When most people think of infill, their minds generally go to the traditional method of splitting older, larger lots to make way for smaller homes as a way to increase density. But one infill project in a quiet south Edmonton neighbourhood is turning heads for exactly the opposite reason.
Construction is well underway on a massive two-storey home in the Malmo Plains neighbourhood. What’s different about this infill development is that the single-family home is being built on what used to be two 50-foot lots.
“When we first saw the plans we thought, ‘Oh, this is a large building,'” Malmo Plains Community League president Murray Whitby said.
“It has underground parking and an underground car wash. So it’s quite unusual.”
The neighbourhood dates back to the early 1960s and the majority of the homes in the area are bungalows. Since infill began in Edmonton in late 2014, concerns over the size of some of the projects have been raised. Residents have also worried that the newer builds are not in keeping with the character of older communities.
In a recent blog, Coun. Michael Walters called this particular project “another example of a new build wildly out of context with the surrounding homes.”
He added that cities have no control over lot consolidation, as it’s under the province’s jurisdiction.
“Similarly, the city has no jurisdiction over a neighbours lack of rights to appeal a consolidation or a subdivision,” Walters wrote. “We need to have a serious conversation about context and good design.”
The Malmo Plains Community League is very much in support of infill, but Whitby admits some area residents aren’t happy with the project.
“We have not had unanimity on this infill. We have had neighbours who didn’t like the fact that it was quite imposing in terms of its size,” he said. “Our initial reaction was, if he’s got the city’s approval then we’re on board with it.”
As the project is catching eyes in the neighbourhood, several residents are impressed by it.
“This came as a surprise. When the houses sold I didn’t expect a house of this size, but I’m not surprised because people want to build what they want to live in,” Fred Alexandruk said.
Alexandruk has lived in Malmo Plains since 1963. In fact, he was one of the neighbourhood’s first residents. He said he’d much rather see this type of development than skinny homes.
“Two skinny homes is just plain two skinny homes on a lot. It does not fit with the neighbourhood. It makes the houses go up much more than they really need to.”
While large, the infill development is built according to city bylaws. Anlin Wen, a senior planner with the City of Edmonton, said an application was made in 2015 to build a single-family home with a basement suite, after the lots were consolidated by the province’s land titles office.
“It’s not abnormal at all. It’s a normal application,” Wen said.
Wen said two variances were granted on the house: one to allow for a rear setback on the home and another for the rear garage entrance.
Before the application was approved, Wen said the City of Edmonton mailed out notices to neighbours in a 60-metre radius to inform them of the plan.
“Also, the builders brought the plan, knocked door by door, seeking response from the neighbourhood within a 60-metre radius. That was before the decision was made.”
Notifications were sent out again after the variances were approved, Wen explained. When no one appealed, the project was given the go-ahead.
“There was no appeal. All the approved procedures were followed.”
Wen admits projects like this are extremely rare in Edmonton.
“It’s not common at all. It’s very, very rare.”
“This building, as far as I’m told, really is an anomaly,” Whitby added. “It is really a one off and we don’t expect to see other sorts of developments like this.”
Malmo Plains hasn’t seen a lot of infill since the city launched its Infill Roadmap in August 2014. At the end of the day, the community league and residents just want good neighbours.
“Once it’s finished and developed and people are moved in and life settles back to normal, I don’t think very many people will be paying very much attention,” Alexandruk said.