Edmontonians call for an end to unsightly vacant lots

Edmontonians call for an end to unsightly lots
WATCH ABOVE: There are vacant lots throughout Edmonton and residents are calling for a cleanup. Breanna Karstens-Smith takes a look at some of the best and worst examples.

Throughout Edmonton there are examples of sites waiting to be developed. Some are more attractive than others.

In particular, the one on Jasper Avenue at 114 Street has been an eyesore to some. It has been empty since 2016 and is currently covered in dirt, weeds and is surrounded by a chain link fence.

“Now we’ve got this swamp and if they don’t clean it up, it’s going to be the Oliver Ice District. It’s ridiculous,” area resident Murray Billett told Global News.

According to owner Regency Developments, work has been ongoing on the property. Council first approved plans for the 45-storey residential condo in 2016. Since then, remediation work has been occurring but is taking longer than expected.

A lot owned by Regency Developments sits empty on Jasper Avenue at 114 Street.
A lot owned by Regency Developments sits empty on Jasper Avenue at 114 Street. Global News

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“Given there was a gas station and a dry cleaner there once upon a time, we actually had to go a lot deeper than initially anticipated in cleaning the soil,” explained Regency Developments Chief Operating Officer Raj Dhunna.

The company is responsible for other prominent developments like the Pearl, Quest and Edgewater. Dhunna claims this is the only one that has run into issues and resulted in the lot sitting empty for an excessive amount of time.

“We don’t know the outcome of our consultant’s part yet so until we get regulatory approval it’s hard to go clean up the site just to hear that, ‘Oh no, we think you need to go do a little bit more work,'” he said.

Billett said he understands delays can happen but would like to see some improvements made.

Alldritt Land Corporation owns several lots waiting for development just off 124 Street north of Stony Plain Road. Each looks picturesque with perfect green grass and a white fence surrounding the land.

Alldritt Land Corporation has maintained a lot in central Edmonton waiting for development.
Alldritt Land Corporation has maintained a lot in central Edmonton waiting for development. Global News

On the east end of Jasper Avenue, Melcor has long owned a lot at 102 Street that is slated for development, but has been made into a public park with trees and walkways in the meantime.

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“I look at how other developers are leaving their properties and I look at this. It’s not safe, it’s not clean,” Billett said.

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The Emerald site is not alone in looking sloppy. There are others in the downtown area and Old Strathcona. One developer believes the economy could be to blame.

“It’s tough because guys, they don’t know when they’re going to start and so it’s that extra cost or that extra time of, ‘Should we do something, should we not do something?'” Mike Bateman of 1932 By Bateman explained.

“If you’re going to sit on it for years, for sure. But if you plan on developing it sooner than later, it’s that question of where you spend the money or not.”

Bateman is currently trying to pre-sell 228 condos in two towers on 99 Street at 89 Avenue. While the location sits empty, he has put up an eight-foot plywood barrier to make it look more appealing.

“Our family’s been there for 85 years, my grandfather started there in 1932, hence the name 1932 By Bateman. So we felt the responsibility to kind of hide the empty lot,” he admitted.

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The city does have a few measures meant to promote standards for such sites.

“The Safety Codes Act requires vacant sites with any hazards to either be properly fenced or the hazard removed to ensure public safety,” a spokesperson wrote in an email to Global News.

“The Community Standards Bylaw ensures that minimum property standards are met, which includes addressing nuisance on land concerns such as standing water that may pose a safety risk, long grass and weeds, etc.,” they added.

If residents do see properties in their community that cause concern, they’re told to call 311.