After three different rezoning applications were debated at Edmonton City Hall on Thursday, two new high-rise apartment proposals were approved by city councillors while a third is expected to be approved.
The Shift, proposed by Edgar Developments for 106 Street, just north of Jasper Avenue, was seeking both underground and above ground parking. The project was getting a thumbs down from city planners because of how the builder wants to treat parking.
However, the project received a vote of approval from all councillors except for Ben Henderson. The debate over the rezoning application saw prospects for approval looking bleak as the developer was asked questions about it. But councillors, city administrators and the developer worked together to amend the proposal so it could get the green light to go ahead.
Two towers being proposed are 38 and 35 storeys for a total of 700 units. A report from city planners had criticized the concept because it would be right next to “a pair of high-profile public parks, a future LRT station and existing protected bike lanes.”
Ahead of Thursday’s debate, Councillor Scott McKeen said he hoped council would hear them out, because while the proposed ground-level parking is normally a no-no, this proposal would see the parking for now, because there’s still demand for it. Potentially, however, that parking may be converted to more housing units later.
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“His argument is that yes they want one floor of above ground parking, but they’ll convert that into residential at some point in the future,” McKeen said.
The issue is an illustration of the conflict between the current view of transportation and what’s in store for the future.
McKeen explained that developers say they need parking because while the move to car share, LRT and walking is coming, it’s not there yet. “We haven’t kind of reached that point in the market yet, so the developers are a little skittish.”
People want their cars, he added.
“This council has been a little skeptical about the high amount of parking going in some of these buildings so I think we should be at least open minded to this,” McKeen said.
The Shift project will see the developer build two storeys of above ground parking with the apartment suites built on top of those storeys.
A proposal for another pair of towers for McKeen’s ward in Oliver, on the Edmonton Motors site at Jasper Avenue and 115 Street, was also debated on Thursday before being approved in three readings.
This project already had city planning’s approval because it “increases residential density on an underutilized site.” The towers would sit above separate mixed-use podiums, and the buildings would have 30 family-oriented dwellings.
Aaron Paquette was the only councillor who didn’t vote for the proposal, arguing that while the city wants to increase population density, that doesn’t always require the construction of tall towers. Construction of the Oliver development is expected to start in March and to be completed two years after that.
The third tower project city council debated is at the South Scona Parking Lot, located south of Whyte Avenue in Queen Alexandra at 8019 105 St.
The project would convert the gravel surface parking lot that used to be across the street from the former Keg restaurant.
The proposal passed two readings but a rule prevented council from having it pass a third reading. The rule stipulates that development near LRT outside of the downtown must be approved by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. The rezoning application, however, is expected to pass, according to several councillors.
The plan calls for three towers at 18, 15 and 20 storeys each, with 495 units and at least one parking stall for each, plus an extra 150 publicly-accessible parking stalls.
It gets the nod from planning because it “integrates with surrounding development and demonstrates a high performance standard for the pedestrian experience.”
The report from planning also said it conforms to the PlanWhyte Land Use Study.
–With files from Global News’ Sarah Kraus