February 27, 2019 10:28 pm
Updated: February 27, 2019 10:29 pm

Downtown Edmonton councillor asks: how many towers is too much?

A view of Manulife Place from Edmonton's Stantec Tower on Nov. 16, 2018.

Vinesh Pratap/Global News
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Edmonton Coun. Scott McKeen has begun the process of getting feedback from city planners on the rapid development in the city centre.

He said he’ll ask for an analysis on “up-zoning” and its impact on property values at the March 12 council meeting.

McKeen has heard complaints from the neighborhoods and development industry that when city council approves a new tall tower, the decision changes the thought process for other property owners.

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“The point of the motion is to be able to get more advice on how we look at the consequences of these decisions,” McKeen said Wednesday. “Not one off, but in totality and whether or not we have to look at changing our plans.”

READ MORE: Edmonton city council approves 23-storey ‘The View’ tower in Oliver

He referenced the September 2018 vote to give the green light to a project called “The View,” a condo tower in the Grandin area of downtown Edmonton’s Oliver neighbourhood. He said that decision killed another “missing middle” project nearby. Those are mid-sized townhouses and apartment buildings that are dwarfed by taller towers.

“I know there was one project on 110 Street in Oliver — they abandoned it pretty fast after that 23-storey tower on two residential lots was approved, in part I think because they just saw that they weren’t going to be able to compete in that market,” McKeen said.

McKeen said he’s heard feedback that once council approves a massive project, other property owners perceive the value of what they own as escalating dramatically in value.

“If you artificially inflate property values, you can actually sterilize development because nobody wants to pay that price,” he said.

“Do you sterilize other parts of downtown? And do you skew real estate values by giving other people the belief that their land is now worth way more money because it can now take a 60-storey tower. Those are the forces I just want to understand better.”

READ MORE: Canada’s tallest tower west of Toronto opens in Edmonton

McKeen said he wonders if city council should re-evaluate the downtown plan and the Oliver area redevelopment plan, suggesting Rogers Place changed the economics of downtown development.

“If the rules are wide open, if it’s wild, wild west around us abandoning our plans, I just think that creates a mess for industry, creates a mess for neighborhoods,” he said. “I think council needs to understand the consequences of these decisions that, unfortunately, we make one at a time.”

In tabling his notion of motion, McKeen said that in the last five years, 14 projects representing 17 towers have been approved by city council, while another 11 rezoning applications representing 15 more towers are on deck for consideration this year.

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