’m certain.”

READ MORE: Edmonton City Council votes to scale down Blatchford redevelopment

But, those hoping for a world-class, green community in Edmonton are left with concerns.

“This cannot be anything but bold,” wrote one person on the Connect2Edmonton forum.

“I am upset with this scaling back,” another person wrote in response to Mayor Don Iveson’s blog post on the subject. However, another wrote, “I think the city makes a good compromise here.”

Designers argued the new plan isn’t what they created.

“A global model of sustainability,” said Joyce Drohan, of Perkins + Will, “that was council’s aim for the airport lands when they staged an international competition in 2010.”

Another issue? Profit projections for the Blatchford development.

During the contentious airport debate, initial numbers suggested a land sales profit of between $91 million and $486 million.

In December 2010, it was revised downward to $70 million.

READ MORE: Details on Blatchford lands development spark concerns 

“The benefits of development were probably overstated or over-calculated at the time,” said former City Councillor Linda Sloan in Dec. 2010.

With the city moving forward with the revised plans, discussions with home builders are now underway.

“Part of the conversation that we have with them is around sustainability,” said Hall, “and their willingness to partner with us and develop the relationship that allows us to deliver those green buildings.”

Knack is calling for a report on what other green features can be incorporated in the new version.

“Anyone that is concerned about that, I’m highly encouraging them to come out in October to have that discussion with council at committee to share their view and say, ‘you know what, we want you to do more.’”

The city projects a full build out over 25 years and a profit of $45 million.

The city is planning further consultations for Blatchford this July, August and September.

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News

© Shaw Media, 2014

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