EDMONTON – City council has given the green light to what designers are calling a “watered down” version for Edmonton’s Blatchford redevelopment project.
There was huge fanfare when the Blatchford redevelopment plan was unveiled in 2010. It was supposed to be a world leader in green living.
Now, four years later, the city says that original plan for the former city centre airport land is just too costly. All but two councillors – Tony Caterina and Mike Nickel – voted for a scaled-back version of the original plan on Tuesday.
“I would love to build the greenest neighbourhood in the world. But I don’t think I can convince Edmontonians to put $200 million into doing that,” Mayor Don Iveson said.
He also posted a blog on the Blatchford debate and tweeted the following after the vote:
City administration has cut portions of the design to save money, and insists it won’t compromise the project. But the Vancouver firm behind the original design doesn’t agree.
“We’re here to today to appeal to council to take the time for some sober second thought and to really learn more about the original plan and the current plan you’re contemplating,” said Joyce Drohan, Perkins and Will’s director of urban design.
“Council’s decision is going to be the difference between a slightly better-than-average neighbourhood, or the original vision for a global model for sustainability.”
People on social media were also sounding off on the implications of the changes.
Despite the new scaled-back plan, most councillors still believe Blatchford will be cutting-edge and a great place to live.
Some of the changes city administration has made include swapping some of the planned high-rises for townhomes, and eliminating costly geo-thermal construction. Iveson says the technology for the latter is “not quite there yet,” and it’s simply not cost-effective at this stage.
“We’re still looking at the options to try and achieve that carbon neutrality goal. If we can do that and make it financially sustainable for the city, that’s the win-win that I think our citizens are looking for.”
Iveson adds that in the city administration’s plan there will be four times as many townhouses and brownstone type homes than in Perkins and Will’s original version.
Thirty-thousand people are supposed to be moving into the Blatchford development. The city hopes to have builders on the Blatchford site next fall and have people moving in by 2016.
With files from Kendra Slugoski, Global News